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Kameoka: A City Rich in History

Located just under an hour west of Kyoto, the city of Kameoka is a time capsule in the sense that it has managed to expertly preserve so much of its rich culture and history. From its numerous temples to its well-maintained traditional houses, one can easily get the sense of being in Edo or Meiji period Japan while walking its quiet streets. In fact, particularly motivated visitors can still walk the same road that connected traveling merchants to Kyoto many years ago. In the face of ever-changing and increasingly modernizing times, Kameoka is a shining example of the virtue of remembering where you came from. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the experiences this city has to offer.

 

Kameoka Station Access: From Kyoto Station, take the San-In Line directly to Kameoka Station. The ride takes about 30 minutes and costs ¥410 for a one-way journey.

 

 

 

Honmachi Café

 

Without question, the best way to experience a city and learn its history is through the guidance of a local resident. Honmachi Cafe in Kameoka offers that and so much more. Tucked away in a restored machiya (a traditional townhouse), Honmachi is part cafe, part museum, and part volunteer tour company all rolled into one. 

 

Much of the machiya’s original charm and style has been preserved, from its sliding shoji doors to its sprawling tatami mat rooms. The cafe feels much more like a home than a place of business; an ambiance that any first-time visitor will appreciate.

 

From the entrance, Honmachi’s open floor plan stretches across three rooms decorated in traditional Japanese style before ending in a quiet little garden located at the back of the property. Take a seat at one of several large tables and enjoy a cup of coffee and locally sourced dishes while consulting maps and travel brochures.

 

Once you’re ready for sightseeing, Honmachi Cafe’s guides are waiting to walk you through their city’s cherished history. English guides are available as well, but it is recommended to reserve your desired time about one week in advance through their website to ensure that an English-speaking guide is available that day. 

 

 

Best of all, in an effort to share Kameoka’s history with as many people as possible, tours cost just ¥1,500 per hour regardless of how many people are in your group. In order to see as much as possible, plan to reserve two hours of sightseeing.

 

 

 

Honmachi Cafe

Address: 51 Honmachi, Kameoka, 621-0869 Kyoto Prefecture

Phone: +81-90-1598-5420

Webpage http://honmachi-cafe.com/

AccessApproximately 15 minutes walking from Kameoka Station.

Experience: Reservations are not required for enjoying refreshments or getting information from the cafe. For tours, please make a reservation via their website at least one week in advance. Groups of all sizes are welcome.

 

 

 

Tanzan Shuzo

 

There are many flavors that have become synonymous with Japanese culture. The slight bitterness of matcha or the delicate taste of fresh sushi are near to the hearts of most Japanese people. Perhaps no other taste is quite so ingrained however, as sake. The origin of this highly revered rice wine predates written history, but it has since become the national drink of Japan and the go-to beverage for toasting special occasions and ceremonies.

 

Tanzan Shuzo is a family-owned sake brewery in Kameoka that has been in business for over 140 years. Here, visitors can take a guided tour through the brewery’s facilities to learn about the sake making process. Even during the brewery’s “off season” when it is not actively brewing, the distinctive light, fruity notes of sake linger in the air; the building itself having been steeped in over a century’s worth of its aroma.

 

The “hands-on” learners among us will be happy to discover that the tour concludes in a cozy tatami room where guests can gather around a sunken hearth and sample Tanzan Shuzo’s various sake varieties. 

 

The warm, inviting atmosphere feels more like drinking at home with friends than the standard brewery tasting one would expect. Once you’ve picked a favorite, be sure to stop by the shop near the entrance to take home a bottle for later.

 

 Tanzan Shuzo

Address: 7 Yokomachi, Kameoka, 621-0812 Kyoto Prefecture

Phone: +81-771-22-0066

Email: info@tanan.co.jp

Webpage http://www.tanzan.co.jp

AccessApproximately 15 minutes walking from Kameoka Station.

Experience: Brewery tours are only offered during the active brewing season, so please email in advance to inquire about a specific timeframe. Free sake tastings are always available however and do not require a reservation in advance.

 

 

 

Namba Shoyu Jozo

 

For most westerners, soy sauce is simply sauce sauce; a salty, brown sauce to be used sparingly in stir fry dishes or with sushi. It may come as a surprise then to learn that the over 2,000 year old condiment comes in a wide range of varying tastes, textures and usages. While in Kameoka, why not take the opportunity to expand your palette and learn a bit more about this indispensable component of Japanese cuisine?

 

Namba Shoyu Jozo is a local soy sauce brewer that has been owned and operated by the same family since 1870. Now in their seventh generation, their lineup of soy sauces (called shoyu in Japanese) has been carefully cultivated over the years to appeal to all audiences. As it turns out, different regions in Japan have different preferences when it comes to their soy sauce. Some areas prefer a thicker, less watery consistency. Other regions prefer a less salty taste. Still others like a touch of yuzu citrus to add an extra kick to their sauce. Namba Shoyu Jozo can provide all of that and more. 

 

 

Staff members are more than happy to let customers taste test the various sauces and even make recommendations based on their preferences and intended usage. 

 

 

If your only soy sauce experience to date has been with the tiny packets served with Asian takeaway food, prepare to be shocked by the amount of subtle flavor variations that exist and how much of a difference they can make in regard to the overall meal. Bottles are available in multiple sizes as well, making them the perfect souvenir to pack in your luggage for friends back home.

 

Namba Shoyu Jozo

Address: 30 Tsukinukecho, Kameoka, 621-0813 Kyoto Prefecture

Phone: +81-771-22-0204

AccessApproximately 15 minutes walking from Kameoka Station.

Experience: No reservations are necessary. Feel free to stop in any time during normal business hours.

 

 

 

Hozu-Gawa River Boat Ride

 

When it comes time to leave Kameoka and move on to your next destination, don’t miss the opportunity to take the ultimate scenic route. The Hozu-gawa River connecting Kameoka to nearby Kyoto has been a vital means of transportation in the area dating back to the 16th century when it was used to move lumber, rice, and other important resources to nearby cities. With the introduction of the local train line in 1895, the river’s primary cargo changed from supplies to sightseers. Today, this 16km river boat ride between Kameoka and Arashiyama, known as Hozugawa-kudari, is enjoyed by over 300,000 people annually.

 

 

The two hour journey is at its most popular in spring and fall, as delicate pink cherry blossoms and fiery autumn foliage accent the landscape respectively. However, with each change of season comes an enticing change of scenery; from dense, lush greenery to snow-covered branches and icy blue waters. Today, the boats are manned just as they were centuries ago, with strong rowers propelling the boat through the river while two crew members use long bamboo poles to navigate around any obstacles in the way. 

 

 

For a city as steeped in history as Kameoka, it’s the perfect way to end your stay on a traditional note.

 

 

Hozugawa-kudari

Address: 7 Shimo-Nakajima Hozu-cho, Kameoka, 621-0005 Kyoto Prefecture

Phone: +81-771-22-5846

Webpage https://www.hozugawakudari.jp/en

AccessApproximately 8 minutes walking from Kameoka Station.

Experience: Tickets cost ¥4,100 for adults and ¥2,700 for children age 4-12. Children 3 and under can ride for free. For groups, private boats that seat up to 17 people can be chartered for ¥82,000. Reservations are not required for groups with less than 10 people.

 

 

 

 

 

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