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.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.