Translated by Greg
Kyoto's Kibune Katsura: Enjoy Great Meals At This Cool Summer Oasis!
Written by Atsuko Yagura
Today we introduce you to a shop in Kyoto called Kibune Katsura. It's a kind of restaurant known for its kawadoko, a patio-like structure built above a river, where guests can sit and enjoy food and drink in a cool atmosphere.
Kyoto is known for its hot and humid summers. If you want to spend your days in cool comfort, then it's time for kawadoko (*1), often called one of Kyoto's summer charms, to come to the rescue!
Close enough to touch if you extend your hand, the crystal clear waters of the Kibune-gawa river pass by your feet. This kawadoko, a patio-like structure, is often called nature's own air conditioner.
Here you can enjoy seasonal food of the highest quality as you listen to the sound of a waterfall splashing up against the rocks.
*1 Kawadoko: refers to a kind of outdoor wooden patio built over a river or dry riverbed, where guests can sit in cool comfort as they enjoy various kinds of food and drink in the summer months. They are especially famous in Kyoto.
Do You Say "Kawadoko" or "Kawayuka"?
In Japanese, the characters for the word kawadoko give the meaning of a floor on top of a river. However, the exact same characters can also be read in a different way.
For example, the characters for the Kamo-gawa river's outdoor patio is read as kawayuka, while Kibune and Takao's patio is called kawadoko.
It's been said that Kibune kawadoko got its start during the Taisho period, when people visiting local shrines would stop in here and cool off. As a form of hospitality, the tea house would set out shogi, or small folding chairs, into the river so that guests could enjoy tea and refreshments in a cool and relaxing setting.
Let's Enjoy Kawadoko at Reasonable Prices
In the early part of summer, the Kibune area becomes a kind of kawadoko town. Ryotei (traditional Japanese restaurants) that have kawadoko line up one after the other, and restaurant hostesses wearing Japanese-style aprons, cheerfully call out to and invite passersby to come inside.
Kawadoko are made with natural materials such as bamboo and reed screens, so their appearance can help you feel cooler.
There appears to be about twenty ryotei in all. They've managed to incorporate the flowing river, waterfalls, rocks and other landscape elements into their kawadoko in a very effective manner, resulting in elegant and refined spaces.
Next, I was all set to enjoy some kawadoko cuisine, but the more I thought about it, the price was indeed rather steep. Prices here have one more digit than the price of food I usually order at other places!
The image of kawadoko kaiseki cuisine has prices starting from about 7000 yen. While this is perfectly acceptable for special occasions, but for those times when you just want to casually drop in, this tends to be out of range for most people.
Kibune Katsura - Prices That Won't Break the Bank!
However, there were some shops that offered reasonably priced lunches.
At Kibune Katsura, the kawadoko kaiseki dinners in the evening are by reservation only, but kawadoko lunches usually cost in the range of 1600-2000 yen.
With the restaurant hostess leading the way, I finally stepped down onto my long awaited kawadoko.
The kawadoko was constructed in such a way that I could almost touch the water in the river, and the bright sunlight was blocked by the lush greenery of the momiji trees (Japanese maple) and the bamboo blinds, and what really caught my attention was the sound of water splashing onto the nearby rocks.
The summer's overbearing heat soon began to fade away, and I became enveloped by the clear and refreshing air.
While fully enjoying the coolness of the bountiful natural surroundings, my much anticipated kawadoko lunch of grilled salted sweetfish (ayu), finally arrived.
Along with the grilled sweetfish, a summer delicacy, there was also white rice, clear Japanese soup, and edible wild plants and vegetables in season.
This meal that I had while sitting in this comfortable space just above the river, was absolutely delicious.
There are also other shops along the river where you can have a great kawadoko lunch. At Hiromon you can sample nagashi somen for 1300 yen, and at Denbei they serve soba and kamameshizen (*2) for about 1000 yen.
By all means please make a visit to Kibune when the weather starts to warm up, and partake in one of Kyoto's fashionable and stylish summertime activities, while sitting in cool comfort in a Japanese-style room just above a river.
*The kawadoko season usually runs from May until September, but each shop differs so please check for details ahead of time.
*2 Kamameshizen: a set menu that includes rice boiled with a variety of ingredients (meat and vegetables) in a small iron pot.
Address: Kyoto, Sakyo, Kuruma Kibunecho 81
Closed: Generally speaking open every day. However, there is a winter holiday. The kawadoko is open for business from July 1st-September 30th (for details please call and confirm).
*In the event of rain, or when the Kibune-gawa river's water level rises, meals will be served inside the shop.
Wi-Fi: Not available
Credit Cards: Not accepted
Other Languages: Japanese only
Nearest Station: from Kibuneguchi Station (Eizan Railway), take a bus to Kibune, from which it is a ten minute walk
Cost: Kawadokozen 1600-2000 yen