MATSUE -- Goat burgers and homemade goat-milk gelato at cafe "Lago Sento," opened this August and run by a goat ranch in this western Japan city overlooking Lake Shinji, are attracting customers who can't get the unique products anywhere else in Japan.
Cafe visitors can also enjoy interacting with goats by feeding and petting them on the head, and there are hopes the business will become a new tourist attraction in Matsue, the capital of west Japan's Shimane Prefecture.
Located along National Route 431, it takes about 10 minutes by car to reach the cafe from Matsue Station. Customers are greeted by a large statue of a goat holding gelato and a spoon in its front hooves.
About 10 gelato flavors are on sale, including the most popular rich goat milk, and another containing local kabocha squash. The products are supervised by a local restaurant chef and made by 29-year-old store manager Shinji Ishihara using an Italian machine. The gelatos have a mild, sweet taste and no gamey odor.
Friendly goats' calls to lure customers to play with them can be heard from outside the shop. On Aug. 20, three siblings of elementary-school age fed two male goats aged 1 and 2. The children said the animals were "cute" and "fluffy" as they petted the goats.
The cafe was established by Ayamachi Group, which runs izakaya pubs and other shops in the city of Matsue, and also owns a goat ranch in the city. In addition to visiting day care centers to let children interact with goats, the group is also putting efforts into raising the animals for meat.
Although eatery sales have dropped drastically due to the coronavirus pandemic, representative Ayako Sento took the plunge in developing the new business. She aims to secure sales using a "sixth industry" initiative of having her own company produce, manufacture and sell products.
As many as 250 people visit the cafe each day, and the shop is so popular the gelatos sometimes sell out. Wholesale trade at the cafe's online shop, selling various products including meat for yakiniku grilling, is reportedly also doing well. Sento said, "Our products are appealing to anyone, from adults to children. The view is also nice, so I hope this will become a place where everyone can gather."
(Japanese original by Haruno Kosaka, Matsue Bureau)