Saganoyu – A Very Unusual Cafe

October 3, 2012

by Sayaka Matsuda and Kyoko Kiminami

outside the cafe

We have been looking into Kyoto cafes that foreigners would find interesting. Recently, we discovered a cafe that used to be a public bathhouse, or sento in Japanese. The cafe is called Saganoyu Cafe.

What is a Sento?

A sento is a kind of a public bathhouse in Japan. It is an institution where anyone can pay a small fee and take a bath. Sento have been an important part of Japanese social culture for a very long time. It is commonly said that the bathhouse is the place where children learn social manners. Sento, in one form or another, have existed in Japan for over 800 years.

There are many public bathhouses in Kyoto today the city is home to over thirty universities. That is why Kyoto is called the “student city.” So many students live in dormitories that do not have baths or showers. They support the many public bathhouses that are in Kyoto. Nowadays most Japanese people have baths in their homes, but many local people still love the public bath. Most public baths have many different kinds of baths: hot baths, jet baths, herb baths, electric baths and cold baths. Some even have saunas. So Public baths are also a good place to relax.

We focused on Saganoyu Café, which was once a public bathhouse. It was built about 100 years ago in Arashiyama. Inside, there are still karan (water taps), tairu (tiles), bathtubs and scales. So, not only foreigners but also Japaneses can feel excited by the strange atmosphere of this café.

From the outside, the appearance of the Saganoyu Café is in the style of a typical Japanese coffeehouse. But when we enter, there is a plant with beautiful leaves. The interior design and mood is Western.

Near the entrance is a corner that displays some souvenirs crackers made from miso.

* Miso shio snack (525 yen)

* Miso irigoma snack (525 yen)

* Miso kuroshichimi snack (525 yen)

When we went to the café, we sat by the window near the terrace. At center of the cafe are many tables and seats. All the windows are open, so the room always feels spacious. On the terrace, there was once an open-air bath. In front of the café kitchen, are clothing lockers left from the café’s bathhouse days. So it was charming!inside the cafe

Caution please! Taking photos of the interior and conducting interviews with the staff is prohibited.

The Menu

★ PASTA

* Hot tomato sauce pasta — Eggplant and sausage (950 yen)

* Cream sauce pasta Cod roe and mushroom (950 yen)

* Japanese pasta — Peas and chicken (950 yen)

+ bread (150 yen), salad (300 yen)

+ topping: a raw egg (100 yen)

★ CURRY

* Saganoyu curry (950 yen)

* Cheese curry (1,100 yen)

+ salad (300 yen)

+ topping: cheese (150 yen), a raw egg (100 yen)

★ DESSERT

* Arashiyama castella pudding (600 yen)

* Brownie Kyoto style (cacao 70%) (600 yen)

* Cramble apple tart (600 yen)

+ topping : fresh cream (100 yen), ice cream (150 yen)

★ SEASONAL SWEETS

* Green tea and black syrup parfait (700 yen)

* Green tea in jelly (650 yen)

★ COFFEE

HOT

* Saganoyu original blend coffee (500 yen)

* Cafe au lait — French style (580 yen)

* Cafe chocolate — French style (600 yen)

ICE

* Saganoyu original blend coffee/iced (600 yen)

* Iced cafe latte Saganoyu special (630 yen)

* Iced cafe chocolate — French style (700 yen)

+ topping: fresh cream (100 yen), Ice cream (150 yen)

★ TEA

HOT STANDARD

* Darjeeling Morning Dew (650 yen)

* Dimbula the Earth (650 yen)

* Earl Grey Queen (650 yen)

ICE STANDARD

* Iced Earl Grey tea (600 yen)

HOT ORIGINAL

* Milk tea (650 yen)

* Island coconut milk tea (680 yen)

ICE ORIGINAL

* Iced milk tea (680 yen)

* Iced island coconut milk tea (700 yen)

+ topping: fresh cream (100 yen), ice cream (150 yen)

★ JAPANESE TEA

* Green tea latte hot/ice (650 yen/ 680 yen)

★HERB TEA

* Rief (650 yen)

* Resort fragrance (650 yen)

* Pink fruits (650 yen)

★JUICE

* Squeeze fresh juice (orange or grapefruit) (750 yen)

* Gingerale Dry (500 yen)

* Tea soda (600 yen)

* Framboise squash (680 yen)

+ topping: ice cream (150 yen)

We went at lunchtime, so we ordered Saganoyu curry and tomato sauce pasta from the special lunchtime menu. It tasted great!

saganoyu vurrypasta

How to get to Saganoyu Café

Reaching the café takes 30 seconds by foot from Saga-Arashiyama Station. From the station, go right and you won’t miss it! There is a fishmonger across the street.

Also, Arashiyama is a famous Kyoto tourist spot, so we recommend taking a break from your sightseeing at this cafe

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