Jun. 02, 2017 UPDATE
Yuka - Outdoor Riverside Dining in Sunset and Night of Kiyamachi
Part 1

Head to a Yuka Dining During Sunset! (5-7 p.m.)

As the sun starts to set down, you get to witness the grandeur of nature first-hand. The beautiful colors are reflected on the quietly running Kamo River, and together with the Higashiyama mountain range in the background form a scene that would make a great painting.

From May to September it may be tempting to have lunch at a yuka, but we would like to again recommend you make your reservation for dinner. The sunset is usually between 5 and 7 p.m. and during this special time of the day you can experience something truly out of the ordinary: the murmur of the river slowly streaming by, the glistening of the last rays of sunlight on the surface of it, and the cool air flowing from the mountains, all the while the sky changes from the orange and red of sunset to the deep blue of night.

The yuka dining is an opportunity to experience dining out in a way that is close to nature but in the beating heart of the city. Leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind you and enjoy dining out on a yuka terrace!

The name yuka (床) is used in Kyoto when talking of riverside dining by the Kamo River, but sometimes the names nouryouyuka (納涼床) and kawayuka (川床) are also used. In the north Kyoto, in the Kibune and Takao areas, yuka is called kawadoko (川床). In northern Kyoto people often enjoy their kawadoko (yuka) surrounded by natural green scenery.
What is yuka?
Is yuka just terrace seating? Japanese people would beg to differ and say that yuka is an integral part of their culture with a long and unique history. Yuka started developing as a part of the “omotenashi” hospitality culture 400 years ago. The people in those times must have thought the summers to be very long and hot, so they sought refuge by the rivers of Kyoto, and built terraces over the rivers and serve tea on them.

Already in the time of Tokugawa Ieyasu in the Edo period, there were around 400 tea houses that had yuka terrace seating for their patrons. The yuka terraces began to become a normal part of spending the summer around the area of Kyoto.
Then during the Edo period, when Japan began opening up to the western powers thanks to the arrival of Matthew Perry and the US ships. The yuka culture began to take its present shape during this time.

During this period, the time for yuka was normally from July to August, and the high-above-ground style that is prevalent now became popular. As you can see the picture, not all yuka were like this, and in this picture, you can see a yuka under the Sanjo Ohashi Bridge.

The culture of yuka disappeared once due to the events of World War II, but thanks to the ingenuity and hard work of the people of Kyoto, yuka was revived after the war. Now there are many kinds of yuka restaurants, from izakaya bars to restaurants serving kaiseki cuisine. Yuka is the most refreshing of the summer traditions of Kyoto.
Pleasant Yuka Preserved by the People of Kyoto
Making a reservation is a must!
Although you may have an extreme urge to visit and enjoy yuka, you may also feel a bit worried about it at the same time if you have never been there before. It takes some effort to try something new, especially in a foreign land. Hoping that we can be of a support, below are some of the rules and manners that should be recognized before visiting one.
1Making a reservation is a must!
During the seasons when yuka comes out, the restaurants are filled with guests from all over Japan and abroad. Often times you will find restaurants that are packed even on the weekdays. To avoid disappointments of not being able to find an open restaurant, make reservations beforehand by asking the concierge at your hotel or go to an English website that you can make reservations on.
2Even if it rains, no on-the-day-of cancellations are allowed!
Canceling your reservations gives the restaurants extreme trouble. Even if the weather doesn’t hold up, the restaurant will be holding you a table indoors.
3It’s better to have socks on
In many occasions when entering the yuka seating, you will be taking off your shoes. On those occasions, being barefoot is informally considered as a bad manner, therefore it’s recommended to have some socks on.
4Be careful when deciding to smoke!
Because yuka is set up outdoors, the smoke from tobacco will flow around to other people close by. Even at yuka where smoking is allowed, please be considerate of others when deciding to smoke.
That’s it for the major rules and manners to follow. As a rank-up experience, wearing a yukata to a yuka dining will be fun. Yukata is a kimono made with light fabric that is often worn during the summer season. Spending your time wearing yukata, listening to the sound of running river water, and eating a delicious meal is something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime, preferably in Kyoto.

Yuka has been through many generations of changes, but it still has managed to keep its traditional facade. In the heart of yuka you can find the heartfelt hospitality of Japanese people, “omotenashi.” If you continue with us to the next part, you may find a list of restaurants we think are great for experiencing yuka in Kyoto.

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