If Kawai Tsuginosuke were alive today, he’d probably order the Special Plate dessert too.

From the outside, Tochu looks like a very important place, and it is. The building, located in the town of Ojiya, Niigata Prefecture, has been in business since the Edo period, when Japan was still ruled by a shogun and feudal samurai government, and the building is now an officially designated tangible cultural property.

For more than 150 years, Tochu has operated as a ryotei, a type of high-class Japanese restaurant that prides itself both on the quality of its food and its elegant ambiance. In addition to dining rooms and a banquet hall, guests will also find an exquisite garden, its pond filled with elegantly swimming carp, waiting for them on the premises.

Visitors can even set foot into the Umenoma, or “Plum Room,” where Kawai Tsuginosuke, one of Japan’s last samurai and the commander of the Niigata region at the time, ate his meal on May 2, 1868. Kawai’s visit came after meeting with revolutionary leaders and attempting to stave off the beginning of what would eventually come to be known as the Boshin War, which ended with the restoration of the imperial family as the rulers of Japan and the dissolution of the samurai class.

▼ The Umenoma, so named because originally it offered a view of plum blossom trees

But for all of its historical significance, Tochu isn’t averse to change. A few years ago it started a new venture, the Tochu Cafe, which operates within the building.

▼ The sign next to the door, with 東忠喫茶室 (Tochu kissashitsu, or “Tochu cafe room”), will tip passersby off.

The cafe space is a bit more contemporary in design than the rest of the facility, but still has a Japanese atmosphere.

You can get coffees such as Amarello Bourbon or French blend…

but what we were really here for were the desserts.

For indecisive types, or simply those with a palate refined enough to appreciate a wide range of sweets, we’d recommend the 550-yen ($4.10) Special Plate, which gives you a variety of sweets to enjoy. The exact mix changes by the day or season, but on our visit our favorites were the cake, with a mousse topping and a filling of jam and nuts

…and the ice brulee, which greeted us with a delicate snap and delicious custard sensation when we bit into it.

Our plate even came with a small slice of rice-flour poundcake and a meringue cookie.

Alternatively, you can be more focused in your dessert decisions with specific orders such as the 450-yem opera cake, made with the cafe’s in-house coffee blend…

…or, if being in a Japanese historical site has you in the mood for traditional Japanese sweets, the 450-yen shiratama zenzai, a bowl of mochi dumplings in an azuki sweet bean sauce.

After one more look at the garden, we were on our way, but we’re already looking forward to going back again, even if we feel lucky to have eaten at such a unique cafe even once.

Location information
Tochu Cafe/ 東忠カフェ
Address: Niigata-ken, Ojiya-shi, Motomachi 11-11

Photos © SoraNews24
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