This is summer in Kyoto! Enjoy Noryo Kawa Yuka dining on the River!
Kyoto has endured hot summers since its beginning and people long ago at a time way before air conditioners thought a great way to escape the heat by building wooden platforms above rivers from which you can feel a refreshing breeze while listening to the flowing cool water below. This was the beginning of “Noryo Kawa Yuka” (often referred to simply as Noryo Yuka). Written proof of these Noryo Kawa Yuka can be found dating all the way back to 1662. Nowadays, this tradition has become so popular that you can’t talk about summer in Kyoto without mentioning the Noryo Kawa Yuka. In Kyoto city, you can find Noryo Yuka built along the Kamo River with lines of restaurants providing an enjoyable atmosphere for people to savor in summer. There are also some in the mountains in Kibune and Takao where you can find a completely different style of Noryo Kawa Yuka.
Kawa Doko? Kawa Yuka?
Depending on the area and style, sometimes the characters for “Kawa Yuka” can also be read as “Kawa Doko.” The locals may know about this but that knowledge doesn’t extend far outside of the prefecture. The “sajiki” deck seating areas around the Kamo River are called “Kawa Yuka.” If you say, Kawa Yuka around the shopkeepers maybe they’ll compliment you by saying, “Hey, how’d you know that?!”
Below is the Kawa Doko at Kibune. Because the wooden platforms actually go over the river (instead of beside the river like those at the Kamo River in Kyoto city) they are called, “Kawa Doko.” However, though the wooden platforms at Takao in the same mountain region are in the “sajiki” seating style (like at the Kamo River in Kyoto city) and they are also called “Kawa Doko.” Isn’t this troublesome!?
Aim for the afternoon!
For those who want to enjoy a reasonably priced meal at the Noryo Kawa Yuka, we recommend heading over during lunch time for some “Hiru Yuka” (“Afternoon Yuka”). Many of the kaiseki course meals that usually cost around 10,000 yen at night are offered in the afternoon for prices between 3,000 and 5,000 yen for mini-kaiseki, so why not drop by one of the restaurants that catches your eye?
These Noryo Kawa Yuka wooden decks are built like terraces along the Kamo River from May 1 to Sep 30.
Here you can find many of Kyoto’s most famous long-standing restaurants with food, so good that it will make you say, “I’m so glad I came to Kyoto!” Currently, there are over 100 restaurants lined up on the Noryo Yuka around the Kamo River, but there are two special spots we really want to recommend for your trip to Kyoto.
Officially registered tangible cultural property and awarded one Michelin star: Toriyasa
Toriyasa is a restaurant that specializes in mizutaki (chicken and vegetable hotpot) established in 1788. For fans of Japanese history, you’ll be interested to hear that the famous figure, Sakamoto Ryoma used to visit this restaurant often, and this restaurant has also earned one star in the Michelin Guide. Here you can enjoy a luxurious time in the tangible cultural property registered building that will allow you to feel traditional Japan.
Address: 136 Saito-cho, Shijo-sagaru, Nishi-ishigaki-dori, Shimogyo, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto（京都府京都市下京区西石垣通四条下ル斉藤町136）
Phone No.: +81-75-351-0555
Open: 11:30 – 22:00 *Last order at 21:00
Two stars from the Michelin Guide for three years in a row! Kyoto dining at Honke Tankuma
The Honke Tankuma restaurant established in 1870 that specializes in Kyoto dining is a long-standing establishment that has earned two stars in the Michelin Guide for three years in a row. For those who want to experience Kyoto’s luxurious cuisine, we definitely recommend this famous establishment. During the summer season of the Kawa Yuka, you can enjoy dishes including delicacies like “hamo” pike conger sea eel and “ayu” sweet fish.
Address: 168 Izumiya-cho, Shimogyo, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto（京都府京都市下京区和泉屋町168）
Phone No.: +81-75-351-1645
Open: 11:30 -15:00 (last order at 13:30), 17:00 – 22:00 (last order at 20:00)
No set holidays
Official Website (available in English)
Dining at some of the famous Kawa Yuka restaurants along the Kamo River for dinner may cost over 10,000 yen at the cheapest. For those who may think, “Well, that’s a little too much…,” we can recommend some more reasonable restaurants to visit.
Enjoy reasonably priced Kawa Yuka Sushi at Pontocho Kappa-zushi
This is one miraculous restaurant where you can enjoy sushi kaiseki meals that offer dishes including an appetizer, hamo pike conger eel otoshi, salt-seasoned grilled ayu sweet fish, nigiri sushi and so on for less than 5,000 yen. Just to let you know, this restaurant is not part of the nationwide conveyor belt sushi chain that goes by the same name of, “Kappa-zushi.”
The Kawa Yuka seats here are at tables with chairs, so those who aren’t comfortable sitting on the floor for long periods of time can rest easy.
Address: Shiori Bldg. 1F and 2F, 160 Matsumoto-cho, Shijo-agaru, Pontocho-dori, Nakagyo, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto（京都府京都市中京区先斗町通四条上ル松本町160 栞ビル1F･2F）
Phone No.: +81-75-213-4777
Open: 17:00 – 24:00 (last order at 23:30)
Open all year round
Enjoy a casual drink at Atlantis at the Kawa Yuka!
What about a bar for those who want to enjoy the Kawa Yuka in a slightly more casual atmosphere? One stylish way to enjoy summer in Kyoto is to drop by one of the bars on the Kawa Yuka for a drink before or after your meal. This establishment is open through the middle of the night but be careful because the Kawa Yuka seats close at 23:00!
Address: 161 Matsumoto-cho, Nakagyo, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto（京都府京都市中京区松本町161）
Phone No.: +81-75-241-1621
Open: 18:00 – 2:00 (open until 1:00 on Sundays)
Open all year round
Head to Starbucks for those on a budget!
For the more frugal types who may think, “Well, actually…can’t I enjoy the Kawa Yuka for under 1,000 yen?” there is another option! How about experiencing the Kawa Yuka with a coffee? The Starbucks Kyoto Sanjo Ohashi store offers Kawa Yuka seating from May to September! Because this is a Starbucks, you can get items off the regular menu for regular prices with no additional charge for the Kawa Yuka seats. However, you’ll run into long lines on weekends and holidays with those looking to enjoy some coffee on the Kawa Yuka. So, we recommend the weekdays.
Address: 113 Omiya Bldg. 1F, Nakajima-cho, Kawara-machi Higashi-iru, Sanjo-dori, Nakagyo, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto（京都府京都市中京区三条通河原町東入ル中島町113 近江屋ビル1F）
Phone No.: +81-75-213-2326
Open: 8:00 – 23:00 (Kawa Yuka area is open in May and September from 11:30 – 22:00, and from June to August from 16:00 – 22:00)
Noryo Kawa Yuka is not only for the Kamo River! Just like we mentioned earlier, the river dining in this area is called Kawa Doko. This area of Kibune located in the middle of the mountains is about one hour away from Kyoto city! So experiencing the Kawa Doko dining above this majestic mountain stream is extremely popular. In fact, there’s probably a lot of people who will feel like the Noryo Kawa Yuka at the Kamo River is missing something after experiencing that in the mountains here at Kibune. Here, we’re going to introduce some spots that will make foreign travelers say, “You absolutely have to go!” There are many ryokan offering wonderful food in this area, so we also recommend staying the night and being healed amid Mother Nature visiting special spots such as the famous Kibune Shrine. Most of the Kawa Doko restaurants around here are open from 5/1 to 9/30!
Number 1 spot to feel the power of the river: Hirobun
The restaurant that gets people saying, “What in the world is this place?” is Hirobun. The Kawa Doko which is built above the flowing mountain stream that is almost like a waterfall will make you feel the wonders of nature with the sound of the water and negative ions that rise from below your feet. We recommend going for lunch to get the full impact of the natural surroundings.
The fish that swim through these waters make up one of the most important ingredients in the kaiseki meals of Kyoto cuisine, but if you come for lunch then we recommend the unique delicacy of “nagashi somen.” Nagashi somen are cold noodles that slide right before your very eyes through bamboo poles that you snatch up with your chopsticks! Dip the noodles in the accompanied sauce and there you have one of the greatest specialties of Japanese summer dinners. This nagashi somen that runs through the fresh water of Kibune is delicious! However, due to the popularity of nagashi somen, it’s not possible to make reservations. Just head over to the restaurant directly and get in line.
(left Mary, right naverまとめ）
Address: 87 Kibune-cho, Kurama, Sakyo, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto（京都府京都市左京区鞍馬貴船町87）
Phone No.: +81-75-741-2147
Open: 11:00 – 19:00 (nagashi somen available from 11:00 – 16:00)
Closed: 12/30, 12/31, 1/1 (other irregular holidays exist)
The original Kawa Doko of Kibune: Kibune Fujiya
The first restaurant to start Kawa Doko dining in the beautiful waters of Kibune is Kibune Fujiya. The Kawa Doko here with a beautiful traditional Japanese atmosphere above the stream is for those who want a quiet meal away from the crowds. For this reason, it’s very popular among couples.
The Kawa Doko dining here for lunch and dinner costs 9,000 yen per person. This high-class restaurant will also charge an extra 1,080 yen per person for a seat, but the food is no less than miraculous! The master chef here prepares each dish of the kaiseki course meal with the utmost skill and care. This food will definitely not disappoint!
Address: Kibune Jinja Tori-mae, 40 Kibune-cho, Kurama, Sakyo, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto（京都府京都市左京区鞍馬貴船町40 貴船神社鳥居前）
Phone No.: +81-75-741-2501
Open: 11:00 – 20:00 (last entry at 19:00)
Shuttle bus by reservation will pick you up from the Kibuneguchi Station on the Eizan Railway
The Kawa Doko at Takao is the number one spot for those who absolutely love Kyoto! It’s not as busy as the Kamo River, or as wild as Kibune, but it has its own high class style and flourishing natural surroundings that will heal you. Here are two restaurants that we really want to introduce.
From fireflies to maple leaves! Specialty dining ryokan inn: Kinsuitei
While most Kawa Doko restaurants last from May 1 to the end of September, this spot runs through October and November, so you can enjoy the colors of autumn. The shokado bento lunches that run from 3,000 yen are both popular and affordable. In June you can also see the fireflies that little by little reveal their glowing shapes in the night.
Address: 40 Umegahata Tonohata-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi（京都市右京区梅ヶ畑殿畑町40）
Phone No.: +81-075-861-0216
Open: 11:30 – 14:30 / 17:00 – 21:00
During lunch time, there is a reservation required for a shuttle bus that runs from the west exit of the JR Nijo Station (leaves at 11:20), and during dinner, there is a hotel shuttle bus. *Requires further inquiry
Come talk with the Maiko apprentice Geisha at Momiji-ya
This Kawa Doko in the dense woodlands of Kyoto is found at the beautiful Momiji-ya. This establishment is also open during the fall season to enjoy the changing colors of the leaves.
Moreover, if you sign up for a Kawa Doko dinner plan, then Maiko (apprentice Geisha) will come and talk to you at your seat! They’ll also perform a rare and beautiful dance! For those who want to experience this quintessential scene of Kyoto with the Kawa Doko dining and Maiko, go ahead and get your dinner reservation.
Address: Umegahata Takao-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto（京都府京都市右京区梅ケ畑高雄町）
Phone No.: +81-75-871-1005
Open: 18:00 – 20:00 *Maiko appear between 18:40 – 19:50
Reserved buses run by the hotel can be taken from places around the JR Kyoto Station. Further inquiry required.
Official Website (available in various languages)
Did you like this article? If you think our article is interesting, share it with your friends, and make sure to LIKE our Facebook page. What encourages us the most are your LIKES!
IKIDANE NIPPON Editor Senior Travel Writers