Health & Beauty: Green house effects

At the foot of Mt Fuji, Solar Café and Earth Embassy offer weary Tokyoites a taste of an eco-friendly lifestyle and a reprieve from the city frenzy. Stuart Braun takes a breather.

Yearning for space and solitude? Need a detox weekend? Within striking distance of Tokyo and tucked among the daikon and cypress pines at the foot of majestic Mt Fuji, the Solar Café and Earth Embassy offers clean food, a clean vista, and clean fun. At this PC retreat, you can drink organic tea, or coffee if you have to, take in the wonder of the volcanic behemoth stretching before you, and best of all, just think.

You might want to think about a hike along rugged lava ravines, about setting up your tent, about mountain biking, a trip to the Narusawa ice caves, reading, or traversing the foothills by horse in the tradition of the samurai who once roamed the area. When you get back there'll be fresh, locally grown food to enjoy at the café, and of course there'll be Fuji, whose mere presence, even when shrouded in vast pillows of rolling mist, is breathtaking.


Samurai safari
Minutes from Lake Saiko, one of five glacial lakes skirting the base of Fuji-san, the Solar Café and Earth Embassy was created as a place for the jaded urban warrior to rejuvenate, revive and relax. Not a health farm, fat farm, or New Age retreat, the Solar Café represents a way of life, says founder Jake Reiner. "It's a commitment to environmentally sustainable lifestyles and businesses through participation in the creation and operation of a self-sufficient education center, organic farm, restaurant, fair trade shop and eco-technology development and demonstration center," he says.

Even the exterior soothes at Solar Café

It's also a place to chill out. Wander around the store—stocked with jewelry from Fiji, hemp goods from Nepal, organic tea from America, t-shirts from India and Thailand, musical instruments from Chile. Take in the aroma of the herb garden stretching around the property. Order a glass of locally brewed beer or wine. Look back over to Fuji from the pagoda, or saunter over the road to the market to purchase fresh and cheap local fruit and vegetables for your wanting fridge in Tokyo.

Located in Narusawa-mura, a short drive or bus ride from both Kawaguchiko and the Fuji Q Highland amusement park—featuring one of one the world's biggest, and most feared, roller coasters—the Solar Café is a gateway to hiking, horse-riding, caving, canoeing and onsen around Fuji. Though in summer this fabled stretch of Yamanashi Prefecture can be expensive and crowded, the Solar Café occupies a niche among the corn and daikon farms, and better still, offers one of the best unobstructed views of Fuji in the area. It also offers sanctity for your body and your mind.


Clean and green
The Solar Café was established according to the principle of tote tabete, which literally means to pick and eat. In an effort to avoid processing and packaging, Reiner has set up an organic farm to grow all the food available at the café. "We also aim to go 100 percent organic to demonstrate the affordability and health benefits of a non-chemical lifestyle," he says.

Solar Café's organic lawn mower

An architecture graduate who continues to work in Tokyo, Reiner decided to establish a self-sufficient café, complete with chickens and a lawn-mowing sheep, as a prototype for clean green living near the city. He is also currently designing self-sufficient eco homes and imports various environmental technologies from America and Europe. And as an urban complement to his rural retreat, Reiner recently started the Roof Top Garden Project in Tokyo where eco-technology types will work together to establish organic herb tea gardens on rooftops around the city.

In addition to fresh air and food, the Solar Café makes and markets a range of natural soaps—green tea soap, organic chamomile, coffee, etc.—and cosmetics including shampoos and creams for people with sensitive skin (atopi). These complement a selection of delicious herb oils—rosemary-togarashi (chili) oil, garlic thyme oil, basil oil—and vinegar made on the premises with homegrown organic herbs. Potted herbs including basil, lemon balm, chamomile and Echinacea are for sale.

For those with a greater commitment to the eco-lifestyle, opportunities to work as a volunteer on the farm or in the café in exchange for room and board are available. Camping space (¥1,000-1,500/night) and lakeside cabin accommodation can also be arranged. The café has a stage and occasionally hosts live music and events. Mountain bikes and horse-riding can be organized at the café, while the Narusawa ice caves are within walking distance. Otherwise, the rest of Fuji is your oyster, and the Solar Café staff will help you with queries about hiking trips, canoeing and general exploration in the area.

Although this mountain retreat offers a myriad of salutary activities, perhaps the most beneficial is a beautiful setting to kick back and do nothing.


Getting there
Take Keio Highway Bus from Shinjuku west exit, next to Iidebashi Camera, to Kawaguchiko station (1h 45min, ¥1,700). Then take the Motosuko Bus from Kawaguchiko Station (20min, ¥600) to Koyodai Iriguchi. Get off the bus at Koyodai Iriguchi and walk straight 2 minutes towards Motosuko The Solar Café Earth Embassy is on the right side of Rte 139.

By Car, take Chuo Expressway to Kawaguchiko, get off and take a right onto Rt139. Go straight for 11min. Solar Café on right side of 139, just before Narusawa ice caves.

Guest room ¥2,000
Camp ¥1,000
Camp with rental tent ¥1,500
Treehouse (max people) ¥3,000 per night

Bike Rental ¥500 per day
Horse Riding ¥3,000

Call for reservations, 090-9346-3774.

Photos courtesy of Solar Café and Earth Embassy

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