A sacred place for shogun…and lovers of lactic acid bacteria ice cream.

Ever since it was first introduced to the market in 1935, Yakult has been taming the intestinal tracts of the nation and the wider world with its Shirota strain of lactic acid bacteria, named after its founder, Dr Minoru Shirota (1899-1982).

In recent years, the company has grown even further, with the September 2023 opening of its first-ever cafe in Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture. Called the Yakult Gohonmaru Cafe & Gallery, the new establishment is located about a 25-minute walk from JR Utsunomiya Station, right next to Utsunomiya Castle Ruins Park.

▼ Utsunomiya Castle was famous for accommodating successive Tokugawa shoguns during their visits to Nikko.

The cafe immediately attracts attention with a giant bottle of Yakult 1000 — a probiotic lactic acid bacteria drink containing 100 billion Shirota-strain lactic acid bacteria — out front.

This bottle works to immediately catch the eye of drivers, who can easily stop by, thanks to the cafe’s convenient parking lot.

It’s not just drivers who stop by here, though, as the cafe has become a destination for Yakult lovers, many of whom travel from overseas to visit. It’s been incredibly popular since it opened, with lines out the door every day, and even now, half a year after opening, its popularity still hasn’t waned, due in part to the fact that it’s not only a cafe but a gallery and beauty salon as well.

Beauty starts from the inside, though, and to help us out with that is a specially designed menu with options like bagels made with Yakult cream and smoothies made with strawberry-flavoured Joie. Joie is similar to Yakult, in that it contains the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus casei strain Shirotai, but it comes in fruit flavours and with added calcium and vitamin D.

The must-try item for a lot of visitors is the ice cream, because this is the one place in the country where you can eat…

▼…the Ice de Yakult!

According to the sign, it’s said that 20,000 of these ice creams have been known to sell in a day, and though these tubs can be purchased online, there’s no other cafe or physical store where you can buy the dessert other than here.

The ice creams are a very popular product developed by the company’s Mitsuboshi Factory, and they’re on the menu here for 420 yen (US$2.69), served with a cute Yakult-shaped cookie on the side.

The cookie is a perfect partner for the ice cream, with a subtle sweetness and delicious, elegant taste.

The ice cream itself has a refreshing finish, especially compared to a regular vanilla ice cream, as it’s less sweet, with a delicious tang of Yakult flavour.

What’s more, you know it’s good for you, with every mouthful delivering loads of Yakult’s special lactic acid bacteria to your intestines.

▼ Plus, if you eat it on the sunny terrace, you get to enjoy great views of the lush Castle Ruins Park next door.

The cafe is a laid-back space that makes it a great pit-stop during your travels. The Ice de Yakult itself is a luxurious ice cream worth travelling for, and it’s the perfect palate cleanser for Utsunomiya’s other famous specialty — gyoza!

Cafe information
Yakult Gohonmaru Cafe & Gallery / ヤクルト御本丸 カフェ & ギャラリー
Address: Tochigi-ken, Utsunomiya-shi, Honmarumachi 1-43
Open 10:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. (last orders 6:30 p.m.)
Closed Mondays
Website (Instagram)

Photos © SoraNews24
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