In Japanese culture a person’s identity can be traditionally referred to in two forms; Honne, inner truth, and Tatemae, outer display. This can often be frustrating for a foreigner with a western upbringing that encourages the physical display of your true inner emotions. Conversly, a Japanese person may have inner desires and feelings about a person or subject but will display an air of indifference if they feel that their desires and feeling are not socially accepted. But occasionally when trust has developed in a relationship with a Japanese person you are can be honored with a glimpse of Honne.
In Japan, as in the West, restaurants, cafes and bars are a medium for expression; a place where the diner can explore a slice of the inner mind of the proprietor, honne. It seems to me, that in Japan restaurants shyly protect their honne from the outer world in the same way the people do. Allow me to explain; most restaurants in Japan show very little of them selves to the outside world of the bustling street. More often than not the outside, tatemae, of their establishments are very sober in appearance and give away little of what is truly inside. Once entering a restaurant I am often surprised by the level of detail and personality in both the food and decor. To me this is a great bearing of the soul as if as a reward for taking that inquisitive step beyond the outer walls and into the hear of the place. It’s all or nothing.
To carry the metaphor further, restaurants, cafes and bars in Japan rarely position themselves with little thought for the view from the windows of their establishment, often preferring to black out the windows on busy streets to prevent the casual pedestrian from peering into the inner truth of the establishment.
However, like some Japanese people, there are exceptions to the rule. Quite often when honne merges into the open display of tatemae something quite extraordinary can emerge. Riviere – Lounge and Bar in the Tokyu Hotel on Numazu’s south side is one of these beautiful and inspiring exceptions to the rule.
Riviere is a display of 20 century decadence, and it is on show to the world. I approached Riviere from the high ceiling Hotel foyer, supported by elegant pillars. Potted stands of greenery make a bikini’s attempt at modest privacy. I stumble down the few steps to the sunken level of the lounge bar. On first entering all I can do is make the briefest glimpse at the lounge bar before being captivated by the lazy flow of the Kano River and luscious green peeks of the Numazu Alps just beyond the outskirts of town. The massive floor to ceiling bay windows expose the full length of Riviere to the world beyond and in turn the world beyond becomes part of Riviere and you.
A noble looking waiter, with black vest and elegant long black skirt, escorts me to a window seat. Piano sounds playing in a distant hall sooths my ears as I crumple into creamy couch chairs. Chilled water, hand towel and a menu arrive with barely a notice. I feel exposed with my immediate proximity to the bay windows on my right and the occasional bobbing of heads from guests in the lobby above and to my left. However, this exposure is cathartic in its beauty and rewards you with an atmosphere of honesty and trust.
Drinks and food are not cheap, but nor would you expect them to be in such an establishment. With a cappuccino coming in at around 800yen, a trip to Riviere is a treat, a splurge for your senses.
I order a cappuccino and my wife orders a pot of Earl Grey tea. We talk quietly as if we are in a library, sharing smiles and recounting old stories. It is as if the openness of Riviere compels you to recount your inner thoughts, your honne.
My chocolate dusted cappuccino arrives, a creamy foam bobs on top. One taste and I am content. I pour my wife’s tea. She adds her sugars and milk, stirs her cup and sips. I see that she has closed her eyes, her shoulders have visibly relaxed and a small moan of pleasure emanates from her. Perhaps for the tenth time we have been to Riviere she tells me this is the best tea she has ever had. I can smell the rich oil of bergamot in her tea. I steal a taste and am pleasantly surprised with the mild orange flavor; a testament of a good Earl Grey.
My wife and I chat for a little longer before two of our friends arrive. They barely see us, captivated as they are by the view beyond the windows. I smile at my wife. She returns a knowing smile. Our friends will be in for a treat and we will be fortunate enough to share it with them.
Locaton: From the south side of the station head directly south along the main road for about 500meters on your right you will see the Tokyu Hotel. Enter the foyer and head up the stairs it will be straight in front of you. For a map check out the link here
Stlye: Cafe and Lounge Bar
English menu: sure did
Picture menu: There are some pictures.
Gaijin friendly: Yes. The hotel is part of an international chain that often receives international guests. English, in varying levels, is spoken by staff.
Phone: 55 952 2411
Address: 100-1, Agetsuchi-cho, Numazu-shi, Shizuoka 410-0802
Link: Tokyu Hotel Numazu
Cost: Cost of a cup of tea came in at 750yen and a cappuccino was 850yen.