Oyako Donburi: Nishijin Chicken Shinise Toriiwaro

Oyako Donburi: Nishijin Chicken Shinise Toriiwaro 西陣・鳥岩楼 鳥水だき

Oyako Donburi: Nishijin Chicken Shinise Toriiwaro  西陣・鳥岩楼 鳥水だき
Toriiwaro, a shinise located in the old weaving district of Kyoto, offers a single dish for lunch and a single dish for dinner. Toriiwaro’s chicken broth is the heart and soul of their chicken cuisine. Chicken itself is a relative newcomer to the Japanese culinary scene and this 150 year old restaurant is among the oldest in Kyoto serving chicken. The history is palpable here!

Toriiwaro is a restaurant that I had known of for a long time and even though I used to live in the neighborhood, I had never dined there. Thanks to this question (and excellent recommendation) in Kyoto Support, I finally did.

I visited the restaurant with a friend for lunch and we enjoy oyako donburi, shinise style.

Nishijin Shinise Oyako Donburi
Oyako Donburi: Nishijin Chicken Shinise Toriiwaro  西陣・鳥岩楼 鳥水だき

Nishijin Shinise Oyako Donburi – Cross Section
Oyako Donburi: Nishijin Chicken Shinise Toriiwaro  西陣・鳥岩楼 鳥水だき
This oyako donburi is very rich and soupy!

Nishijin Machiya
Toriiwaro is located in the heart of Nishijin, the old obi and kimono weaving district of Kyoto. This area of Kyoto has the most old traditional machiya houses left. The most spectacular were trading houses, usually dealing in kimono and obi. As Japan changed in the 1970’s and 80’s, most of these companies went bankrupt, as they were not able to change with the times. Today much of old Nishijin has been lost to mindless development but between the parking lots, plastic houses and bathroom tile covered apartment buildings there are still quite a few machiya left, more are being lost literally everyday though. Some are decrepit and some are lovingly maintained and now and again one is meticulously renovated.

Nishijin is one area of Kyoto that travelers won’t want to miss and Toriiwaro is a good place to have a meal and experience a machiya from the inside.

Toriiwaro Dining Room Interior
Oyako Donburi: Nishijin Chicken Shinise Toriiwaro  西陣・鳥岩楼 鳥水だき

Toriiwaro Dining Room Interior
Oyako Donburi: Nishijin Chicken Shinise Toriiwaro  西陣・鳥岩楼 鳥水だき

Toriiwaro Dining Room Interior
Oyako Donburi: Nishijin Chicken Shinise Toriiwaro  西陣・鳥岩楼 鳥水だき

Toriiwaro started out in Gion at the end of the Meiji period, about 150 years ago. In 1945 they moved from Gion to their current location in Nishijin and renovated this old machiya into a restaurant. Most of the layout retains the original residential plan. Of course renovating machiya today for restaurants is quite in fashion, however tearing them down is even more in fashion. Many machiya renovated for restaurants retain their shell and structure, but the ‘machiyaness’ is often lost to poor design or over-design. None of that is going on here.

The quaint dining room on the second floor overlooking the garden was quite beautiful. There are numerous tokonoma alcoves, hanging scrolls ikebana flower arrangements and so on.

The tables are quite small and very low. The floor is tatami and you sit on nice thick zabuton cushions.

Toriiwaro Garden and Walkway
Oyako Donburi: Nishijin Chicken Shinise Toriiwaro  西陣・鳥岩楼 鳥水だき
The dining room that we ate in was at the end of this sloped wooden walkway on the second floor.

Toriiwaro Garden
Oyako Donburi: Nishijin Chicken Shinise Toriiwaro  西陣・鳥岩楼 鳥水だき

Toriiwaro Chicken Cuisine

The soul of Toriiwaro’s cuisine is the rich chicken soup stock. Everyday, for decades now, the carcasses of 30 chickens have been slowly simmered with Kyoto well water for 8 hours to make the next day’s soup.

One Item Dinner Menu: Mizudaki Nabe
Toriiwaro only serves chicken dishes. They are very famous for their mizudaki 地鶏水だき which is local chicken hotpot nabe cooked with their chicken broth. Mizudaki is the only dish offered for dinner and costs 6,300 yen (per person). (We haven’t eaten their mizudaki nabe, but in this photo, it looks pretty good!

One Item Lunch Menu: Oyako Donburi
Lunch is also a single item menu. Toriiwaro’s oyako donburi is a classic and well known in Kyoto. Oyako donburi, literally ‘parent and child’ rice bowl is chicken and egg on top of rice. Their rendition of this common Japanese lunch fare is quite ‘soupy’ with broth and dashi. Usually oyako donburi contains scallions or onions, but not at Toriiwaro. They just use the finest chicken and egg, so it tastes great without the extra flavoring.

A cup of chicken soup is served with the donburi and it has go to be the richest chicken soup broth that I have every had. I went for lunch with a friend from Kyushu and he said that it reminded him of Kyushu’s famous and very rich pork bone stock, tonkotsu.

Toriiwaro Genkan Entry
Oyako Donburi: Nishijin Chicken Shinise Toriiwaro  西陣・鳥岩楼 鳥水だき

Toriiwaro Genkan Well
Oyako Donburi: Nishijin Chicken Shinise Toriiwaro  西陣・鳥岩楼 鳥水だき

Toriiwaro Sign (鳥岩楼)
Oyako Donburi: Nishijin Chicken Shinise Toriiwaro  西陣・鳥岩楼 鳥水だき
As this wooden hand carved and very weathered sign is very old the characters are written in reverse order to modern Japanese.

Toriiwaro Storefront
Oyako Donburi: Nishijin Chicken Shinise Toriiwaro  西陣・鳥岩楼 鳥水だき
Toriiwaro is in a large and spectacular Nishijin ‘machiya’.

We were both a bit surprised at the size of the donburi. It was a bit on the small side in terms of volume, but being soupy makes it dense it quite filling. The tsukemono which accompanies the meal could use some improvement. However, 850 yen for a historic and very high quality donburi, in an atmosphere like this, I thought that Toriiwaro was a home run.

I am definitely going back for lunch, and often, and looking forward to having dinner there. I have never had a shinise mizudaki nabe.

As so many of the kimono and obi companies in Nishijin went bankrupt, it can be difficult to find a nice restaurant – they went out of business too. Toriiwaro’s lunch is very reasonably priced, and dinner, at 6,300 yen, while not exactly cheap, isn’t particularly expensive for the kind of food they serve. It seems that smaller, private rooms are available for dinner. At lunch, everyone is seated in the large room shown in the photos.

English and Access
西陣・鳥岩楼 Toriiwarou
English service: No English menu, but at this restaurant you don’t even order. Service is friendly
Website: http://www3.ocn.ne.jp/~mao_utty/toriiwa/ (Japanese language only)
Hours: 12noon to 9pm (closed Thursdays)
Location and Access: You’ll definitely need a map for this one. From the intersection of Imadegawa and Chiekoin streets, walk north on Chiekoin to the first street which is Itsutsujicho and turn left. Toriiwaro is less than a minute walk and is on the left (south) side of the street. You can get to Imadegawa-Chiekoin by bus.
: Kyoto-shi Kamigyo-ku Gotsuji-dori Chiekoin Nishi-iru Minami-gawa (京都市上京区五辻通智恵光院西入南側)
Telephone: 075-441-4004


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9 Responses to “Oyako Donburi: Nishijin Chicken Shinise Toriiwaro”

  1. Looks amazing. Oyako donburi is one of my favourite quick lunches. I think I’ve had a similar chicken soup once in Korea. It was white and creamy just like tonkotsu, except it was made with chicken.

  2. Peko-P says:

    Hello Marc, Is that chicken soup sangetan? (sorry, that would probably be the Japanese name for it, not Korean) It is a whole spring chicken stuffed with rice and Chinese medicinal herbs. You eat the whole damn chicken — bones and all!! It has got to be one of the most amazing meals on earth. When I get a cold, I often go eat a bowl of sangetan, have a few beers, come home and go to bed. I think it helps. In Japan, sangetan is not cheap, maybe 20 – 30 dollars. You can get it in specialty shops and the Korean section at department store food courts, in a bag, just heat and eat. That is a bit cheaper, like 15 dollars or so.

  3. FFichiban says:

    Oh wow that oyako donburi looks so comforting mmmm great photos of Toriiwaro! I must visit next time 🙂

  4. Nate says:

    That’s how I like my oyaku donburi – rich and soupy!

  5. Forager says:

    Wow! Great website! I wish I knew of it’s existence when I went to Kyoto last year – I’d undoubtedly have had a much richer food experience there..

    Oh well – guess I have to go back (hooray!) get some tips for next time.

  6. Dennis says:

    Wow, what a lovely place for serving only Oyakodon! It looks absolutely delicious!

  7. Sarah says:

    We took your advice and loved it. Some of the school group guides seem to have found it so there was a bit of a crowd, but nice to see the high school students eating something this good. I have forgotten the price but it was not high. I think you could have it with or without coffee? And thanks for the map, which is needed.

  8. […] il ché tutto sommato non è mica da trascurare). A questo punto vi torna in mente un post di Kyotofoodie, letto la mattina stessa, appuntato mentalmente nalla casella eventuali piano B, beh, ecco… […]

  9. Nils von Barth says:

    Toriiwaro is amazing – thanks! (*Highly* recommended.)

    It’s a gorgeous machiya, v. nice garden and dining room, v. traditional dining, and the oyako-don is delicious and great value. Prices have come down a little – lunch is currently 800円, while dinner is 6000円. Also, the hours for lunch are noon ’til 2 pm (12:00–14:00).

    I *think* you can order other things – they do have a menu, which was sitting unused in the room (see page below), and I believe you can order the 水だき for lunch if you want to), but if you want the oyako-don you’re just shown up to the second story room and the donburi is brought out.


    There were several other people (not full, but close to it), and this was on a weekday in winter, so I’m guessing it gets crowded come high season.

    Also, at the entrance I counted 27 geiko uchiwa, so it certainly comes highly recommended!

    This is worth the trip either for the food or the machiya, and with both it’s a do-not-miss experience! Great find.

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