Monday, 2 April 2012

Sapporo Cafes: Sarou Houmura

I half-expected Sarou Houmura, a wonderful cafe and gallery in North-East Sapporo, to be in some secluded little glade outside the city. In fact it's about ten minutes from Kanjodori Higashi subway station, in a perfectly normal suburban neighbourhood. The smart architecture of the place though is such that inside you completely forget about the mundane surroundings. Even walking up to the place from the direction of the station it looks just like a pair of anonymous warehouses, and you have to be right on top of the place before you realise what it is.

It's those windows that are the genius point. By setting them all around the cafe part of the building the designer has let plenty of natural light shine in so you don't feel completely cut off from the outside world. At the same time, all you can see is the garden immediately surrounding Houmura, not the more bland buildings of the neighbourhood. It creates the fascinating illusion that you are somewhere far more remote than, in reality, you are. The entrance adds to this feeling as well, that long, winding, high-walled ramp cuts you off from the outside world even before you enter the cafe.

And once you're inside, the cafe part of Sarou Houmura is just the kind of perfect, super-stylish cafe that you can absolutely lose yourself in.

I loved the tables here. I have an unhealthy love of broad, heavy wooden tables, and the ones in Houmura felt like solid, immovable slabs - there for the duration. The chairs too were, I'm pretty confident, the heaviest damn chairs I've ever dealt with in a cafe situation. Holy crap, thank God they were so comfy, because once you were ensconced in one, you couldn't really shuffle it to a more comfortable position. You can probably tell that the whole place was perfectly designed on every level. The toilet was one of those hybrid lavatory/zen retreat deals. Incredible.

All of which is down to the place being owned and run by an artist, Mrs. Houmura, who we recognised from photos as we were browsing around the place after we ate. Connected to the cafe is a gallery space which was showing a range of art by different artists from a local studio when we went. Art is clearly at the heart of Houmura, and there's another building - Shinajina Houmura - just around the corner. That place may be closed for now though, since it looked a little deserted when we walked past. It looks just as cool as the one we went to though, but in a completely different way (there are lots of great photos on the site I linked to, so check it out).

We got a lunch set, ginger pork and lots of great Japanese dishes for 1200 yen including coffee afterwards.

Everything was great, those pickled beansprouts at the top especially, and it was very, very healthy. They do just coffee and drinks too of course, and a 900yen cake set that we saw a bunch of people order, and which seemed to be served on a tile. Painfully cool, which is all the better since the place is run by a little old lady.

I'll mark the place on my map, of course. Like I said it's close to Kanjodori Higashi station on the Toho line, and there's a clear map on the website too.

It's open from 10am to 6pm and closed on Tuesdays.

If cool cafes are your thing it's definitely worth a trip, and it's always nice to find interesting things on the Toho line because, I'll be honest, I don't know many. Perhaps I should challenge myself to find some more.

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