I am currently reading this new book by Judith Clancy and at some point will write up a proper review for Kyoto Journal. But for the time being here are some rough notes and impressions.
Machiya are the traditional wooden townhouses of Kyoto, sadly under continuing threat from modern developers and their preference for boxy apartment buildings and parking lots. This book provides a guide to 140 of Kyoto’s machiya restaurants and cafes, with 20 singled out as personal favorites. Many I have been to and many I haven’t, so it’s nice to know there is plenty yet to explore and with excellent maps, details and directions they all look to be easy to find.
In addition, introductory chapters describe the evolution of Kyoto’s machiya culture and design within a historical context, and celebrate the revival of machiya values in recent years. An excellent photo essay by Ben Simmons also helps to act as a guide to differing machiya design characteristics as well as helping the novice to appreciate their simple beauty.
Indices by both cuisine and shop name provide easy reference. And with a glossary of culinary terms, plus a guide to Japanese table manners, this is a very handy tool for the Kyoto explorer.
The small businesses featured in this book are helping to preserve and revive Kyoto’s machiya culture for future generations and so a book that supports those businesses in turn is to be praised. Judith Clancy’s Kyoto Machiya Restaurant Guide is an essential addition to the Kyoto lover’s library.
Judith Clancy is the author of Exploring Kyoto: On Foot in the Ancient Capital, long a favorite walking guide to the city.
A portion of the proceeds from Kyoto Machiya Restaurant Guide are being donated to the Kyomachiya Machizukuri Fund to support machiya preservation.