"Shonan Life" at Organic Hemp Cafe Magokoro
Some cafe visits stick with you! Hidden away a good 20 minute walk from Kamakura Station is Organic Hemp Cafe 'Magokoro', which I visited last year. A great option for when you are sightseeing in Kamakura and are looking for some clean, plantbased foods and good vibes!
Magokoro is not one of those places you "run into". My Japanese friend had suggested this place for lunch and had read reviews in Japanese that said the place would be hard to find - and even with this in mind we passed the building the first time (although a critic may say it was because we were busy chatting). But even with Google Maps pointing us to the right building, there were 3 floors with each a different eating establishment: A Thai restaurant on the 3rd, a very funky beach bar on the 1st, and finally Magokoro on the 2nd. After walking into the bar on the first floor (which looking at it now, seems to be 'Magokoro coffee' - an extension to the cafe perhaps?), we were kindly sent off to the second floor, where we were warmly welcomed and invited to take place anywhere. There was only one other pair of customers, on a weekday at lunch time, and two other ladies came in around the time we left.
The cafe has that wonderful bohemian, hippie beach bar vibe - but not one that tries too hard or follows any kind of trend. The natural, warm atmosphere, the classic lay-out and decorations, and of course, the amazing beach view, give you an absolute "Shonan" vibe; Shonan is the name of the region along the coast of Kanagawa that includes date- sightseeing- and summer Hot Spots "Kamakura" and "Enoshima". Shonan is sometimes referred to as "The California of Japan" and has a reputation for tanned surfers, crazy beach parties and fluffy pancakes (huh? Yeah, just Google "Pancakes Shonan" and you'll catch my drift).
Hemp in Japan
We were welcomed and served by a very cool "Shonan" gentleman, who kindly pointed out the vegan options on the menu. The menu includes many hemp/CBD infused drinks and deserts, and the cafe has a small built-in shop, with other hemp items. Although I was not interested in CBD back then, I always like the texture and durability of hemp products, so I had a look and the owner excitedly came to offer more information.
He showed the roof and explained that traditionally Japanese houses where built with hemp stalks mixed with mud. Hemp, or "Taima" has a very long history in Japan and was used, not only as a food source, but also as a material for fabrics and construction. Around 1912 the use of opium, morphine and cocaine got restricted and for the first time it was requested to do more scientific research on the effects of cannabis. It would only become illegal after WO2. Nowadays, laws are extremely strict and possession leads up to high penalties, possible jail time and in case of talents and famous people, loss of work and public image.
With Magokoro, opened in 2002, the owner wants to remind the Japanese people of the 'forgotten beauty' of hemp, both through his interior, food and products. The shop includes hemp oil, hemp infused food, body care products and detergents, and even accessories. I bought a beautiful pair of hemp chopsticks that I used daily for almost 2 years. Magokoro is also a venue for live events and workshops and they offer art works from local artisans.
Their menu is defined as HEMP - HEALTHY, ENERGY, MEDICINE, POWER.
It is based on organic, fresh vegetables, grains, nuts and hemp. The menu also includes fish and is inspired on a "healthy", plantbased menu, rather than vegan. There are English translations and we heard the owner helping out some foreign guests in English when we left.
Imagine a microbiotic menu with mild, natural flavors. "体にやさしい" - kind the body and without very strong impacts, but a nice balanced meal that fills you up nicely and gives you that nice "cleaning eating" feeling - which can be really nice, especially after several Vegan junkfood episodes.
My friend and I both had a plate of Soy Meat "karage", with fresh veggies and a nice sauce. The karage as delicious and the plate very balanced. It isn't something I often order outside, as it's rather simple and something we can have at home, but it is fantastic to have as an option when sightseeing in Kamakura and/or relaxing at the beach. With options often restricted to either french fries or wagashi sweets, both of which are awesome, it is nice to be able to enjoy a proper healthy, plantbased meal.
We then shared the hemp infused "Triple Berry Crafty" cake, which was delicious and very beautifully presented! Although the lunch did not leave us hungry, we were dying to try the infamous Magokoro "hemp pancakes" and decided to share one portion. Less "Instagram-worthy", these came with a big blub of sauce and some hemp seeds sprinkled on top. Altough rather mushy and without a very strong punch, I did like the flavor and would like to try them again sometime!
Were we screaming with excitement over the food? Not necessarily. #Honest Whereas many of the English reviews on e.g. Happy Cow are quite positive and complimenting on A. the number of vegan options, and B. the nice service and atmosphere, the reviews on the food itself are varying - especially the reviews on Japanese websites, written by mostly non-vegans who just came to try the organic/hemp menu or were in the neighborhood. Yet, my visit to this cafe, even 1,5 years later brings back great memories and I have been dying to come back ever since! (not hanging about in Kamakura often..)
If there is one thing I value in business owners and service staff, it is genuine passion; and this shop is bursting with it. From the very concept, the interior, the menu, the events and the products in the shop - everything is based on their motto to offer healthy, delicious food and to bring back the positive image of hemp in Japan.
When I visited I was in a difficult time where I considered moving away to a big city for i.e. different job opportunities and new adventures. After 10 minutes of chatting with the owner and two of his friends who had just walked in, he looked at me and told me: "City life is not for you. You shouldn't be in a grey, smelly, crowded city, but somewhere close to the beach where you can practice Jiu Jitsu and go for runs outside". The image still gives me chills to this day - and although I'm not 100% there yet, I definitely am grateful I did not move away from my "inaka".
Address: 248-0016 2-8-11 Hase, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa (SECOND FLOOR)
Access: 20+ minute walk from Kamakura station, 3-minute walk from Hase station, 6-minute walk for the daredevils that are willing to challenge the Japanese bus system...
Food: HEMP - Healthy, Energy, Medicine, Power. Minus the power maybe.
Price: Not very cheap, but fair considering the ingredients, especially for the hemp infused products. Lunch bento ￥1000+ Small Berry Cake ￥580.
Service: Laid back, passionate, personal. Can be a bit chaotic according to some reviews.
Location: Bit of a walk, but right at the beach, with amazing views. Make sure to stop by the Lumiere bakery only minutes away, for soy cream filled pastries and other amazing vegan options!
Overall: I had a great time at Magokoro and the visit is one of my favorite ones in Japan. The food is not my typical Vegan junkfood style, but my palate changed a lot in 1,5 years and I can’t wait to visit them again to properly review, and more importantly, to support this amazingly passionate business!