Traditional townhouse cafes

February 8, 2019

by Mai Kobayashi and Haruko Ishii


Have you ever been to a café in Kyoto? We’re sure you have as there are a lot of cafes in Kyoto City these days. Also, Instagram is popular now, and a lot of pictures of cafes in Kyoto appear on it. So, cafés in Kyoto are becoming more and more popular. Recently, cafes which are in many of Kyoto’s renovated traditional townhouses have become very popular! In this article, we will look at some of these renovation cafes.

Traditional townhouses used to be merchants’ houses which were built from the Edo period (1603-1868) through to the beginning of the Showa period (1926-1989). A traditional house in Kyoto is called unagi-no-nedoko which translates as ‘bed for an eel’. The meaning of this name comes from the narrow width and considerable depth of the houses, making them resemble an eel. The reason why there are many unagi-no-nedoko in Kyoto is related to the old Japanese tax system. In the Edo period, the amount of tax was decided by the width of the frontage, so many traditional townhouses had an elongated structure. The reason why traditional townhouses are being renovated more and more recently is that people who visit Kyoto can really experience the interior spaces of Japanese tradition. Also, to keep the appearance of Kyoto, activities to protect traditional townhouses are being held. As an effort to do that, entrepreneurs have renovated traditional townhouses and are building fashionable shops and cafés.

Here are some Kyoto cafes which are renovated traditional townhouses for you to try!


This cafe opened in 1984. The interior of this café has a first floor with counter seating and a second floor with tables and sofa seats with almost all of the furniture is made of wood. The entrance is a very small and deeply shaped, so it looks like unagi-no-nedoko and many Japanese movie posters are hung on the walls. This café’s staff are very friendly so you can have a comfortable time enjoying the atmosphere here. On top of the interior design, there is a selection of Japanese Manga to enjoy.

Sarasa opens from 12:00 to 23:30 Monday to Saturday. On Sunday, they open from 11:30 to 23:00. At lunchtime (12:00-15:00), you can eat their daily lunch which has a main dish, rice and soup. You can have dessert and drinks anytime. There is also a lot of dishes to try at dinner time (18:00-23:00). The soup rice dish is recommended! This has a mild taste. You can choose chicken or pork. At this café, you can try dishes that are favorites of a lot of Japanese people.


Soup rice


Lunch menu


Chocolate parfait & Season Cake


The café’s address is 〒604-8024 Kyotoshi-cyuouku-shinkyougoku-shijyouagaru-nakanocyo-565-13. You can get to this café by taking the Hankyu Line and getting off at Kawaramach Station. Go to Exit 6 and when you get to ground level, go right and go to Kayukoji Street (花遊小路商店街). Lunch time and dinner time are popular, so you may have to wait.

Blue Bottle Coffee

The Blue Bottle Coffee Company is from California, America. There are 10 cafes in Japan: Tokyo, Kobe, and Kyoto which only has one café. This café is a renovated traditional townhouse that is over 100 years old. The interior has a high ceiling with large windows which let in a lot of natural light in this open space. Neon lights are on exposed earth walls with bamboo. The ceiling has modern neon lights that harmonize with the nostalgic atmosphere of this old building. Leading up to the entrance there is a gravel courtyard where you can spend a special moment in the seasonal nature: fresh green from spring to summer and autumn tints that fall in autumn.

This café opens from 8:00 to 18:00. There are 44 seats in this shop so you can take a seat to enjoy the selection of freshly brewed coffee and pastries while looking at the interior. The aroma of the coffee here is very good and has a deep flavor. If you like it, you can buy the coffee beans to take home.

A further tip is, before or after you go to Nanzenji Temple, have a break at Blue Bottle Coffee. Nanzenji is the highest rank of temples in Japan. This temple is very popular with Japanese people and overseas tourists. In mid-November, you can see beautiful autumn leaves in this area.



The address is 〒606-8437 Kyotoshi-sakyoku-nanzenji-kusakawacyo-64. This café is located near Nanzenji. You can get to this café by taking the Tozai subway line and getting off at Keage Station (蹴上). Blue Bottle mark is a landmark for this café!



The landscape of Kyoto is different each season so you can enjoy them from the numerous cafes dotted around Kyoto. In spring, there are a lot of cherry trees and blossoms. In summer, you can relax in a café with the sound of cicadas. In autumn, colored leaves are beautiful in Kyoto. And finally, in winter, you can see snow. So, you can enjoy not only cafes in Kyoto but also the real feeling of the four seasons. We recommend you to try out these two cafes especially.

Les cafés-machiya

Nous allons vous présenter des cafés dans des machiya. Une machiya est une vieille maison traditionnelle en bois typiquement japonaise. Il y en a beaucoup au Japon et bien sûr à Kyôto aussi.

Vous connaissez les « cafés-machiya» ?

Ils sont en même temps très modernes !! On rénove des vieilles maisons d’une façon moderne et très originale. Elles deviennent des cafés par exemple, ouvertes à tous !

Nous allons vous recommander deux cafés (ou cafés-restaurants) installés dans des vieilles maisons japonaises.


Le café-restaurant «cafe marble»

Ce café est très intéressant, comparé aux cafés français, il est sombre mais l’atmosphère est calme, on se sent comme à la maison.


entrée du café-restaurant « cafe marble »


dans le café-restaurant

De plus, on peut expérimenter les vieilles maisons traditionnelles du Japon ancien. Il y a un mini jardin, typique lui aussi.


il y a beaucoup de livres


cour intérieure


Au café-restaurant «cafe marble», il y a beaucoup de livres mis à la disposition des clients. C’est une façon accueillante, à la japonaise, d’inviter les clients à rester longtemps.

On peut manger de la cuisine française comme des quiches par exemple. Elles sont célèbres et bonnes ! (environ 850 yens !). Il y a aussi du riz au curry. C’est un plat populaire au Japon.. C’est bon et pas cher (menu déjeuner 800 yens) !


asassiette composée avec de la quiche


riz au curry

Il y a aussi des desserts : des gâteaux, des tartes etc …


tarte aux noix et banane (650 yens)

Comment aller au « cafe marble » ? Regardez le plan ci-dessous : en train, avec la ligne Hankyu, allez jusqu’à la gare de Karasuma (sortie 15), puis marchez 5 minutes en direction du sud, et vous le trouverez sur votre gauche. Il se trouve dans la rue Bukoji.



Le café «ソワレ»

Voici le deuxième café que nous voulons vous présenter : le café «ソワレ » , littéralement le café «soirée».

enseigne du café "soirée"


entrée du café

C’est un café avec une atmosphère particulière. C’est rétro et fantastique. Il n’est pas typique de Kyôto mais, on peut voir la rue Kiyamachi depuis la fenêtre du premier étage, une rue vraiment typique de Kyôto. Dans ce café, il y a seulement des petites tables où on peut bavarder. Les lampes sont bleues, cela donne une atmosphère fantastique.


coupe de yaourt et boule de glace

La carte de ce café propose seulement des boissons et des desserts.

Notre recommandation est la gelée aux couleurs vives. Elle plaît beaucoup aux jeunes filles. Les boissons sont jolies à regarder mais on les boit avec plaisir aussi !


Quand vous viendrez visiter Kyôto, allez dans les cafés machiya. Ces maisons typiques sont chargées d’histoire mais aussi du Kyôto d’aujourd’hui ?