What is a kawadoko (川床)?
Kawadoko are basically raised platforms on the bank of a river for enjoying the cool breeze in summer usually attached to a restaurant. The culture of Kawadoko began in the Edo period and has a history of 400 years. Originally, wealthy businessmen placed seats and set up tea shops on the banks of the river in Kamogawa, Kyoto. In the Meiji Period, due to the canal works, etc. many of these establishments disappeared. After the Second World War, the Kyoto government decided to bring back the kawadoko.
The riverbeds in the area of Kibune in Kyoto first appeared in the Taisho era (1912-1926). At that time, guests liked to dip into the river to cool down from the summer heat while drinking.
Today, these terraces are built temporarily with a tatami floor and low tables along the banks of a river offering beautiful views.
Three famous areas
Kawadoko are also called Noryo-yuka (納涼床). There are three popular areas to enjoy kawadoko in Kyoto:
Kamogawa, Kibune, and Takao
Places to experience Noryo-yuka
You can see in the photo above the temporarily built terraces along the path to walk by the river. These are usually built only in the summer months from May to September in Kyoto and Osaka.
In May, these are called “yuka,” from June to August “hondoko” and in September, “Atozuzumi”. Originally, the river bed was only open from June to August, but was later expanded from May to September. In addition, lunch is available at most of these places only in May and September, whereas dinner is available throughout!
Other than traditional Japanese cuisine, there are options like Chinese, Thai and Italian food too. But since you’re in Japan, it’s best to enjoy some Japanese beer and traditional dishes.
Things to remember when being at a Noryo-yuka:
1) Clothing: Since you will most likely be seated on the floor, make sure to wear something comfortable.
2) You will be expected to take your shoes off and since you will be walking and sitting on a tatami mat, make sure to wear socks.
3) In case of rain, you cannot sit on the outdoor terrace.
4) Most Japanese restaurants allow smoking but since you will be on the terrace with several other customers, avoid smoking.
Famous restaurants in Kyoto
Kamogawa: Pontocho Robin (先斗町魯ビン)
Kyoto Kibune: Kibune Fujiya (貴船ふじや)
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