Walked around and found it

Retro Nostalgia

In Search of the cliff-top "Lamp-jo"(Lamp Castle)

"The fact that it exists at all is a miracle." People who visit there for the first time all become a little excited. But why has the establishment on the cliff been able to continue for 55 years? Our curiosity has been aroused.
Words by Yajima Azusa
Photographs by Ito Rumiko

The exterior doesn’t look much like a coffee shop.

55 years, despite it looking like it's about to be blown away by the wind

Lamp-jo's presence is so chaotic it cannot be described in words; it transcends the dimension of "retro." Step inside and experience a strange sensation in which everything you see seems to tell a story from your life to date.

The ceiling is decorated with old record jackets


Sakuraba Shizu (right), who turns 88 in October this year, and her daughter Fujiko


"I liked the view from the cliff so I built my house here," says the owner Sakuraba Shizu. Lamp-jo, which opened in 1962, was named after Aladdin's magic lamp. As Shizu and her husband both enjoyed music, Lamp-jo began as a hall in which their friends and acquaintances could gather.

People travel from far and wide just to see this smiling face.

Through Muroran's ups and downs

After the hall first opened, very few customers came to the top of the cliff, but from the following year it began to prosper after it started serving Genghis Khan (barbequed lamb dish) and chicken hotpot. "Muroran's population at the time was 180,000; the steelworkers worked a three-shift system, and after drinking in the downtown nightclubs would come to the hall to eat. That lasted for about 20 years." After making a decision to close the establishment, students from the Muroran Institute of Technology (MIT) said that if they turned it into a coffee shop, they would come. As a result, the shop started to serve coffee.

Extensions were added onto this mysterious space in the manner of a Chinese building. The structure also includes private rooms. When you pass through the corridor, you end up in the backyard on top of the cliff.


Backyard


Proceed a little further and you can enjoy views like this.

A rice omelet, like a spot of sunshine

Rice omelet, including soup and salad, 500 yen

I ordered the recommended rice omelet. The first mouthful tasted like something a kind mother would make. Shizu’s family's circumstances meant that she was raised by her grandmother. "The painful times I went through are embedded in my mind; whenever I see a thin student, I can't ignore it." She speaks to them in a motherly way and offers second helpings for free. Even now, messages from MIT graduates arrive, telling of marriages and births of children and grandchildren, and other important milestones in their lives.

Once you see this sight, "Lamp-jo" is right there, in front of you.

Lamp-jo
1-127-3 Sakae-cho Muroran, Hokkaido, Japan
Tel.: 0143-22-3715
Hours: 12:00 to 21:00 
Closed: Occasional Irregular Closures

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