On the side of a recent work trip to Kyushu, I decided to check out a quirky cafe called Fushigi Museum Annex Sanatorium (不思議博物館分室サナトリウム). True to its name, the cafe-slash-gallery is themed around a medical establishment for treating people with chronic illnesses. And a very freaky one at that.
The “annex” part of the name comes from the fact that it’s actually the sibling of a “Fushigi Museum” (不思議博物館) located in the middle of nowhere in Fukuoka Prefecture. The main museum is incredibly out of the way and only opens on the last Sunday of every month. So it’s not the most accessible for the average visitor. Fortunately, the sister cafe in downtown Fukuoka offers a decent glimpse into the twisted mind of the founder.
The Sanatorium Cafe vibe
The Sanatorium Cafe is located on the third floor of a narrow, nondescript building. Even from the outside, you can see the inklings of something unusual peering out for the window. Climb a few flights of stairs and you’ll find yourself in front of a rather creepy door with the words “Sanatorium” written in katakana.
You have to take your shoes before entering, changing into a pair of slippers once inside. Pushing open the door, a waitress donned in an old-fashioned nurse outfit will welcome you and ask you to take a seat.
The interior is designed to present a very clinical feel with surgical lights, white benches, and tiled floors. An assortment of strange and somewhat disturbing paraphernalia adorns the cafe, including anatomical models of the human body and slightly disturbing artwork.
There is also a variety of stickers, clearfiles, badges and gashaphons for sale. You are free to look around and take photos of all the weirdness.
There is no table charge, but patrons need to order at least a drink or a set meal for every hour or two hours they stay, respectively.
Drinks range from standard cafe fare such as coffee, teas and juices, to more unusual beverages such as creaming soda and a mocktail labelled as barium (it’s actually a banana shake of sorts). The cafe also usually serves alcohol, but this service was suspended due to the COVID-19 quasi-emergency measures in place over Fukuoka when I went.
Most of the food is of the dessert variety, and includes pudding, fruit jelly, parfait and pancakes. There are also some savoury offerings like “tuberculosis” (pizza) toast and pasta, but the selection is limited. Most of the dishes come with a quirky garnish or are served based on the medical theme.
I wanted to order the handmade pudding, but was told it was unavailable that day. So in the end I went with a pancake set with cranberry juice. It was freshly prepared by the waitress after I ordered, and came topped with a white chocolate cat head. The waitress told me that the cafe’s founder had made the cat mold himself.
I was pretty satisfied with the variety of fresh fruit that came with the pancake, and the cranberry juice was pleasantly tarty. It also came in a rather interesting cup.
The day I went, there appeared to only be one Fushigiko-chan (as the waitresses are known here) on duty. Another woman was sitting by the counter in normal wear, so I wasn’t sure if she was also a staff member. The only other customer was a man with a moustache. He seemed to be a regular by the way he was chatting with the two women.
The nurse-dressed staff member was friendly and made conversation with me, asking if this was my first time at the Sanatorium and how long I would be in Fukuoka. After she handed me her business card, I learnt that she is apparently an actor and model of sorts, and specialises in producing “ero-grotesque” goods.
She said she was originally from Saitama Prefecture, but she moved to Kyushu a few years ago. Now she runs the Sanatorium as her main job. When I asked if I could take a photo of her before leaving, she said it would cost 500 yen. So I passed. XD
I also learnt that the other customer was a rakugo entertainer, and they were discussing an event they planned to hold in the cafe in the near future.
All in all, it is not awkward at all to enter the establishment alone. Whether you want to is another matter entirely.
Getting to the Sanatorium Cafe
The closest station to the Sanatorium is Tenjin Station on the Fukuoka Kuko Line. From there it’s around a 2-minute walk. It can also be accessed by the station on the Tenjin Omuta Line in roughly 6 minutes on foot.
Address: 福岡市中央区天神3-3-26 佐伯ビル3階
3F Saiki Building, 3-3-26 Tenjin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
The cafe is open between 12pm to 8pm every day except Wednesdays, and the Sundays when the Fushigi Museum opens. There is free Wi-Fi available.
If you’re looking for more wacky establishments, check out my other reviews of interesting themed cafes and restaurants!