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Japanese bio-cafe offers green alternative to tourist dining

Update: September, 12/2013 - 10:14
Thinking green: Usuda Raiko from the Japanese city of Kawasaki opened an eco-friendly cafe in Hoi An City. — VNS Photo Hoai Nam

by Hoai Nam

HOI AN (VNS)— Three years ago, Usuda Raiko from Japan's Kawazaki City opened her own cafe and settled down for a peaceful life in Hoi An City.

In that time, she has transformed her business - which can be found on the banks of the Hoai River bank in Cam Chau village, just a 10 minute drive from the old quarter – into arguably the only truly eco-friendly coffee shop in the ancient city.

The 500sq.m building, situated in a small alley connecting with Tran Quang Khai Street, was designed by Japanese architects to be as good to the environment as possible.

Wastewater from the three-storey cafe biologically treated to breed ornamental fish, before being released into the river.

It's become a rendezvous for biology students from universities in Japan and Viet Nam learning about wastewater treatment systems and hundreds visit annually.

Visitors can have a coffee or snack beside pools of treated sewage with cool air blowing from the river.

The house's heat-insulating walls were designed with two layers of bricks, so the owner does not use air conditioners.

Eco-friendly: Raiko checks the quality of sewage water at her cafe in Hoi An. Wastewater is treated thoroughly before being released into the Hoai River. — VNS Photo Ha My

Raiko, who works as a volunteer of the Japan-Viet Nam Friendship Association in Kawasaki City has, with other members, donated more than 10,000 bicycles to poor students in Da Nang and Quang Nam Province since 2003.

"The friendly and helpful people in Hoi An are the reason that I decided to live in the city. I have loved this town so much from the very first time I visited," said Raiko.

She said she opened the cafe with its well run wastewater system to raise awareness of environment protection and looking after the world.

"Hoi An is a very lovely city. If the people here conserve the river and marine environment, it will be even lovelier," Raiko stated.

She said she'll do her best to protect the town with Vietnamese friends. However, she admitted that she collects little profit for the sewage treatment system, which costs at least VND1 million for power per month.

Directions from Hoi An Market to U-Cafe

From the junction of Nguyen Hue, Tran Phu and Nguyen Duy Hieu streets, opposite Hoi An market, turn left and go along Nguyen Duy Hieu Street about 700m. You will see Tran Quang Khai street on the right. Turn right and go 500m. When you approach a filling station, turn right into an alley and then turn left when you meet a small lane running along the river.

U-Cafe is situated on the left of the riverbank, 30m from the filling station.

Raiko, a retired odontology technician, wants to spend her time in Hoi An, and develop the cafe as a way of boosting the friendship between Japan and Hoi An.

"My U-Cafe will offer an example of an environment-friendly building that every one can emulate. I want to create a cleaner living area, reducing pollution for all," she explained.

"Looking after the environment now will benefit the next generation by giving them a livable and healthier existence." She revealed that the name of the cafe means U (yes) and is also the initial letter of her family name.

Raiko is now increasingly turning her attention to promoting cycling as a way of being good to the globe.

"I use a motorbike to go to Da Nang, but I always try to use bicycles around the city. It is a small place, so this is convenient. It is already known as the first city in Viet Nam to launch a ‘car free' campaign, so there is optimism that it will avoid the worst pollution. I hope the local government maintains roads for bicycle users to travel safely, while raising education for local people about environmental protection."

Raiko and her partners from Kawasaki City have worked tirelessly to help underprivileged children in Quang Nam and Da Nang City through their bicycle donation programme over a number of years.

She said it is just a small step to improve lives while promoting the 40-year friendship between Viet Nam and Japan. — VNS

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