Kyoto is known for its hot and humid summers, but the people of Kyoto have a way of enjoying this uncomfortable season - riverside balconies known as kawadoko. Here, we are going to introduce three fantastic restaurants where you can enjoy some delicious food in the cool of the kawadoko.
Every year during the summer from May to around September, you will find restaurants and teahouses in Kyoto opening up balconies along the river to serve food to customers on them. These are known as kawadoko or kawayuka, as well as noryodoko or noryoyuka depending on the area within Kansai you’re in.
kawadoko are said to have started with teahouses putting out folding stools into the river to allow customers to cool their feet in the river. They are a great example of how people in the old times overcame the hot and humid summers of Kyoto.
In Kyoto, there are a few areas that are famous for their kawadoko, such as Kibune and Kamogawa. People who have visited Kyoto in the summer will probably have seen the Kyoto Sanjo Ohashi branch of Starbucks on the Kamogawa river with its kawadoko.
Here are five great restaurants where you can enjoy some delicious dishes along with one of the seasonal sights of the Kyoto summer, the kawadoko.
*The picture is of the kawadoko of the Kyoto Sanjo Ohashi branch of Starbucks
Hirobun is a famous restaurant in the Kibune area. On its kawadoko over the Kibune River, you can enjoy a dinner centered on freshwater fish, such as carp (“koi”) and sweetfish (“ayu”), called “kawadoko ryori” (8,600 JPY for two people or more, May to September only). Their unagi nabe (eel hotpot) (8,000 JPY, from two people of more) and nagashi somen (flowing noodles) (1,300 JPY, May to September only) are also popular. The green surroundings and the sounds of the cool flowing Kifune River are sure to wash away your tiredness from your trip.
The restaurant gets very busy at times, so it is probably a good idea to book in advance of your visit. kawadoko are typically a little cooler than other sightseeing spots, and you might feel surprisingly cold depending on the time of day, so you might want to bring a cover-up with you.
1. Enjoy freshwater fish at Kibune’s Hirobun
Our next recommended restaurant is Ganko Takasegawa Nijoen on the Kamo River. Here, from May to September, you can feel the Kyoto summer while enjoying some delicious kawadoko ryori (from 5,000 JPY, excluding tax and service fees). The kawadoko ryori comes with a wide variety of dishes, including sushi made with select ingredients, a variety of small dishes, and grilled fish.The sushi is particularly popular!
Another great thing about this restaurant is the on-site Japanese garden. The garden has an appearance that changes with the seasons, decorated by plum blossoms in spring and foliage in autumn. The old buildings have a real atmosphere to them. Why not enjoy a stroll along the river to the garden after your meal?
2. Enjoy both a kawadoko and Japanese garden! Ganko Takasegawa Nijoen
Roko is a restaurant located close to Kyoto Shiyakusho-Mae Station which offers traditional Japanese dishes. Here you can enjoy traditional Japanese course meals, known as kaiseki ryori, on a kawadoko along the Kamo River. The menu is split into individual dishes and course meals. For the course meal, we recommend the Roko Kaiseki (5,500 JPY (excl. tax)), where you can enjoy a variety of both beautiful looking and tasting dishes, including the seasonal yakihassun (a dish similar to an appetizer for kaiseki ryori), seasonal fish sashimi, and white miso gratin. The spectacular colors of the dishes are sure to surprise you. The drinks menu includes a wide variety of Japanese sake, so why not try some with your meal? You can’t beat looking over the Kamo River with a glass of delicious sake in one hand.
*The photo is for illustration purposes.
3. Enjoy the delicious course meal and Japanese sake at Roko
Well, what did you think? If you have any plans to visit Kyoto in the summer, we wholeheartedly recommend visiting one the kawadoko mentioned above. Don’t forget though that the kawadoko are closed on rainy days, so be sure to check the weather forecast before you start making your way to the restaurant.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.