Kyoto is famous for severe summer. Since it is located in a basin surrounded by mountains, the wind is hard to pass through the city and its climate becomes muggy. It is said that living in Kyoto is less comfortable than living in Okinawa. As this summer is expected to become extreme hot, please stay on your toes! Don't you think that cooling off at nostalgic cafés is chic rather than at trendy cafés when you trip to Kyoto in such hot summer?In this feature, we will introduce recommended summer menu items at nostalgic cafés in Kyoto.
Jelly Punch at Kissa Soirée that both old and young are always crazy about
The first café that we introduce is Kissa Soirée near Hankyu Railway Kawaramachi Station. The café has a long history of 71 years since it opened in 1948 soon after the war. Wooden sculptures in the shop was made by Sculptor Sadaharu Ikeno, one of the café founder's friends. It is said that a church in a French countryside inspired the images of these sculptures.
Even the door knob at the toilet was hand-engraved, which is the image of Pan, the god of flocks in ancient Greek mythology who is half-human and half-beast and whose name is derived from the word "panic". The café is packed with interior decorations that were carefully made to the smallest details and provides a luxurious atmosphere. Please look carefully at these elaborate and detailed works at the café that was able to be made only at that time.
Its name Soirée means "evening party' or "nice evening" in French. 'Soyez la bienvenue' written on the menu cover shows "welcome". One of the famous features at the café is blue lights. Rokuro Uemura, a textile dying expert who is one of the café founder's friend, inspired the idea of blue lights. It is said that blue lights make women look beautiful. The café used to open until midnight when the blue lights were installed and they are matched with the origin of its name "nice evening".
Among many paintings at the café, one made by Tougo Seiji especially draws attention. The founder displayed the paintings in the café that were matched with the café's image. A painter who was a friend of the founder saw this paining and told Tougo Seiji "I saw your painting at the café" and he even took Tougo Seiji to the café one day. That was the start of their friendship. Since then, Tougo Seiji drew painting for the Soirée. As you may already know, his paintings are not only displayed on the second floor but also used for drink coasters, tumblers, and coffee cups. His paintings help enhance elegance of the café's atmosphere.
You can see the entire cherry blossom trees along Kiyamachi Street from the second floor. Therefore, you can enjoy seasonal views of cherry blossom trees from there: full blooms in spring, fresh green leaves in summer, and red and yellow leaves in autumn. Please fully enjoy outside views when you can get a window seat at the café where you can see these seasonal changes up close.
You can also see that the café was modeled after a church from its triangular shaped ceiling. As the tables and chairs at the café were designed in accordance with the regular size of the people at that time, they are smaller than those designed in these days. You can feel nostalgic from such a thing too.
Jelly Punch is the café's most recommended menu item in summer. The item has been served at the café for more than 40 years since the wife of the second-generation owner came up with the idea in 1978.
The punch recently becomes so popular due to Instagram worthy that this is now regarded as the café's specialty. The punch includes 20 jellies in five different colors served with cider, so you will be fulfilled after having it. This cider has been made by using the same method for over 100 years, since it was released in 1889.
As it is lightly carbonated and get flat quickly, please take photos of your punch within a reasonable time. This Jelly Punch looks cool when looking at it through the light. It is definitely a must-try menu item in summer! As there is in limited supply, the Jelly Punch is so popular that it will sometime be sold out within two hours after its open. So, its advised to go early if you don't want to miss it.
Kissa Soirée offers other jelly items besides Jelly Punch. Coffee Jelly is another popular menu item at the café. Coffee jellies are in iced café au lait. Compared to Jelly Punch, this offers an adult taste.
Actually, this Coffee Jelly was the origin of jelly items on the menu. The café started serving it in 1974, a little earlier than Jelly Punch.
Before serving the Coffee Jelly, most customers at Kissa Soirée were men, few women came to the café accompanied by men. It was Coffee Jelly that the owner thought of a menu item that attracted women. Actually, the photo image here is Coffee Jelly Float.
Coffee jellies made from deep roasted beans are placed on rich-flavored ice cream. When having the two together, by combining with bitterness and sweetness, you can enjoy its delicious adult taste.
Jelly Milk started being on the menu at the same time of the Jelly Punch. As jellies in five different colors served with milk, you can enjoy its different taste compared to the Jelly Punch. Mint leaves are added to take away the intense smell of milk, so you will be refreshed after having it.
Since the present owner didn't like milk, his mother, the wife of the second-generation owner, came up with the idea of Jelly Milk. Although he still doesn't like milk, don't you think that this café seems to be nice because this episode will make you feel mother's affection towards her son? Please enjoy Jelly Milk including the story behind at the café.
The café also offer other jelly items on the menu including Yoghurt Punch and Wine Jelly. Since they are all handmade, there is in limited supply. Don't miss to try one of them this summer!
■ Kissa Soirée
95 Shinchou, Shijo Agaru, Nishi Kiyamachi, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
A two-minute walk from Shijo Kawaramachi Intersection
Opening hours: 13:00-19:30（L.O. 18:00 on 1F and 18:45 on 2F）
Closed days: Mondays（if a holiday falls on a Monday, the shop will be closed on the following Tuesday.）
Salon de thé François: a café provides an authentic retro vibe and have been loved by many cultured people
Salon de thé François is a two-minute walk south across Shijo Street from Kissa Soirée, which very close to Shijo Kawaramachi Intersection. These two are one of the most famous nostalgic cafés in Kyoto. As the café have been operating for more than 85 years since its opening in 1934, it is suitable to call a long-established shop.
Many famous celebrities regularly visited the café during this long period, including Painter Tsuguharu Fujita, Film Director Kozaburo Yoshimura and Kaneto Shindo, and Scholar of French Literature Takeo Kuwabara and Isaku Yanaihara.
The owner, who took over the shop when he was young, said that there was a gathering of leaders of student activist groups at the café in 1970, during the conflict over the Japan-US Security Treaty. He added that although they looked overbearing, they were well mannered at the café. His female staff member who was a university student at that time asked him to take a day off to join a student demonstration. Such episodes that reflect on the times might be a funny story now.
Although the café currently has two floors, north and south, it had only the south floor around the time of its opening. The south floor provides white interior and bright lights come from the windows. The wallpaper purchased in France was installed. As it was renewed when the shop was refurbished in April, 2019, the interior looks brighter. Before the café became completely non-smoking, the wallpaper and decorations at the café became easily dirty with cigarette tar. Although some regular customer who are a smoker were against this smoke-free policy, many customers favorably accepted it now as the policy becomes standard now.
The north floor looks darker than the south due to the impression of brown pillars and red velvet chairs. It offers an Italian Baroque-style interior and was inspired by the lobby of a luxurious cruise ship. The north was built in 1941, a little later than the south.
As Shoichi Tateno, the founder of the café, was a student who wanted to become a painter, many famous paintings collected by him are displayed at the café. The café was named "François" in homage to the French painter Jean-François Millet and because he loved paintings more than anything else.
His painting collection includes a valuable replica painting of the Mona Lisa published by the family of Medici, Italy that were only two in Kansai in 1941 when the café was remodeled, and the Picasso's lithograph that is the 3rd edition out of 100 and was contributed to the World Peace Congress by Picasso and later came to Japan. You can see these valuable arts everywhere in the café like a gallery. You can immerse yourself in the feeling of elegance by looking at these valuable art works and listening to classic music.
The most recommended menu item in summer is "Yuzu Squash". The squash is made from yuzu produced in the farm of the café's owner's friend and offers rich aroma and color but a gentle flavor. It is easier to drink and more refreshing than Lemon Squash. Therefore, this is perfect to cool yourself down on a hot day.
The café's chic and classy uniforms are matched to its atmosphere. These uniforms have been unchanged since its opening. When a film was set at the café, the heroin of the film wore the uniform. Please draw your attention to these classic uniforms that are hardly seen at modern cafés.
Coffee with Fresh Cream that was inspired by Actor Junkichi Uno's idea, the father of Musician Akira Terao, and French Toast are popular items on the menu too. It is recommended to have an Iced Coffee to refresh yourself around this time of the year.
Salon de thé François was the first café that was designated as s Japan's Registered Tangible Cultural Property in 2003. You may be able to forget to be hot outside when you spend time at such a time-honored atmosphere.
■ Salon de the FRANCOIS
184 Sendocho, Shijo-kudaru, Nishikiyamachi-dori, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
A 3-minute walk from Shijo Kawaramachi Intersection
Opening hours:10:00-22:30（LO：21:30 for sandwiches and toasts and 22:00 for drinks and cakes）
Open daily except for December 31 and January 1 and 2
Inoda Coffee Main Shop: a localized café that have been loved by Kyoto people
Inoda Coffee has shops in Kanto and Hokkaido other than Kyoto. The main shop is the origin of Inoda Coffee and is located along Sakaimachi-dori Street, about 10 minute-walk from Shijo Karasuma Intersection. The two building are contrasting in color: white wall on the right is the old shop and black wall on the left is the main shop. You will pass under the noren (Japanese entrance curtain) at the main shop when entering the café.
The first shop, "Memorial-kan", opened in 1940. Only four seats were available at that time. The interior of "Memorial-kan" and the letters "COFFEE" on the white exterior has been unchanged since its opening. You can see its excellent architectural sense. The café displaying antique furniture at that time offers a tasteful atmosphere, which is only possible for a long-established café. You can even be seated on the antique furniture upon your request.
The old shop at the back of the premises is popular along with Memorial-kan. The imposing lights and furniture at the shop offer a retro vibe. Tables covered by checked table cloth are especially popular among young people due to instagramability. A total of 211 seats are available at the old shop and the stylish, two-story main shop, which is the largest number among all shops of Inoda Coffee. Smoking is allowed at the terrace seats in the garden.
Please ask staff if you have a preferred seat. Since the café is busy and all seats are usually taken, you have to wait, but it is usually possible to get your preferred seat.
All staff members at Inoda Coffee shops are dressed formally with a bowtie. They are well mannered and their services are elaborate and comfortable as if you were at a hotel. Please draw your attention to their heartfelt hospitality too.
Inoda Coffee offers a wide range of menu items including breakfast, lunch, and sweets. The most recommended item in summer is "Coffee Float". Iced coffee made from deep-roasted beans including milk and sugar is served with lemon ice cream on top. Unlike vanilla ice cream that coffee floats are usually served with, Inoda Coffee uses lemon ice cream, which the founder was especially particular about.
Although the ice cream contains lemon skin, it tastes like refreshing vanilla ice cream and doesn't taste sour. This lemon ice cream goes well with rich-flavored coffee. You can enjoy it's refreshing flavor even together with deep-roasted coffee.
Why don't you have Pudding together with Coffee Float? Having this Pudding that offers traditional taste and shape will make you feel further nostalgic. It's nice firm texture with plenty of caramel is fantastic! Although the pudding looks simple, it comes with a nostalgic bowl to make it look chic. Strangely, that makes the pudding look more delicious. Since it is normal to lose your appetite in summer, it is good to have food that can smoothly go down your throat like pudding.
By the way, coffee on the menu of Inoda Coffee is written as "コーヒ" instead of "コーヒー". Coffee was originally written as "珈琲" in kanji and then as "こうひ" in hiragana, and later "コーヒ" in katakana. You can see the flow of the times by looking at the "コーヒ"on the menu. Please experience a moment of coolness at Inoda Coffee that has always been loved by Kyoto people.
■ INODA COFFEE
140 Doyu-cho, Sakaimachi-dori, Sanjo kudaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
A 10-minute walk from Shijo Karasuma Intersection
Opening hours: 7:00-19:00
More long-established cafés around Shijo Kawaramachi area!
Although we have introduced three cafés this time, there are many long-established café besides these three around Shijo Kawaramachi area! Why don't you stop by one of them when traveling Kyoto in a hot summer day?
Smart Coffee opened as Smart Lunch in 1932 and changed to the present name after the war. Its mountain-hut style interior provides an amazing atmosphere. The most popular menu item at the café is pancakes. Home roasting coffee is popular too and customers are satisfied with its delicious taste. As the café is located in the Teramachi Shopping Arcade, it is easily accessible.
■ Smart Coffee
537 Tenshojimae-cho, Teramachi-dori Sanjo-agaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
One-minute walk from Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Station on the Tozai Line of Kyoto Municipal Subway
Opening hours: 8:00 -19:00（Lunch on the 2F：11:00-14:30L.O）
Café opens daily / Lunch is closed on Tuesdays
Tsukiji is located on a narrow alley to the east from Shijo Kawaramachi and opened in 1934. Although its location is in the bustling area, the café is surprisingly quiet. You can feel as if you've traveled back to that time by looking at the colorful tiles and western-style door at the entrance. The café provides an imposing presence. You can find luxurious furniture and decorations everywhere at the café. Please have an elegant time while drinking its specialty Vienna Coffee (coffee served with fresh cream)
Rokuyo-sya is located very close to Sanjo Kawaramachi Intersection and operates a café as Rokuyo-sha Coffee Shop on the first floor and a café and bar as COFFEE&BAR on the ground floor. The shop first opened on the ground floor, and later moved to the first floor and opened a bar on the ground floor. The bar extended its business hours from daytime around 1985 and started serving home roasting coffee. Coffee brewed with a flannel drip maker is very popular. As a result of recent café boom, this coffee becomes popular again.
■ Rokuyosha Coffee
40 Daikoku-cho, Kawaramachi Sanjo-kudaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
A two-minute walk from Sanjo Kawaramachi Intersection
Opening hours: 8:30-22:30（L.O. 22:00）
Closed days: Wednesdays
Impulse opened in Uzumasa in 1966 and moved to Kawaramachi. Its name came from the legendary jazz label "Impulse" and started business as a jazz café. Light-flavored coffee brewed with a siphon vacuum coffee maker is delicious. The café offers various food menu items so you can visit here to have a snack too. As the café's building is long in depth, there is a courtyard garden in the back and it looks "a bed for an eel" that is unique to Kyoto.