An Inn at The Heart of Kyoto with Superb Cuisine from A Brilliant Past: Chorakukan
Maruyama Park is a famous Kyoto sightseeing spot where visitors can enjoy viewing the scenery of the changing seasons.
A stately presence in one corner of these expansive premises, Chorakukan is a European-style building that was constructed in 1909 by “tobacco king” Kichibe Murai to serve as a guest house welcoming prominent visitors from Japan and abroad.
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There are even anecdotes of visits by famous guests such as the UK’s reigning Prince of Wales, US business magnate John D. Rockefeller, and Japanese politicians Hirobumi Ito, Kaoru Inoue and Shigenobu Okuma.
Not just the building, but also the furniture and furnishings have been left just as they were back then, and the hotel was designated as a Tangible Cultural Property of Kyoto City in 1986.
Step into the main building guarded by a stately gate, and you’ll feel just like you’ve traveled back in time.
The landing of the second-floor staircase feels more like a balcony, and there is a wooden tablet overhead with calligraphy written by Hirobumi Ito reading “Chorakukan.”
The subtle use of color in the stained glass decorating the door will also catch your eye.
The third floor has a Japanese-style room that guests would never expect from the European-style building. The Onari-no-ma Japanese room designed in the traditional shoin-zukuri style fuses East and West with a chandelier made by Baccarat and sliding screen paintings lavishly decorated with gold foil.
Hirobumi Ito, Japan’s first prime minister, gazed out at the scenery here, and the ryokan’s name, Chorakukan, comes from his poetry: “If you enjoy yourself in this hotel (“kan”), that delight (“raku”) shall last long (“cho”) after you leave.”
This room is not usually open to the public, but guests staying at the hotel are permitted to tour it, so be sure to inquire about this after checking in.
Relish extraordinary cuisine in a decadent space
One perk of this hotel is indulging in the extraordinary cuisine here where famous guests once came to relax. There is a drawing room here, Geihin-no-ma, reserved for serving afternoon tea for guests.
In contrast with the dignified atmosphere of the hall, the drawing room features a French Rococo style with a hint of glamour.
The scenes painted on the walls are artworks by Haisui Takagi. These paintings feature famous places around the world such as the Statue of Liberty, Lake Geneva and Megane-bashi Bridge at the Tokyo Imperial Palace.
The tables and chairs used here are from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
As you eat, it’s fun to wonder if perhaps great figures from the past used these too…
The breakfast provided in this European-style building is one of the perks for hotel guests. The simple yet superb dishes feature seasonal ingredients and quality drinks, butter and jam.
Greet the morning in elegant style as you take in an up-close look at the nature of Maruyama Park.
Have a full course meal in the timelessly romantic Le Chene, the French restaurant on the first floor.
The restaurant’s neoclassical interior reminiscent of the British Victorian era was used as the main dining room in years past.
A Baccarat chandelier hangs from the ceiling.
The Japanese emperor oak leaves from the Murai family crest are also seen on the reliefs decorating the interior and on the custom plates produced by Okura Art China.
The meals are based on traditional French cuisine, but they also incorporate the spirit of Kyoto through the use of produce grown with few or no chemical pesticides in Kyoto’s Ohara district and Omi Province.
You’ll enjoy a special moment sitting in this dignified setting.
After dinner, try venturing out to the library bar, Madeira.
This space was formerly Kichibe Murai’s library, and the shelves now lined with alcohol once held his books.
Why not try enjoying a late night here with a glass of one of the more than 100 varieties of Madeira wine?
Six guest rooms reminiscent of a mansion
The new building was renovated in 2008 to capture the spirit of Kichibe Murai’s hospitality, and it now features modern interiors not seen in the main building. The large peacock wall painting, seen as you step pass the main building into the new one, really makes a statement.
You’ll notice the beautiful Swarovski lighting fixtures at check-in, and the private lounge welcomes guests with warm green tea and snacks in a relaxing atmosphere.
You’re welcome to help yourself to the soft drinks and cookies handmade by the hotel’s pâtissier during your stay.
In the library and exhibition space, you can get an up-close look at the roof of the main building, which is made from visually stunning and valuable natural slate.
If you look into the distance, you can see even panoramic views of famous Kyoto landmarks such as mountains like Mt. Higashiyama and Mt. Hiei-zan, as well as Chion-in Temple and Heian-jingu Shrine.
Why not spend some time lost in thought with the library book of your choice in hand?
There are only six guest rooms in all. Of these, the rooms with panoramic views are known for their wide windows and expansive views of Maruyama Park.
The wood fireplaces in the guest rooms are lit from the end of November, keeping the rooms warm.
The tea utensils and dishes are made by famous hakuji porcelain artisan, Koson Hayashi, in Kyoto’s Kiyomizu ware style. The hotel even has its own original coffee packaging.
In the guest rooms with panoramic views, you can look out on the changing seasons even from the bath.
The wide, convenient washbasin counter offers numerous amenities.
We also recommend taking home the cloth amenity bag of the popular brand Pagong produced by traditional Kyo-yuzen dyeing specialists, Kamedatomi Co., Ltd., as a memory of your travels. The pattern is a Chorakukan original.
The hotel also provides guests with abundant, original bath amenities.
Ladies will be especially delighted with the various Kyoto-themed items available such as Kyoto Chidoriya cosmetics, and the bath and shower gel from Derbe, a brand originally from Florence, Italy.
And there’s even more. With guest room options like the cypress view rooms where you can enjoy forest scenery and the feeling of being out amongst the trees yourself, try choosing a room that suits your mood.
The timeless Chorakukan has been reborn as a hotel with a focus on fabulous cuisine. Won’t you enjoy a trip with cuisine that conjures up history in a luxurious setting that fuses the old and new?
Information about recommended souvenirs
The Chorakukan Boutique on the first floor of the main building is a renovated sunroom. Cakes and baked sweets handmade by a pâtissier are on sale there.
Out of many choices, we recommend the sweets and coasters designed with a motif based on the packages used in the days when Kichibe Murai sold tobacco.
This souvenir perfectly captures spirit of Chorakukan and will be a lasting memory of your stay.