There is always that special hidden gem in each city, in every country. Finding one, that can be a difficult task sometimes, but when you do find it, you can truly appreciate it. In the city if Kashiwa, outside of Tokyo, there is this beautiful, rather large history you can visit, and be able to look into the past. It is called the “Old Yoshida House” and it has been donated to the city, and is open to public.
This house was built in the Edo Period, in 1800s, and the Yoshida family served as village headmen. In the early 1800s, they went into business as soy sauce brewers and grain traders. As the family stature grew, they were granted the right to carry swords and be classed as samurai. Later, in the Taisho Period, they merged their soy sauce factory with Noda Shouyu, which later became Kikkoman. The soy sauce brewing house no longer exists, but the great gate at the front called the Nagayamon, the store houses, and the main house survived and are examples of the high point of Edo Period carpentry and architecture.
As you can imagine, this place has been used for many TV shows and movies, with the stage set to samurai period, and even photo shoot of all kinds, including wedding photos. And yet, everything is preserved so perfectly. It is truly a treasure of the city and beyond.
While you are getting a tour of this house (they have volunteer tour guides there, who are retirees), one think you must do before you leave is to relax with coffee and a cake, overlooking the house and garden. They have a cute cafe near the entrance, called Nagayamon Cafe, and it is underneath the same old structure, so it blends in with the surroundings and does not stick out like an eye sore.
Don’t expect a fancy menu from this cafe, it is run by volunteers, retirees as well. From what I saw, the men retirees do the tour, and female volunteers work at the cafe. The tour guides are super friendly and knowledgeable, they can answer about all the questions you might have about this place and history of it. The ladies, on the other hand, was not as friendly, but strict. The tables at the cafe are made from 450-year-old cedar tree, which used to reside within the Yoshida property. Very beautiful, quite magnificent table. From there, you can look out and see the houses and remarkable garden.
They have 3 items on menu: coffee, iced coffee, and cheesecake, at 250 yen each. Very simple. The cake set is 400 yen, about 4 dollars, what a steal! We got 2 cake sets, one with hot coffee and another with iced coffee. Their coffee was really good, high quality, strong but not too strong, almost surprisingly tasty. The cheese cake was really nice, came out warm, moist, velvety. I believe they make or at least steam (?) the cake there, so that they come out fresh and warm (not hot) to your table. They are almost like mouse cheese cake, fluffy, soft, great texture. Who would’ve thought you can get such excellent coffee and cheesecake, at this price, at such historic place???
If you want to look into a history at a quiet location away from the city, you should get to Yoshida house, and don’t forget the cafe on the way out!
Nagayamon Cafe @ Old Yoshida House – 974-1 Hananoi, Kashiwa 277-0812 , Chiba Prefecture, Japan
長屋門カフェ – 旧吉田家住宅歴史公園 – 千葉県柏市花野井974-1