Food Crawl: Eat Your Way Through Kyoto With These Retro Cafés

Walk off those calories!

Traveling by foot is one of the best ways to explore Japan. In Kyoto alone, there are many walking tours that you can take--one of which is a tour of Nishijin, a district that’s known for its traditional silk fabric as well as its interesting cafés.  

Are you in for a filling cultural walk? Below are our recommended food stops that you can add to your itinerary:

[12:30 p.m.] Matsutomi ya Kotobuki
422 Higashi-Takeya-cho, Takeya-cho dori, Saidoin, Chukyo Ward, Kyoto
Contact: +81-75-221-6699
Open from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (last order is at 2:20 p.m.) from Monday to Thursday (closed on Tuesdays); and from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (last order is at 2:20 p.m.) and 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. (last order is at 7 p.m.) on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

How to get there: It’s an 8-minute walk from Maruta-cho Subway Station or 11 minutes by foot from the Nijo-jo Mae Subway Station.

Matsutomi ya Kotobuki used to be a townhouse in the Meiji era. Today, it’s a buffet restaurant that serves food made from natural ingredients. For seasoning, they mainly use soy sauce, Japanese sake, and rough sugar, and refrain from using animal-derived stock. This results in differently flavored yet equally delicious dishes! Their miso soup, for one, has a sweet wheat flavor.

There are seven counter seats on the first floor, giving the retro town house a modern twist.

Nature food buffet

"We provide 12 kinds of dishes on weekdays and more on weekends. Starting December, we are open at night during weekends--the best time to enjoy liquor together with the dishes," says owner Sadaharu Inoue.

The windows on the second floor are made of antique glass!

While the roof tiles were reprinted and gas lamps were added during the renovation, the latticed bay window--which is one of the original characteristics of the townhouse--remains intact.

[2:00 p.m.] Cat Apartment Coffee
54-1 Kasekibashi Minami han-cho, Ichijyo dori, Oomiya Higashi, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto
Contact: +81-75-748-0188
Open from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. (last order is at 7:30 p.m.) on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. (last order is at 6 p.m.) on Saturdays, Sundays, and national holidays.
Closed on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays.

How to get there: It’s approximately 15 minutes by foot from Imadegawa Subway Station.

Only 19 minutes away from Matsutomi ya Kotobuki is Cat Apartment Coffee, where you can hang out with 15 adorable cats while sipping your afternoon coffee. They use coffee beans from a popular specialty coffee shop named Unir.

The cats’ snack time, which usually happens from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., is one of the best times to visit the café. This is when the cats gather in a circle to munch on their snacks.

Cute Uni-chan stands up by the window to see what is happening outside.

The café is actually a renovated townhouse built in the Taisho era, which is around 100 years old.

[3:15 p.m.] Cafe 1001
288 Taido-cho, Kamiyo-ku, Kyoto City
Contact: +81-75-406-0738
Open from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last order is at 4:30 p.m.) daily; closed when sold out.

How to get there: From Omiya Station, it takes about 12 minutes by City Bus Line 201, 206, and 46. Get off at Senbon Nakadachiuri, and walk for about five minutes.

If you love mint chocolate and books, there’s a café just five minutes from Cat Apartment Coffee that you have to visit. Cafe 1001 is popular for their standard parfait that mint chocolate lovers from around Japan would go all the way to Kyoto for.

Chocolate Mint Parfait (¥1,000). This bestselling dessert has jellies and mint tiramisu inside, and is only limited to two orders per pair of customers.

The café, which used to be a factory for Nishijin silk fabric during the Meiji era, now has wooden floors in place of its original tatami flooring. Inside, you’ll notice how natural light shines beautifully through the windows. You’ll also find the owner’s collection of Fujiko Fujio items, the author of Doraemon, at the back.

There is a table seat behind the paperback bookshelf which houses various genres of books collected by the owner.

This sturdy safe, which is already there even before the renovation, is reused as a bookshelf.

The lattice windows, which look like a rectangular insect basket, are original features of the townhouse.

[6 p.m.] Sarasa Nishijin
11-1 Shino Higashi Fujinomori-cho, Kita-ku Kyoto City
Contact: +81-075-432-5075
Open from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. (last order is at 10 p.m.); lunch time is from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Closed on the last Wednesday of the month.

How to get there: Ride City Bus Line 205 from Kitaoji Station and get off at Daitokuji-mae. Walk for about five minutes.

A nice end to your Kyoto walking tour is Sarasa Nishijin, a 45-seater baroque café that’s refurbished from an 80-year-old sento or public bath. Only 10 minutes away from Café 1001, this store is hard to miss with its splendid roof and nostalgic Japanese majolica tile stretched all over the wall.  

Order their Seasonal Cake (¥540) and Kinako (roasted soy powder) Milk (¥574).

Provided by Japan Walker™, Kansai Walker™, and Walkerplus™ (12 December 2017)

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