Togetsuko Bridge. Tenryuji Temple. Bamboo Forest. These are just some of the must-see spots for any tourist worth his or salt at Arashiyama, Kyoto. But for coffee aficionados, there’s one more item on the checklist – %ARABICA.
Opened in 2014, %ARABICA is the brainchild of Kenneth Shoji, a coffee farm owner and coffee machine distributor whose love for coffee sprouted during his time in the “unique fusion of beach hippie culture” in Venice Beach, California. Since then, the coffee chain’s minimalist stores have sprung up around locations ranging from historic to iconic, as well as fashionable cities like Shanghai and Abu Dhabi.
For a store that has been designated the title of global flagship store, %ARABICA’s Arashiyama store is pretty small – only enough for about four people to sit inside comfortably. With its strategic position overlooking the historic Togetsukyo Bridge, which itself commands arresting views come autumn, it has swiftly become one of the new hot spots around this historic town.
Be warned, though – the queues are really long, and can stretch for upwards of three quarters of an hour on a busy afternoon. Which, considering Arashiyama’s immense popularity, is pretty much every day. Not to worry; you can catch the bustling action going down in the sprawling Hozu River, or watch %ARABICA’s baristas bustling around the tiny space.
While I’ve read reviews of %ARABICA’s service being less than stellar, and waiting times being a drag to deal with, I found the staff being pretty prompt and efficient in taking orders and churning them out when I visited. The cold Cafe Latte (¥500, +¥50 for Soy Milk) I had was pretty decent too, and not too milky. Pretty enjoyable to sip on while people watching on the kerb.
So is %ARABICA worth braving the queue? The shop is situated in an almost enviable spot, and the owners are pretty damn aware of that. A spot in the “private room” where you can have your coffee and baked goods sitting comfortably around a table costs at least ¥1,000 a pop. The coffee is not the ultimate brew to die for, but when you’re holiday – why not?
Address: 3-47 Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8385, Japan
Nearest Station: Arashiyama Station (Hankyu Line)
Monday to Friday: 9am – 5pm
Saturday and Sunday: 9am – 6pm
Contact: +81 75 748 0057
Website/ Facebook/ Instagram