ran Hotei – A Teahouse Where East Meets West in Kyoto
With so many tourist attractions and shops in Japan, it can be hard to know just where to go. Although compiling a guidebook of famous places is fine on its own, Tokyo Girls Update would like to introduce the kind of hangouts local people enjoy! In this edition we’ll be introducing spots in Kyoto recommended by an active female university student.
Our first spot is a ran Hotei Café and Event Space, located near Nijo Castle. Tea master Randy Channell Soei, a Canadian, opened up his own café here in May 2007. A space like this, created by a Japanese culture-loving foreigner, definitely sparks quite a bit of curiousity. Maya Oki, a fifth year pharmaceutical school student at Ritsumeikan University School, set off to experience ran Hotei’s charm!
It’s located nearest to Nijojomae Station. Nijo Castle looks so pretty lit up at night! Somewhere you can stop off on the way back from sightseeing is a plus.
Walking along Sanjokai Shopping Arcade…
Here it is! This is ran Hotei.
They have many kinds of cake, including sponge cake. I don’t know which one to choose!
Let’s take a look inside.
This 100 year old, renovated Kyomachiya house is the perfect, stylish combination of “East” and “West”.
During my visit, I ordered two of Randy’s personal creations.
The first one was his Green Tea Chocolate Cheesecake (560 yen).
Randy: How do you like the taste?
Maya Oki: The sweetness of the chocolate and the bittersweet taste of the green tea really go together well! It’s a lot firmer and more moist than regular cheesecake!
Randy: Adding matcha to cheesecake makes it thicker. All the sweets from this café are made at my pastry factory on the corner near the cafe.
Maya Oki: Where does the green tea you used to make the cake come from?
Randy: It comes from Kyoto’s Kyotanabe City. It’s a ran Hotei original blend that I make in collaboration with the tea growers.
The second one I tried was his Maple Kinako (Soy Flour) Fudge (560 yen).
Randy: This is also my own creation. Maple and kinako are an interesting combination, don’t you think? I used Canadian maple syrup and Japanese kinako to make it.
Maya Oki: It’s very rich and sweet. Ah, this is happiness!
Maya Oki: What made you want to start studying the Way of green tea?
Randy: Originally I came to Japan to study the martial arts. I also wanted to become knowledgable in the concept of bunbu ryodo (the cultural and martial arts in unison) so I took up the way of tea as a hobby. I enrolled in the Urasenke Gakuen Professional College of Chado and gradually my hobby became my career. As a result, martial arts have become more of a hobby to me now.
Maya Oki: From there, how did you get the idea to open up a café?
Randy: Rather than setting out to make a café, I wanted more people to get to know and enjoy the way of tea, and because I wanted to create a space where people could casually experience tea, I started up the café. On the second floor I hold tea experiences and have tea lessons. We receive many reservations from people visiting from overseas, and recently we had groups from Singapore and Australia. I offer study in both English and Japanese, and you don’t need to wear kimono to participate, so please don’t hesitate to make a reservation. Reservations can be made by phone or e-mail.
Maya Oki: What are thoughts on how you’d like to see the café grow?
Randy: I’d like more customers to visit, and to make more items available to sell.
Randy: This is the original matcha I mentioned before. Nichigetsu no Mukashi is a thick tea, while “Akari no Shiro” has a thin tea. We sell it here at the café. Since we’re on the topic of matcha, I have another product I’d like to recommend.
Randy: This soap (3,500 yen) is made with ran Hotei’s original matcha.
Maya Oki: The green tea has such a pleasant smell.
Randy: We also sell it online so if you’re interested, please take a look.
Maya Oki: Do you have any other future ambitions for ran Hotei?
Randy: I hope that more people will patron ran Hotei not only as a café, but also as an event space. Right now, every third Wednesday of the month we hold a seal engraving class, and so far four times this year we’ve held a flower arrangement group. Recently we had a handmade accessory making session and in December will have a class on how to make Christmas wreathes. Event notices are posted to ran Hotei’s Facebook page, so be sure to check it out.
Japanese-style sweets with a sweet taste and Randy, who was very sociable and kind. My heart felt very at ease and I had a very relaxing, lovely time.
Open hours: Monday – Wednesday 11:30 a.m. ~ 8:00 p.m. / Friday 11:00 a.m. ~ 11:00 p.m. / Saturday ・Sunday: 11:00 a.m. ~ 8:00 p.m. ※Closed: Thursday
Translated by Jamie Koide
InformationAddress : 64 Kamikawara-cho, Nishiiru Omiya Sanjo-dori, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
Nearest Station : JR Nijo Station
TEL : 075-801-0790
URL : http://www.ranhotei.com/