Cafes in Oita: Hosun 方寸
Oita's Castle Park Cafes: Hosun
Joanne G. Yoshida
Oita is full of well-kept secrets. One of these is its Castle Park.
Another is the cafes that are situated strategically around its edges.
The Castle Park (城址公園, Jo -shi Ko-en) is a beautiful and lively spot for cherry blossom-viewing in spring and a quiet oasis the rest of the year where you can find herons, turtles, carp, plum trees, and more of nature's blessings in the midst of the city.
Its surrounding cafes are filled with delectable treasures - including wholesome Japanese cuisine and Soho sophistication at Hosun (I); traditional' kissaten fare where coffee is Key at Friends (II); and macrobiotic indulgences at Hana (III).
One of the cafes on the outlying western edge of the park is Hosun. After strolling around the ruins of the Castle, exit through the torii of the Sho-ei Shrine (松栄神社). From there you can spot the outdoor tables on Hosun's wooden deck.
Sit down and glimpse back at the white castle walls.
Gaze at the ginko trees across the way as they turn from bright green to yellow with the passing seasons.
Autumn in Oita is the ideal season for sipping a caramel milk tea at Hosun (735 yen served with melt-in-your-mouth caramel pudding). Everything here has the sense of being made exclusively to enhance its purpose. The tea is served in earthen pottery vessels you can cup your hands around for a warm treat as the first cool autumn breezes blow.
A Cafe with a View
The mood at Hosun is a Japan/Soho blending of simplicity and sophistication.
Maybe because there still aren't many outdoor cafes in Oita, it has a New York feel to sit outside and watch the passersby. The cafs manager, Daijiro, remarked that Hosun has a particular appeal to foreigners, who appreciate the Castle Park setting and the 'wholesome' philosophy behind the menu.
The name Hosun, he explains, is written with two kanji (方寸). The word is meant to sound like "Wholesome"; welcoming everyone from from children to people with food allergies to neighbors to travelers.
The ingredients used at Hosun are 90 per cent local (from Oita Prefecture), grown without chemicals, and reflect the expression chi san chi sho, 地産地消 - Eat local foods close to where they are grown.
Setting the Dining Stage
A Japanese flair for harmony in the details is evident in each item brought to the natural wood tables. From the bark-like stone chopstick rests to the woven bamboo baskets that the food courses arrive in to the Hosun label on the coffee creamers, everything is beautifully choreographed. It's no surprise to find out that Daijiro shares an interest passed down by his mother - Hosun's owner - in movies, lighting, art, writing, and beauty.
Their signature style is seen in the elegant presentations and 'Cute' ways of wrapping. Take-out catering features original seasonal bentos, and artfully wrapped O-musubi filled with local specialties such as Oita Tori-ten, Beppu harbor Chirimen, Yufuin beef and original yasai ryori (vegetable dishes).
Generation to Generation
The family wishes to pass down Japanese food traditions such as making miso soup, natto and tsukemono, and to ensure that these continue from grandmother to mother to child.
They wish to spread a natural way of living and eating that is being lost in the values of younger generations in Japan. Both Daijiro and his mother teach classes - for pregnant women and newly married couples - on healthy and wholesome eating which equals a healthy and wholesome lifestyle. They teach basics of Japanese cooking such as how to make sashimi and how to use a knife.
When the taste of the earth, the rain, and the culture of the locale are all contained in what we eat, we connect with the comforts of our past, and come closer to understanding that the future is a cycle that returns us to now.
Natsukashii Mirai、 Daijiro jots down on a post-it memo, adding how he values the things hand-written in an increasingly technological age.
Daijiro dreams of one day opening a Hosun restaurant in New York or Paris.
When I noticed a leaf on the table I had to question my tea companion about whether it had been placed on the plate or if it had fallen there from a tree.
The details are so perfectly arranged that this moment too could have been put there without our noticing. I once heard it said about a work of art that "one need not speak of a work of art, simply partake". The same holds true for the artful experience of dining at Hosun.
(Lunch 840 yen, slightly higher with coffee or coffee plus sweet; Lunch and Dinner sets are chef's selected assortments and specialties, and vary with the season).
Tel: 097 537 7547
Open 7 days a week (though it is not set, they will take an occasional day off sometime throughout the year)
Hours: 11 AM to about 10 PM
Also Visit Hosun Ginza when in Tokyo:
Google map of Hosun
Text + some images by Joanne G. Yoshida