the front of 長楽館CHOURAKUKAN during 東山花灯路Higashiyama Hanatouro in 2007
For over 100 years (since 1909 to be exact), the excellent staff of CHOURAKUKAN has served guests from all over the country and over the world as a top-class lodging, banquet/meeting place, café and restaurant.
When Michiyo-san asked me if I was interested in having afternoon tea at CHOURAKUKAN sometime, I was ecstatic because I’ve always been interested in going. However, from its gorgeous exterior, it doesn’t take much to guess that the menu could be pricey, so I had put it off until I found someone with whom to go. Michiyo-san was able to reserve us a table for the end of September last year and we agreed to meet there at noon.
the gate to CHOURAKUKAN
the entrance of CHOURAKUKAN with staff ready to greet and guide customers
I was pretty much on time but Michiyo-san hadn’t arrived yet, so I went in to wait. The staff directed me inside but since I didn’t understand what I had been told in a soft and polite voice in the lobby and was too shy to ask again, I ended up going to the second floor where I thought the staff had pointed me.
gorgeous staircases…it was a pleasure getting lost.☺
There were no staff on hand and when I peeked into a room diagonally right of the stairs, there was only one pair of customers who seemed at the end of lunch. I decided to take the opportunity to check out the rooms until Michiyo-san arrived and went up to the third floor as well (the rooms there weren’t open for viewing at the time, though). Below is a collage of the rooms that I saw on the second floor: the top three and middle left are of the 喫煙の間Kitsuen-no-Ma (Smoking Room) and the balcony upon which it opens; the middle picture is the view from the third floor; the middle right is of the 鳳凰の間Houou-no-Ma (Phoenix Room); the bottom left is of the 美術の間Bijutsu-no-Ma (Art Room); 接遇の間Setsuguu-no-ma (Reception Room); and the bottom right is of the 貴婦人の間Kifujin-no-ma (Noblewoman Room).
The exterior and interior are European-style with touches of various cultures (Islāmic, Chinese, etc.) in each room. I felt like I had slipped back in time, especially because it was so peaceful (the few customers who were there were all very quiet).
Michiyo-san arrived and found me and we were led to the 迎賓の間Geihin-no-ma (room for greeting guests from afar, especially overseas) where there was a pair near the end of their stay. All the guests that I had seen thus far came dressed in what I would consider Sunday dress; Michiyo-san and I were in jeans. Michiyo-san asked if there was a dress code; the staff said we were alright but the next time I come, I’ll try to wear something nicer.
We were seated at a window seat. Michiyo-san had reserved the アフタヌーンティーセットafternoon tea set, ￥4000 each, for us in advance. First we had drinks; Michiyo-san got スパークリングワインsparkling wine while I had フレッシュミックスジュースfresh mixed juice.
Not too long after we were served the drinks, our afternoon tea set for two arrived. The top was of sweets, the middle of scones and the bottom of sandwiches, quiche, puffs and thick soup.
We were allowed the choice of two types of tea each; I started with a berry one and ended with a rose one.
Just when we thought we were finished, yuzu sherbet completed the set.
This was lunch for us but very satisfying despite the small portions. The service was excellent as expected of such an establishment and although I had been timid of asking the staff to take a picture of us, they obliged kindly. The whole time we were there, I really didn’t feel like we were in Kyoto at all but in Europe somewhere…nice place for getting away.
Chourakukan is now in the midst of renovation as of January 25 until February 17 when on the 18th the café will open under the name Dessert Cafe CHOURAKUKAN. The interior and furniture may change quite a bit but I’m sure it’ll be just as charming.☺