Ichikawaya Coffee: A young cafe inside a 200-year-old wooden townhouse

by J.J. O'Donoghue

Special To The Japan Times

Many of Kyoto’s traditional wooden machiya townhouses are being renovated, and one of the most enchanting ones that has recently opened to the public can be found a few minutes walk from the endless stream of tourists visiting Kiyomizu Temple.

Ichikawaya Coffee is housed in a 200-year-old machiya that has been in the Ichikawa family for generations. In 2015 the building was transformed into a cafe that is seductive, traditional and stylish.

One of my favorite features is the coffee bar: a slab of unfurnished timber surrounded by a half-dozen bowl chairs. The inspiration for this most likely came from Inoda, one of Kyoto’s well-known coffee houses, which is also where the master of Ichikawaya Coffee worked for many years. The cafe also has a garden and more seats at the window to watch the world go by. Even a trip to the bathroom is an instruction in design.

It’s an achingly beautiful cafe and the menu is just as refined. I had the Bacho, a relatively strong coffee — roasted onsite — named after the cafe’s locality, and a bacon and mibuna (potherb mustard) breakfast roll. My neighbor had a delicious looking fruit sandwich stuffed with melon and freshly whipped cream. Coffee refills are discounted.

On your way out, peruse the display cabinets containing various pieces of locally made Kiyomizu-yaki, a famous style of Kyoto pottery.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.
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