Category Archives: Cafes

Ran Hotei Cafe – Vintage Taishō Romance & Excellent Cake

On Wednesday I took a walk over to the Sanjo-kai Shōtengai shopping arcade and popped into Randy Channell’s machiya cafe Ran Hotei.

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Randy is well known as a master of Japanese tea ceremony, and he does teach a few tea ceremony classes at Ran Hotei. Mainly though he gives classes at a shrine near the Imperial Palace. So if you are not interested in tea ceremony, that’s ok, Ran Hotei is essentially a cafe, a place to relax, with coffee, tea and other standard beverages plus some damn fine cake.

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On my visit I had a coffee and cake set for 850 yen. It was a maple chiffon cake, not too heavy and not too light and tasted excellent.

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Randy opened the cafe in 2007, after having the building, a traditional wooden townhouse, or machiya, thoroughly renovated. He explained that he was looking for an art-deco, “Taishō Roman” kind of style when decorating the interior. Taishō refers to the Taishō Era (1912-1926), a short period of liberalism in Japanese politics and culture, which in popular memory stands in sharp contrast to the chaotic drive towards modernism of the Meiji Era that preceded it and the more militaristic early Shōwa Era that followed.  “Roman” is short for romantic, so essentially Taishō Roman stands for a kind of vintage romance.

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The stained glass doorway above was found for him by our old friend Rob Mangold.

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Take a pew – the seating above was originally from a church!

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Or if you prefer you can kick off your shoes and relax on a tatami floor.

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Randy has decorated the machiya very nicely with some lovely items. Check out that beautiful chandelier.

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The Ran of  Ran Hotei is from Randy’s name and the Hotei comes from the popular figure above. Randy has an extensive collection of Hotei statues and images, over 3000, but the one above he tells me, is his “treasure”. Hotei is a folkloric figure representing contentment and generosity.

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Plus points: Ran Hotei is non-smoking and it is also officially a “Dog Cafe” meaning you can pop in here after taking Rover out for walkies. If you are lucky, you may get to meet Snow, above, so named because she is black (?), but perhaps also because she is すなお, a very calm, gentle natured dog.

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Randy is a very welcoming and friendly chap and he has been in Kyoto long enough to have a few stories under his obi. Before he was a tea master, he was a practitioner of various martial arts. I was very glad to meet him and am looking forward to getting to know him better. Mostly though I just want to go back and have another piece of that cake.

Ran Hotei is situated on the south side of the Sanjo Arcade which lies between Horikawa and Senbon Streets. Here is a MAP.

Saganoyu Cafe

saga no yuIf you’re in the Saga area, the cafe Saganoyu is a pleasant spot for lunch or a cup of coffee. Originally built as a public bathhouse in 1923, the building has been thoroughly renovated and was reopened as a cafe in 2006. You can still see the original tiling on the floors and the faucets along the walls. Continue reading

Papa Jon’s Honten

On Saturday we took a stroll up to the Shimpukan, intending to grab a bite to eat at Papa Jon’s Eatery. Unfortunately for us, they were hosting a wedding party. However, very fortunately for us, we bumped into Charles Roche (the owner) on his way out, and he offered us a lift up to the 本店. Nice chap, isn’t he?

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I’d noticed this place on the way to events at Impact Hub but never been it. Much smaller and cosier than the Eatery, it’s a good spot for lunch if you happen to be up near Imadegawa station. I enjoyed my fritatta – an Italian dish mid-way between a quiche and an omlette.

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And Mewby really enjoyed her chicken, potato and coconut curry. She was very impressed with how well it went with couscous!

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After that we were quite satisfied, but being greedy ordered some of their famous cheesecake to take home. You can’t go to Papa Jon’s and not have cheesecake! Can you guess which we chose?

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I had the raspberry and Mewby had rum raisin. Absolutely delicious! Thank you for the lift Charles!

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Papa Jon’s have stores in the following locations. Click the links for maps!

Papa Jon’s Honten (Imadegawa)
Papa Jon’s Eatery (Shimpukan)
Papa Jon’s on Kitayama
Papa Jon’s at Shugakuin

Minna no Café: 3.11 Evacuees Plant Roots in Kyoto

Here’s the latest guest post from our friend Jason Bartashius…

Before relocating to Kyoto, Ikuko Wagatsuma worked in the clothing department of a supermarket in Minami-Soma, a city devastated by both the tsunami and nuclear crisis. The tsunami wreaked havoc washing away homes and causing hundreds of deaths. Located near to the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, parts of Minami-Soma were inside the initial 20km evacuation zone. Though this was lifted in the spring of 2012, Wagatsuma explains to me with tears in her eyes that radiation is still a concern.

IMG_0031-1In Kyoto she is now working part-time at Minna no Café in Momoyama, Fushimi. The café is owned and managed by Minna no Te, a support group for 3.11 evacuees in Kyoto. Situated in a renovated machiya, a traditional Kyoto town house, the café employs evacuees and local Kyoto residents. It also hosts relaxation workshops, computer courses and health consultations for evacuees. “A representative from The France Foundation, who gave us funding, talked me into opening this place so we could give evacuees sustainable support,” said Minna no Te president, Yuko Nishiyama.

The café is tucked in a quiet street conveniently just a few minutes walk from the Keihan Fushimi-Momoyama station and the Otesuji shopping arcade. Though the area is slightly off the beaten path, a fair number of tourists visit the famed sake breweries as well as Fushimi Castle.

Bustling with a steady stream of customers, lunch-goers seem to appreciate the addition of the café to the neighborhood. Included on the menu are Fukushima specialties such as Ikaninjin, carrot and dried squid marinated with soy sauce and sake, which is a traditional dish in Fukushima. Zunda, another northern delicacy is served for dessert. Zunda is a rice flour dumpling topped with a paste made from grounded edamame and sugar.

An (International) Hub

In the old days land and water travel through Momoyama made the area a connecting point for Nara, Osaka and Kyoto. Similarly Minna no Café is functioning as a hub- connecting the people of Kyoto and beyond with those affected directly by the nuclear crisis.

“Many people come to eat and relax with friends. But also there are a lot of people who come because they want to connect to evacuees or me,” said Nishiyama.

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Soon after its grand opening in May, a group of students and professors from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont visited the café. The visit was part of the group’s two-week study abroad trip to Japan. At that time Minna no Café was usually closed on Sundays, but Nishiyama opened its doors so the students could come and learn about the realities of the ongoing nuclear crisis.

Lauren Gillick, a Saint Michael’s graduate who joined the group, was particularly impressed by Nishiyama’s presentation. Holding a Masters degree in TESOL, Gillick hopes to teach in Japan sometime in the near future. “It seems that the most we can do for Yuko-san’s organization is to help spread the word and make this issue more well-known to the rest of the world. As I enter new schools as a teacher for this year, I will make sure to do my best to see how I can make this issue better known to my students as I think awareness is key,”said Gillick.

Customers, undoubtedly, also have chances to learn about Minna no Te and some of the organization’s other projects. Information pamphlets are displayed in the genkan. One can also find T-shirts for sale in the entrance. The shirts are printed with a bus graphic and the words “Fukushima” and “Kyoto.” Sales will help fund the Yume no Natsu project to reunite classmates and families torn apart by the 3.11 catastrophes.

This summer vacation buses will shuttle affected people to and from Kyoto. Fukushima children will visit their classmates who have relocated to Kyoto. From August 3rd to the 8th, the children will spend time with friends at a summerhouse in Otsu City provided by Notre Dame Elementary School.

The buses will quickly gear back up to transport and reunite separated family members during the Obon holiday. Many families have been split up by the nuclear crisis. Mothers and children evacuated while fathers stayed behind to work. Though temporary housing is rent free, daily expenses quickly add up and travel costs to visit relatives are forbidding. Obon is a time when many Japanese return to their hometowns to spend time with family and visit ancestral graves. Minna no Te is working to afford Fukushima families a similar opportunity.

Unarguably, the crisis has disrupted and brought injury to many lives. The future for many evacuees remains uncertain. A contentious debate over the dangers of radiation rages on making it difficult for many to decide whether or not to return home. They are at a crossroads. And so is Japan, for it remains unclear as to what degree the country will continue to rely on nuclear energy.

Minna no Café welcomes, attracts and invites people to join in community action and discussion. Such places are needed to empower and unite people in community.

Minna no Café:
Tues-Sat: 9:00 a.m -9:00 p.m; Sun: 9:00 a.m – 5:00 p.mIMG_0020

Access:
A 3 minute walk from Kintetsu Momoyama Goryomae or Keihan Fushimi-Momoyama. From either station walk WESTWARD on Otesuji Street, turn left at SoftBank onto Ryogaemachi Dori, walk straight again and you will see it on the left. Here is a map.

Tel: 075-632-9352
Address: 伏見区両替町4-319 (4-319 Ryogaemachi Fushimiku Kyoto-shi)
Links (Japanese):
Minna no Te: http://www.minnanote.com/
Yume no Natsu on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yumenonatsu
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Jason Bartashius moved to Kyoto in 2011. He is a lecturer of Japanese Religions and an English instructor. Jason also manages the volunteer project After School Lessons For Tohoku Children that helps kids affected by the tsunami. As a writer he works to bring attention to the ongoing issues surrounding the March 11th disasters. He has made contributions to Deep Kyoto that focus on Kyoto’s efforts to support Tohoku and evacuees who have relocated to Kyoto. You can read his previous articles here.

Matsuontoko – Vegan Burger Cafe

Though there are quite a large number of vegetarian establishments in Kyoto, most of them are located in the north of the city, and the few there are in the city center tend to sell nothing that isn’t healthy and nutritious. Good vegan junk food is pretty hard to come by. There used to be a branch of Speakeasy on Shijo that did a passable veggie burger, but that closed down back in 2010. Since then our vegan brethren have been denied the delights of fast and convenient processed treats at a convenient location and forced to endure a steady diet of tofu and wholegrain rice. No more! Vegan cafe Matsuontoko is here to save the day, slap bang in the center of town, with a fine array of vegan fake-meats!

Matsuontoko

So convincing are these fake-meats that one of Mewby’s friends was half-way through her “kara-age” before she realised it wasn’t chicken at all. And that was only because Mewby told her.

The "kara-age"

The “kara-age”

“Really,” Mewby told me. “You’ll be amazed.”
“Well, alright then.” I said. So I went. And here’s my order.

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How good was it? Very good. The bread was actually really nice too. I was entirely satisfied. But I decided to pig out on onion rings anyway. They were nice sweet onions and non too greasy.

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And for a mere two hundred yen extra you get a lovely little cup of tofu ice-cream, cream and vegan brownies.

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In short, whether you are vegan or no, if have a hankering for fast food at a reasonable price, Matsuontoko is the place to go.

Matsuontoko is just east of Shinkyogoku, three streets up from Shijo. Here is a map. Check the website for other items on the menu. There are a lot of choices.
Open: 11:00~24:00 (Last Orders: 23:00)
Tel: 075-251-1876

Lovers of vegan burgers may also be interested in: Morpho Cafe

Visiting the Vanishing Cafe

On August 15th & 16th 消えちゃうカフェ (the Vanishing Cafe) made a brief appearance at Sons music bar. Mewby and I paid a little visit.

Friends, Ikko, Nana and Riki ran the cafe, with Ikko making coffee, Nana cooking and Riki taking care of the desserts.

For 1000 yen we got a main dish, desert and a drink and everything was super tasty. Nana even made some vegetarian tacos just for me. I was very happy with that. Riki’s pound cake and fig compote also went down a treat.

Who knows when and where the Vanishing Cafe will appear again? Mewby and I will be watching out for it!

The Vanishing Cafe

For two days only, friends Nana, Riki and Ikko are taking over Sons music bar at lunchtime to host the Vanishing Cafe!

Menu:
-Khao Man Gai (Thai chicken & rice)
-Al Pastor Tacos
-Cake
-Coffee by Ikko

Come along and enjoy some great music with some tasty lunchtime treats!

Date and time: August 15th & 16th 11:00 am ~ 17:00 (after which the cafe will magically morph back into a bar)
Location: Sons is situated on the east side of Gokomachi on the ground floor of the Gokomachi Building (御幸町ビル) just south of Marutamachi. You have to walk into the building past  “Dolch” Italian restaurant on your left and the bar is situated at the end of the hallway ahead of you. There’s a Google map here, or you can use the map for the Italian restaurant Dolch.
Address: 〒604-0981
京都市中京区御幸町通丸太町下ル毘沙門町553 御幸町ビル1F
Tel: 075-223-5881.

Morpho Cafe

The concept of Morpho is “Vegan” which doesn’t use animal foods. Anything can be eaten easily in the present age, so various health problems have arisen… Those with an unbalanced diet and people with food allergies would benefit from the healthy vegan foods offered at Morpho cafe. A delicious meal can be prepared using “veggie meat” similar to animal meat.
-From the Morpho Cafe menu

Many thanks to the members of Kyoto Book Club who first introduced me to Morpho Cafe. Unfortunately on that occasion I had promised to meet Mewby for dinner later on,  and so could only watch in hapless envy as my companions ordered and consumed the most fantastic looking vegan meals and cakes. I’m happy to say that I finally persuaded Mewby to come up Horikawa with me on Sunday and the food was just as good as it looked!

Here’s my soy meat burger. It was everything I had dreamed it would be.

And here’s Mewby’s “chicken nanban set”, that was on the daily special’s menu. Continue reading

Cocokara Cafe + Dish

I’m always on the look out for comfy little cafes where I can ensconce myself in a quiet corner and read a good book. Last Monday I went to Cocokara Cafe for the first time and found it suited me nicely. Cocokara takes its name from a desire to serve the needs of both the heart (心 kokoro) and the body (体 karada). To put your heart at rest they emphasize comfort. The interior is small, bright, cheerful and easy on the eyes and as they write on their website anyone from backpacker to work-shirking salaryman should feel comfortable here. For the body they put a big emphasis on a healthy menu. Butter, lard and white sugar are shunned, and instead there are lots of whole grain rice dishes with plenty of wholesome vegetables. Though they aren’t a vegetarian cafe per se, they do have  a lot of vegetarian options. I was in the mood for pasta when I visited, so I tucked into a plateful with mushroom and broccoli in a soya milk béchamel sauce.

A lovely big plate of hot & peppery pasta goodness.

All in all this is a nice little spot. I think I might take Mewby here this weekend, so we can try some of their non-dairy, low-calorie sweets. If I have one tiny quibble, it is that they should probably take their music selection off of repetitive loop. There’s only so many times I can listen to Carole King doing the Locomotion before I have to leave. Here’s a shot of the interior:

Cocokara Cafe + Dish is open from 11:30~21:00 (Last orders 20:00) every day except Sunday.
They also sell bento lunch boxes from 10:30 until they sell out.
You can find it on the east side of Higashinotoin just south of Nijo. Here is a map.
TEL 075-223-6787

Cafe & Gallery Rokujian

I had a bit of free time this afternoon, so I popped over to see the exhibition at Cafe Rokujian of photographs and paintings by our friends John Einarsen and Tiery Le. The cafe forms part of the Kampo Cultural Center, which as I understand it, opened up last month. The center consists of three parts, the cafe, a small gallery space, and a learning center where you can take classes in flower arrangement, calligraphy and art – the latter with Tiery Le himself! Currently, John Einarsen’s graceful and exquisite black and white lotus photographs occupy most of the gallery space, whilst Tiery Le’s exhilarating and dynamic oil paintings decorate the cafe walls.

The cafe itself is spacious and comfortable and a pleasant place to stop and rest if you happen to be visiting the Higashiyama area. They do three lunch time sets of curry, a panini sandwich, or pasta, which all come with a (negligible) salad and a drink (tea, coffee, etc). If you want beer or wine it is 200 yen extra but the beer is Moretti, which happens to be one of my favorites so I was quite happy about that.

Each of these dishes changes daily.
I ordered the pasta, which on this occasion was spaghetti in tomato sauce with olives, anchovies and capers. It was tasty, and it came in a goodly portion so I was quite satisfied, though I think at 1180 yen for the set, it could be a teensy bit cheaper. The panini and curry sets are cheaper at 980 yen apiece.

Here are a few more pictures from both inside and outside the cafe and gallery…

Open 12:00-20:00, and closed Mondays, Cafe & Gallery Rokujian is in the Okazaki area, to the east of Heian Shrine and drectly to the north of the Kampo Museum. Click here for a map.

See also: Lotus – A Joint Exhibition by John Einarsen & Tiery Le…
The Photographs of John Einarsen
Tiery Le’s website.