Sarasa Nishijin

A historic bathhouse given a second life

Shinobu Ishikawa   - 2 min read

Sarasa Nishijin is a café renovated from an 80-year-old bathhouse. Its eye-catching exterior reminds passers-by of the world of 'Spirited Away', the Academy Award winning animation film directed by Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli. The interior fascinates too with its retro charm and character.

Sarasa Nishijin opened in 2000, two years after the closure of the original Fujinomori Onsen bathhouse. It's the second café operated by Café Sarasa, which also operates a total of six restaurants, cafés and confectionery stores in Kyoto.

Most of the interior comes from the old bathhouse, with its colourful Majolica tiles covering the inner walls, and the restroom sink. Its baskets for customers to put their bags in are just like those for bathers to put their clothes in. The place feels spacious as the ceiling is very high. The café has a total of 49 seats and is nicely furnished with comfortable sofas, wooden tables and chairs, making it a pleasant spot to relax, read a book or just chill with friends.

Along with coffee and cakes, Sarasa Nishijin serves a range of dishes with menus that vary according to the time of day. During the 12-3pm lunch period, three meal sets are offered - Japanese okazu food, udon noodles, and sandwiches. The 3-6pm afternoon menu includes fried and curry rice dishes, pasta, donburi rice bowls and sandwiches while ala carte choices during the 6-10pm dinner period include vegan dishes like fried somen noodles and rice bowls served with tofu and vegetables. Menus are in both English and Japanese.

Located in northern Kyoto, Sarasa Nishijin is a tad removed from major tourist spots with a 10-minute walk from the nearest train station. However, as the array of bicycles just outside the doorway suggests, many local residents and tourists are more than willing to visit this cosy café. Atmospheric and thoroughly enjoyable, it is hard to resist the temptation to take photos once you enter.

Getting there

This charming cafe is a leisurely 12-minute walk from Kuramaguchi Station on the Karasuma Line. By bus it is a 10-minute walk from the bus stops of Senbon-kuramacughi, Horikawa-kuramaguchi, or Daitokuji-mae

Shinobu Ishikawa

Shinobu Ishikawa @shinobu.ishikawa

Tokyo-based news translator, writer and media coordinator. Works on a freelance basis for NHK World. Loves coffee and cats.