Home in Kyoto
Alongside the Kamagawa river is one of the most peaceful places to have lunch and feel at home.
Photography by Maki Arimoto. Text by Sofia Viztu.
efish perches over Kyoto’s Kamogawa river, just south of the Gojo-dori bridge. Floor-to-ceiling windows open to reveal the river, carrying fallen sakura petals south as joggers and bicyclists slowly tag along. The interior of the café leaves an impression of overlapping textures— concrete, gleaming wood, warm squares of color, glass and stone. The soundtrack is a byproduct of the atmosphere—the swoosh of the flowing Kamogawa river, the clink of mugs and dishes, and the undercurrent of conversation, punctuated by occasional laughter.
Shin Nishibori, co-owner of efish, has an impressive design track record, tracing from Apple to Panasonic and more, and his clean-minded design philosophy shines through. From the café seating to the brightly colored coasters under our drink glasses to the wooden speakers on display upstairs, much of the interior is designed and produced by him. His wife, Tsukasa, runs the place—she’s carefully cultivated the eclectic atmosphere that characterizes efish. The walls are lined with products for sale—mugs, spoons, clothing, notebooks—and there are interesting things to look at in every corner: architecture and design magazines, worn books, a goldfish bowl, colorful flyers and business cards and stickers, and more. It feels fresh, almost accidental—not a planned and measured spread of objects, but rather a delightful collection accumulated naturally over time.
The menu is simple and fresh. There is a wide variety of drinks available—teas, smoothies, and raw juices to sip on while relaxing and gazing down at the Kamogawa river. The coffee is excellent, and the raw lime juice is refreshing, with no unnecessary ingredients or additives. The food selection is wide enough to provide for different tastes, but doesn’t go beyond that, as befits the undone simplicity of efish—a much-needed respite from the dizzying array of choices often seen in Kyoto. The vegetarian taco rice was simple and flavorful—ripe tomatoes and greens on a bed of beans and rice. The tangy flavors were a welcome reminder of home in the midst of Kyoto. The homemade cake of the day turned out to be a warm, rich chocolate cake, resembling a brownie in texture, paired with a smooth vanilla ice cream with a delicious hint of something I couldn’t figure out. The servings are well-sized and the flavors are simple and unpretentious, adding to the overall feel of the café.
efish feels more like a home than an establishment. People come and go—university students telling stories over cups of chai, French tourists enjoying the view as they share sandwiches, coffee-lovers downing mug after mug as they catch up on work. There’s a constant murmur of motion and activity, but it’s calm and relaxed throughout. Pause here for coffee one afternoon or another and watch the world go by.