The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

Not optimized for westerners: an afternoon wasted in Kibune, Kyoto, Japan

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jul• 13•13

Lunching next to the river in Kibune will just have to remain a fantasy for western visitors

Lunching next to the river in Kibune will just have to remain a fantasy for western visitors

The tiny mountain village of Kibune, a half-hour north of Kyoto, Japan, sounds great in the guidebooks. It sits next to a mountain stream, and people eat at restaurants that consist of platforms nestled next to the steam.  The traditional dish is cold noodles dipped in a local sauce. Sounds wonderful and idyllic, doesn’t it? That’s not what we here at WoWasis discovered.

It’s a half-hour walk uphill from the train station, and you’ll find it a disappointing destination when you arrive. For starters, if you really do want to eat noodles on a river platform, you’ve got three choices. They all get booked in advance by tour buses. We arrived at 12:15, and were told there’d be a 4 hour wait! There was nothing else to do in Kibune, which is a small collection of restaurants on both sides of a road next to the river. We gave up the idea of noodles and were willing to settle for any other kind of lunch, but we did want to eat next to the river. Those options all consisted of prix fixe lunches at $52-$100 USD. A few coffee/snack places are on the other side of the road and not next to the river, but why travel to Kibune when we could have a coffee snack in Kyoto and not have to take a 20 minute train and then walk a half-hour uphill to get it?

Banner_Asia00A warning to westerners, then. Don’t bother going there if you don’t speak Japanese. No one there does. It sure would have been nice if someone had recommended a reasonably-priced place to eat, but no one spoke English at any of the five places we tried. They kept pointing to other restaurants, again, all with fixed-price lunch menus from $52-$100. We were the only westerners there, and figure that the westerners who recommend this place in guidebooks (are you listening, Lonely Planet?) were obviously accompanied by Japanese people, who probably got them bus reservations, cuts in line, or maybe a free lunch.

There are places the Japanese like to keep for themselves. Kibune may very well be one of these. It’s not optimized for western tourism, the food’s expensive, the hike in is long and nasty. For the westerner who speaks no Japanese, visit only if you’re in for an afternoon of masochism.

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