Kifune Kawadoko at Kibune Chaya

Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋
This morning, once again, Tanigawa-san from Kichisen called and asked me to accompany him on a little culinary adventure up to Kibune. Kibune is a village in a mountain gorge in the north mountains above Kyoto, it is a top foodie (and date) spot, especially in the sweltering Kyoto summer. In Kibune they put deck-like constructions with tables over the mountain stream and people enjoy a wonderful meal of river fish while sitting atop the cool, gushing river.

I was out back in my new garden planting habanero peppers when Tanigawa-san showed up at my place in his 1988 Mercedes Benz 560 SL convertible — with the top down, wearing Ray Bans and this really horrible gangsta rapper t-shirt (see photos below).

We zoomed up to Kibune at top speed chatting about European brands, the size of the engine in his car (compared to that of the other Mercedes Benzs that we pass), business and food and then somehow I was made to give an recounting of my girlfriends and relationships since I came to Japan. (Five in ten years really isn’t that many but he seemed somewhat incredulous. Not that Tanigawa-san is in a position to be envious, his wife is extremely HOT.) As we zip up the the mountain road nearing our destination I ask him why we are going to Kifune. He corrects me: Kibune. (Officially it IS Kifune, but ‘real’ Kyoto people say Kibune, or so it has seemed to me over the years.)

Kifune Kawadoko, literally ‘River Floor’
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

Kifune Kawadoko
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

Kifune Kawadoko, The Mountain Lane and Tourists
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

Kibunejaya Entrance
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

Kibunejaya – We Have River Trout Tempura
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

Kibunejaya – Interior
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

Kibunejaya – Interior
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

Kibunejaya – Interior
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

Kibunejaya – River Fish Holding Tank
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

Kibunejaya – River Fish Holding Tank
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

Kibunejaya – Tanigawa-san, Okami-san and Deshi Kid
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

So, we get up to Kibune and pull into this kawadoko restaurant called Kibunejaya and one of his students appears from the kitchen. The last time I saw him he was being dropped off at Tanigawa-san’s friend’s stall at the Kyoto Wholesale Food Market to clean fish all day. The time before that he was literally beaten out of the kitchen by Tanigawa-san for scooping rice the wrong way, or some other little minor infraction. Minor to me, at least.

I was glad to see this kid up in Kibune. I sensed that Tanigawa-san was starting to believe that he just might amount to something.

Kibunejaya – Tanigawa-san and Okami-san
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋
Kibunejaya – Cold Somen Noodle Lunch with Tanigawa-san
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

We had a quick lunch and I made friends with the family that runs the restaurant. They invited me back to do a proper interview and photoshoot for KyotoFoodie. I just have to make sure that I go on a sunny and warm day so that we can get some photos of people on the kawadoko. Kawadoko literally means ‘river floor’.

Kibunejaya – Cold Somen Noodle Lunch
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

Kibunejaya – Cold Somen Noodle Lunch
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

Kibunejaya – Cold Somen Noodle Lunch
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

Kibune is about 30 minutes by train up into the north mountains from the city. It is a little village with an ancient shrine, a beautiful stream gushing through it and numerous restaurants.

The restaurants are unlike anything you can find in other regions of Japan, or so they say. Even my professor of urban design in graduate school told me that by law placing restaurants, or any other constructions over rivers is prohibited in Japan. The restaurants have deck-like constructions right over the top of the cool, gushing river stream. See, Kyoto is pretty hot and steamy in the summer. People go up to Kibune, sit atop this stream and are literally cooled by the temperature and the sound of the running water.

It really is chilly up there. We turned toward Kibune at the intersection for Kibune and Kurama and it was instantly colder. Tanigawa-san said 5 degrees (centigrade).

People in Kyoto love to go up to Kibune and have lunch or dinner atop the river and enjoy the refreshing chill of the water and breeze while enjoying mountain vegetable and river fish cuisine.

Kifune Shrine

On the way home, we zoom down the mountain a few hundred meters then Tanigawa-san parks. Where he parks isn’t a no parking zone, it isn’t somewhere that anyone would even consider parking, it is the entrance of a shrine! We climb the very steep stairway to the top and pray.

Kifune Shrine
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

Kifune Shrine Water – Take Out
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

Kifune Shrine – Mitarashi
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋
This is where you wash your hands and purify yourself before entering the shrine proper.

Kifune Shrine – Going Home: Strike a PoseKifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

Kifune Shrine – Going Home: Strike a Pose
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

Kifune Shrine – No Parking
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋

Kifune Kawadoko: So Kyoto
Kifune Kawadoko at Kibunejaya 貴船の川床 貴船茶屋
This is the most elegant, famous (and expensive) restaurant in Kibune. This is the epitome of Kyoto to me. You are offered just a glimpse of the rushing river down this stone stairway and under a intimately scaled bridge-like passage way. Of course as you walk down the lane you can easily hear the rush of the river anywhere in the village, even if you cannot see it. The glimpse is so Kyoto.

11 Responses to “Kifune Kawadoko at Kibune Chaya”

  1. MerryWhite says:

    This is a wonderful cooling trip. I’ve often done the walk from Kibune to Kurama but never eaten at Kibune. This time I will try to do that. I’ll be in Kyoto again July 2-7 and I’d love to meet you. I’m a food anthropologist at Boston University and definitely could learn from you. I think you know Chris Lehrich, also of BU?

    Best, Merry (aka Corky) White

  2. nika says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful bit of heaven. As always, I am very envious of these experiences you have but am glad that you can share them :-)

  3. Funazushi says:

    This was one of my favourite places to take guests in the summer. There are a couple of nagashi somen restaurants in Kibune as well. Cold “Flowing noodles” are sent down a tube to your table where you can scoop them out.

  4. Your “So Kyoto” photo is perfect! I agree! I also love the photo of the somen noodles – the beautiful white of the noodles, with just a splash of green pea and red prawn, against the black pot make the meal appear so cooling. The green maple leaf is a striking statement of “summer”, given its usual association with autumn. Can you please tell me what are the green spots of herb garnish on the noodles? How did that affect the taste of the dish?

  5. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Merry, and I am looking forward to meeting you!

    Hello nika, I am glad to hear that people in other places on Earth are interested in my Kyoto culinary adventures! Thanks for letting me know, I really do appreciate it.

    Hello Funazushi, Oh, nagashi somen, I have only had that at gakuensai (school festivals), nagashi somen is fun!

    Hello cate.kodo.juno, Yes, green maple leaf is almost jarring to see green on a plate because they are so associated with autumn here. That makes it all the more powerful!

    I didn’t realize what the green was at first but the noodles tasted, I thought, of yuzu. I think that it was green yuzu zest. It could have been sudachi, but it tasted and smelled like yuzu to me.

    Whatever it was, it was great!

  6. Paul Hays says:

    What fun! JUst as the weather is starting to turn hot, I get a glimpse of cool mountains and a refreshing repast. I don’t think I will have time to go this year, but this will definitely be on my list for the future.
    And nagashi somen! Wow! that taakes me back to my days in Kanazawa where we would cut the bamboo and make all our dipping cups, mugs, condiment dishes and chopsticks and then use the rest of the pole to form the shoot to send down the somen. One rainy day, we even had the shoot going through the little mountain house where we would go.
    Thanks for bringing back the memories.

  7. Mmmm I have many fond memories of getting ice cold somen in the middle of a steamy summer up in the mountains with cicadas chirpiing the background.

    This looks like yet another place I’ll have to visit next time I’m in Kyoto.

  8. tumelo says:

    Food is the altimate stimulus plan

  9. cheryl says:

    hi there,
    any idea if the whole eating nagashi somen in kibune is still available in october? it seems to only be a summer thing. this looks really interesting but i’m only visiting japan in october.

    thanks!

  10. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Cheryl, I am not sure about that, there are several dozen restaurants in Kibune, each with their own schedule and menu. I will say this, Kibune is in a deep, shady valley and by October it ought to be pretty cold up there, so I doubt that nagashi somen would be available.

  11. This is a very nice introduction to Kubune and I hope more people can visit this area while in Kyoto.

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