Category Archives: Cafes

Saganoyu Cafe

saga no yuIf you’re in the Saga area, the cafe Saganoyu is a pleasant spot for lunch or a cup of coffee. Originally built as a public bathhouse in 1923, the building has been thoroughly renovated and was reopened as a cafe in 2006. You can still see the original tiling on the floors and the faucets along the walls. Continue reading

Papa Jon’s Honten

On Saturday we took a stroll up to the Shimpukan, intending to grab a bite to eat at Papa Jon’s Eatery. Unfortunately for us, they were hosting a wedding party. However, very fortunately for us, we bumped into Charles Roche (the owner) on his way out, and he offered us a lift up to the 本店. Nice chap, isn’t he?

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I’d noticed this place on the way to events at Impact Hub but never been it. Much smaller and cosier than the Eatery, it’s a good spot for lunch if you happen to be up near Imadegawa station. I enjoyed my fritatta – an Italian dish mid-way between a quiche and an omlette.

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And Mewby really enjoyed her chicken, potato and coconut curry. She was very impressed with how well it went with couscous!

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After that we were quite satisfied, but being greedy ordered some of their famous cheesecake to take home. You can’t go to Papa Jon’s and not have cheesecake! Can you guess which we chose?

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I had the raspberry and Mewby had rum raisin. Absolutely delicious! Thank you for the lift Charles!

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Papa Jon’s have stores in the following locations. Click the links for maps!

Papa Jon’s Honten (Imadegawa)
Papa Jon’s Eatery (Shimpukan)
Papa Jon’s on Kitayama
Papa Jon’s at Shugakuin

Minna no Café: 3.11 Evacuees Plant Roots in Kyoto

Here’s the latest guest post from our friend Jason Bartashius…

Before relocating to Kyoto, Ikuko Wagatsuma worked in the clothing department of a supermarket in Minami-Soma, a city devastated by both the tsunami and nuclear crisis. The tsunami wreaked havoc washing away homes and causing hundreds of deaths. Located near to the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, parts of Minami-Soma were inside the initial 20km evacuation zone. Though this was lifted in the spring of 2012, Wagatsuma explains to me with tears in her eyes that radiation is still a concern.

IMG_0031-1In Kyoto she is now working part-time at Minna no Café in Momoyama, Fushimi. The café is owned and managed by Minna no Te, a support group for 3.11 evacuees in Kyoto. Situated in a renovated machiya, a traditional Kyoto town house, the café employs evacuees and local Kyoto residents. It also hosts relaxation workshops, computer courses and health consultations for evacuees. “A representative from The France Foundation, who gave us funding, talked me into opening this place so we could give evacuees sustainable support,” said Minna no Te president, Yuko Nishiyama.

The café is tucked in a quiet street conveniently just a few minutes walk from the Keihan Fushimi-Momoyama station and the Otesuji shopping arcade. Though the area is slightly off the beaten path, a fair number of tourists visit the famed sake breweries as well as Fushimi Castle.

Bustling with a steady stream of customers, lunch-goers seem to appreciate the addition of the café to the neighborhood. Included on the menu are Fukushima specialties such as Ikaninjin, carrot and dried squid marinated with soy sauce and sake, which is a traditional dish in Fukushima. Zunda, another northern delicacy is served for dessert. Zunda is a rice flour dumpling topped with a paste made from grounded edamame and sugar.

An (International) Hub

In the old days land and water travel through Momoyama made the area a connecting point for Nara, Osaka and Kyoto. Similarly Minna no Café is functioning as a hub- connecting the people of Kyoto and beyond with those affected directly by the nuclear crisis.

“Many people come to eat and relax with friends. But also there are a lot of people who come because they want to connect to evacuees or me,” said Nishiyama.


Soon after its grand opening in May, a group of students and professors from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont visited the café. The visit was part of the group’s two-week study abroad trip to Japan. At that time Minna no Café was usually closed on Sundays, but Nishiyama opened its doors so the students could come and learn about the realities of the ongoing nuclear crisis.

Lauren Gillick, a Saint Michael’s graduate who joined the group, was particularly impressed by Nishiyama’s presentation. Holding a Masters degree in TESOL, Gillick hopes to teach in Japan sometime in the near future. “It seems that the most we can do for Yuko-san’s organization is to help spread the word and make this issue more well-known to the rest of the world. As I enter new schools as a teacher for this year, I will make sure to do my best to see how I can make this issue better known to my students as I think awareness is key,”said Gillick.

Customers, undoubtedly, also have chances to learn about Minna no Te and some of the organization’s other projects. Information pamphlets are displayed in the genkan. One can also find T-shirts for sale in the entrance. The shirts are printed with a bus graphic and the words “Fukushima” and “Kyoto.” Sales will help fund the Yume no Natsu project to reunite classmates and families torn apart by the 3.11 catastrophes.

This summer vacation buses will shuttle affected people to and from Kyoto. Fukushima children will visit their classmates who have relocated to Kyoto. From August 3rd to the 8th, the children will spend time with friends at a summerhouse in Otsu City provided by Notre Dame Elementary School.

The buses will quickly gear back up to transport and reunite separated family members during the Obon holiday. Many families have been split up by the nuclear crisis. Mothers and children evacuated while fathers stayed behind to work. Though temporary housing is rent free, daily expenses quickly add up and travel costs to visit relatives are forbidding. Obon is a time when many Japanese return to their hometowns to spend time with family and visit ancestral graves. Minna no Te is working to afford Fukushima families a similar opportunity.

Unarguably, the crisis has disrupted and brought injury to many lives. The future for many evacuees remains uncertain. A contentious debate over the dangers of radiation rages on making it difficult for many to decide whether or not to return home. They are at a crossroads. And so is Japan, for it remains unclear as to what degree the country will continue to rely on nuclear energy.

Minna no Café welcomes, attracts and invites people to join in community action and discussion. Such places are needed to empower and unite people in community.

Minna no Café:
Tues-Sat: 9:00 a.m -9:00 p.m; Sun: 9:00 a.m – 5:00 p.mIMG_0020

A 3 minute walk from Kintetsu Momoyama Goryomae or Keihan Fushimi-Momoyama. From either station walk WESTWARD on Otesuji Street, turn left at SoftBank onto Ryogaemachi Dori, walk straight again and you will see it on the left. Here is a map.

Tel: 075-632-9352
Address: 伏見区両替町4-319 (4-319 Ryogaemachi Fushimiku Kyoto-shi)
Links (Japanese):
Minna no Te:
Yume no Natsu on Facebook:
Jason Bartashius moved to Kyoto in 2011. He is a lecturer of Japanese Religions and an English instructor. Jason also manages the volunteer project After School Lessons For Tohoku Children that helps kids affected by the tsunami. As a writer he works to bring attention to the ongoing issues surrounding the March 11th disasters. He has made contributions to Deep Kyoto that focus on Kyoto’s efforts to support Tohoku and evacuees who have relocated to Kyoto. You can read his previous articles here.

Matsuontoko – Vegan Burger Cafe

Though there are quite a large number of vegetarian establishments in Kyoto, most of them are located in the north of the city, and the few there are in the city center tend to sell nothing that isn’t healthy and nutritious. Good vegan junk food is pretty hard to come by. There used to be a branch of Speakeasy on Shijo that did a passable veggie burger, but that closed down back in 2010. Since then our vegan brethren have been denied the delights of fast and convenient processed treats at a convenient location and forced to endure a steady diet of tofu and wholegrain rice. No more! Vegan cafe Matsuontoko is here to save the day, slap bang in the center of town, with a fine array of vegan fake-meats!


So convincing are these fake-meats that one of Mewby’s friends was half-way through her “kara-age” before she realised it wasn’t chicken at all. And that was only because Mewby told her.

The "kara-age"

The “kara-age”

“Really,” Mewby told me. “You’ll be amazed.”
“Well, alright then.” I said. So I went. And here’s my order.


How good was it? Very good. The bread was actually really nice too. I was entirely satisfied. But I decided to pig out on onion rings anyway. They were nice sweet onions and non too greasy.


And for a mere two hundred yen extra you get a lovely little cup of tofu ice-cream, cream and vegan brownies.


In short, whether you are vegan or no, if have a hankering for fast food at a reasonable price, Matsuontoko is the place to go.

Matsuontoko is just east of Shinkyogoku, three streets up from Shijo. Here is a map. Check the website for other items on the menu. There are a lot of choices.
Open: 11:00~24:00 (Last Orders: 23:00)
Tel: 075-251-1876

Lovers of vegan burgers may also be interested in: Morpho Cafe

Visiting the Vanishing Cafe

On August 15th & 16th 消えちゃうカフェ (the Vanishing Cafe) made a brief appearance at Sons music bar. Mewby and I paid a little visit.

Friends, Ikko, Nana and Riki ran the cafe, with Ikko making coffee, Nana cooking and Riki taking care of the desserts.

For 1000 yen we got a main dish, desert and a drink and everything was super tasty. Nana even made some vegetarian tacos just for me. I was very happy with that. Riki’s pound cake and fig compote also went down a treat.

Who knows when and where the Vanishing Cafe will appear again? Mewby and I will be watching out for it!

The Vanishing Cafe

For two days only, friends Nana, Riki and Ikko are taking over Sons music bar at lunchtime to host the Vanishing Cafe!

-Khao Man Gai (Thai chicken & rice)
-Al Pastor Tacos
-Coffee by Ikko

Come along and enjoy some great music with some tasty lunchtime treats!

Date and time: August 15th & 16th 11:00 am ~ 17:00 (after which the cafe will magically morph back into a bar)
Location: Sons is situated on the east side of Gokomachi on the ground floor of the Gokomachi Building (御幸町ビル) just south of Marutamachi. You have to walk into the building past  “Dolch” Italian restaurant on your left and the bar is situated at the end of the hallway ahead of you. There’s a Google map here, or you can use the map for the Italian restaurant Dolch.
Address: 〒604-0981
京都市中京区御幸町通丸太町下ル毘沙門町553 御幸町ビル1F
Tel: 075-223-5881.

Morpho Cafe

The concept of Morpho is “Vegan” which doesn’t use animal foods. Anything can be eaten easily in the present age, so various health problems have arisen… Those with an unbalanced diet and people with food allergies would benefit from the healthy vegan foods offered at Morpho cafe. A delicious meal can be prepared using “veggie meat” similar to animal meat.
-From the Morpho Cafe menu

Many thanks to the members of Kyoto Book Club who first introduced me to Morpho Cafe. Unfortunately on that occasion I had promised to meet Mewby for dinner later on,  and so could only watch in hapless envy as my companions ordered and consumed the most fantastic looking vegan meals and cakes. I’m happy to say that I finally persuaded Mewby to come up Horikawa with me on Sunday and the food was just as good as it looked!

Here’s my soy meat burger. It was everything I had dreamed it would be.

And here’s Mewby’s “chicken nanban set”, that was on the daily special’s menu. Continue reading

Cocokara Cafe + Dish

I’m always on the look out for comfy little cafes where I can ensconce myself in a quiet corner and read a good book. Last Monday I went to Cocokara Cafe for the first time and found it suited me nicely. Cocokara takes its name from a desire to serve the needs of both the heart (心 kokoro) and the body (体 karada). To put your heart at rest they emphasize comfort. The interior is small, bright, cheerful and easy on the eyes and as they write on their website anyone from backpacker to work-shirking salaryman should feel comfortable here. For the body they put a big emphasis on a healthy menu. Butter, lard and white sugar are shunned, and instead there are lots of whole grain rice dishes with plenty of wholesome vegetables. Though they aren’t a vegetarian cafe per se, they do have  a lot of vegetarian options. I was in the mood for pasta when I visited, so I tucked into a plateful with mushroom and broccoli in a soya milk béchamel sauce.

A lovely big plate of hot & peppery pasta goodness.

All in all this is a nice little spot. I think I might take Mewby here this weekend, so we can try some of their non-dairy, low-calorie sweets. If I have one tiny quibble, it is that they should probably take their music selection off of repetitive loop. There’s only so many times I can listen to Carole King doing the Locomotion before I have to leave. Here’s a shot of the interior:

Cocokara Cafe + Dish is open from 11:30~21:00 (Last orders 20:00) every day except Sunday.
They also sell bento lunch boxes from 10:30 until they sell out.
You can find it on the east side of Higashinotoin just south of Nijo. Here is a map.
TEL 075-223-6787

Cafe & Gallery Rokujian

I had a bit of free time this afternoon, so I popped over to see the exhibition at Cafe Rokujian of photographs and paintings by our friends John Einarsen and Tiery Le. The cafe forms part of the Kampo Cultural Center, which as I understand it, opened up last month. The center consists of three parts, the cafe, a small gallery space, and a learning center where you can take classes in flower arrangement, calligraphy and art – the latter with Tiery Le himself! Currently, John Einarsen’s graceful and exquisite black and white lotus photographs occupy most of the gallery space, whilst Tiery Le’s exhilarating and dynamic oil paintings decorate the cafe walls.

The cafe itself is spacious and comfortable and a pleasant place to stop and rest if you happen to be visiting the Higashiyama area. They do three lunch time sets of curry, a panini sandwich, or pasta, which all come with a (negligible) salad and a drink (tea, coffee, etc). If you want beer or wine it is 200 yen extra but the beer is Moretti, which happens to be one of my favorites so I was quite happy about that.

Each of these dishes changes daily.
I ordered the pasta, which on this occasion was spaghetti in tomato sauce with olives, anchovies and capers. It was tasty, and it came in a goodly portion so I was quite satisfied, though I think at 1180 yen for the set, it could be a teensy bit cheaper. The panini and curry sets are cheaper at 980 yen apiece.

Here are a few more pictures from both inside and outside the cafe and gallery…

Open 12:00-20:00, and closed Mondays, Cafe & Gallery Rokujian is in the Okazaki area, to the east of Heian Shrine and drectly to the north of the Kampo Museum. Click here for a map.

See also: Lotus – A Joint Exhibition by John Einarsen & Tiery Le…
The Photographs of John Einarsen
Tiery Le’s website.

Kozmoz International

Kozmoz New York Coffee is an American style cafe/diner tucked away in Fushimi Momoyama, that specializes in such dishes as the Philly Cheesesteak, the Hot Italian Sausage, bagels, muffins, apple pies and cheesecake… What makes this establishment a little bit different from other cafes though, is that every yen made from your hotdog or cheesesteak, (and also all the profits from the Kozmoz English school  upstairs), goes towards a good cause: funding social outreach programs and providing aid and assistance to those pockets of poverty and inequality that local government and bureaucracy have failed. According to Kozmoz International’s Director, Barry Wyatt, Japan has the same relative poverty rate as the U.S. and the U.K. with the most needy groups being: the elderly, single parents, and poor working families with children under five. For these kinds of people Kozmoz has been operating food banks and pantries where people can pick up boxes of groceries. Barry states the charity’s goals as “simply to feed the hungry and clothe and house the poor as well as bring awareness of these needs to those that can help.”

Since March Kozmoz International has also been trying to raise funds and supplies for the disaster zone in northern Japan. Barry writes,

Driving our aid truck to the disaster area since March has been like going between alternate universes every week. Just a couple of hours from the disaster zone people are going about their daily lives as if nothing has changed, while just miles away the devastation in both property and lives is beyond description. We have taken nearly $40,000 in food stocks directly to the shelters in the disaster zone but seeing the depth of the needs and the lack of progress makes me feel that we have to do more, much more…(LINK)

Barry Wyatt (left) and one of his students.

To draw attention to the continuing plight of the Tohoku refugees, Barry and his friend Bernie M. have committed to sharing their hardship by undergoing a 40 day fast, taking no solid foods and surviving on vegetable juice and vitamin tablets until either the deadline is up or they raise $25,000 dollars in donations. They are now on day 17 (and Barry has lost 10kgs). Last week I went down to the Kozmoz cafe to meet Barry and find out more about his work.

That oh-so-tempting tostada!

Naturally, (being an ass) I also wanted to check out the cafe’s food. Here on the left is a picture of the bean-filled tostada I ate in front of Barry as he literally starved before me. It was actually a pretty good tostada. At that time Barry was a full eight days into his fast, so I did ask him if he minded me eating while we talked “Go ahead man!” he said with a smile,  “I’m in the zone!

Barry hails originally from L.A. but was living in Spokane, Washington State when he underwent a crisis that fundamentally altered his life’s priorities. In the space of just three days, he lost his job, was diagnosed with cancer and underwent drastic surgery to remove a tumour. This was followed by a tough course of radiation treatment. Though Barry rebuilt his life after this traumatic experience, getting a new job in the construction business and becoming a qualified architect, he also became more and more active doing volunteer activities with his local church. He joined programs taking prisoners on parole into his home, so that they could reintegrate into society, and also training illegal immigrants so that they could gain the necessary language abilities and working skills to return to America legally. He also travelled frequently to Mexico building homes, and delivering food and medicine. At some point he came to a realization: “My personal faith led me to believe that charity was the area where I wanted to express my existence.” And so he decided to become a full-time charity worker and founded Kozmoz International in 1987. “Ever since,” he says, “I’ve really enjoyed my life.”

Kozmoz International’s work is also in large part about promoting cultural exchange and language training. Barry believes that many of the social ills that plague the world today are the result of unresolved conflicts between cultures and that these will never be resolved unless people become more culturally aware and thus able to seek forgiveness. Barry himself became interested in Japanese culture after hosting a Japanese junior high student in America. On moving to Japan though he discovered that Japan suffers from the same social inequalities as America. An estimated 10 million Japanese are living below the poverty line and the majority of these are not the homeless but the working poor. [Read more about poverty in Japan here]

Barry with Kozmoz interns and students at the Kozmoz Cafe.

Though the roots of Barry’s personal commitment to charity are in his own Christian faith, he is keen to point out that Kozmoz International itself is not a religious charity and its volunteers are of many faiths or none. Their goal is to create a model, self-funded, charitable enterprise without soliciting support from any governmental, political or religious organizations. And as Kozmoz staff are all volunteers (Barry himself draws no salary), and all overheads and costs are covered by fees from their educational programs in Japan and abroad, 100% of donations received for Tohoku go directly towards feeding people in the Tohoku refugee shelters. As Barry makes plain on his website the need is still dire:

  • school children are receiving only a roll and milk for lunch.
  • refugees in many shelters are receiving only one meal a day.
  • though 20,000 temporary housing units have been constructed, many are refusing them because it means that they will forfeit future aid and they simply can’t afford to live in them.
  • estimates vary but only between 15% and less than half of the aid pledged has found its way to the victims. Most of the money is stalled in the hands of the prefectural governments.
  • 90,000 or more are homeless
  • vast numbers of jobs have simply disappeared as the factories and businesses were washed away and those trying to get their feet on the ground find businesses struggling to survive because of a decimated customer base unable to hire and many on the verge of collapse.
  • after 3 months of living in a shelter with no privacy, no space, and no prospect of change for many months many victims are at the end of their emotional ropes. [LINK]

This is the situation Barry is trying to draw people’s attention to. There is certainly no doubting Barry’s personal commitment to his fast for Tohoku, or that of his friend Bernie who says,

It’s our island man! People need to do something. How can people just go on buying and shopping and eating out as if nothing has changed? I could understand it if these horrific conditions were half way around the world, but these people are family. (LINK)

To learn more about the work of Kozmoz International please visit their website here.
To make a donation of food or supplies click here.
To donate funds for Tohoku click here.

To find their cafe and enjoy some fine New York style coffee or other tasty treats please visit Fushimi Momoyama. From the station head left (west) and walk along the shopping arcade. Take the fourth road on the left and you will see a large store named PLAZA on your left. The Kozmoz cafe is directly opposite on your right. Here is a map.

Kozmoz New York Coffee is open every day but Monday from 11:00 to 23:30 or later if the beer is not gone.
Sundays: 11:00 to 19:00