Last August during the Mountain Day holiday weekend, I ventured to the riverside village of Kibune in Kyoto to try their legendary floating noodles. These somen noodles are very unique because they float down a bamboo shoot directly to your table and are chilled to cool you down during summer season. It’s definitely a dining experience worth having if you enjoy Japanese food! In this article I will be highlighting my summer experience in Kyoto and will hopefully inspire more people to travel here.
*For reference, Mountain Day is a relatively new national holiday that was announced in 2014. It honors the mountainous terrains of this country and most Japanese companies give this day as paid holiday (making it a three day weekend most years). It occurs August 11th. Be aware that this weekend is usually travel-heavy, but you can still see and do a lot if you plan your trip accordingly.
Floating Noodles at Hirobun (in Kibune)
Kibune is a popular resort destination that attracts large numbers of Japanese couples and families each year (which I didn’t realize beforehand), but is also home of the famous Hirobun restaurant that serves floating somen noodles from a bamboo shoot. As the noodles float to your seat, you can stealthily grab with your chopsticks and eat them with soy sauce. Though people make it out to be a challenge, it’s actually not that difficult and the restaurant staff will adjust the speed if they see you are having trouble. The last batch of noodles is marked pink so you know when your course is over. We paid around 2000 yen for a noodle course with dessert and enjoyed the experience thoroughly.
The main con of this was the three hour wait time… Unfortunately this activity is so popular in the summer that it attracts hundreds of people per day and there are limited seats at the floating somen table. There is no reservation system, so you must show up in person to write your name on a wait list in order of who arrived first. We arrived around 12pm and already there were many people ahead of us. However, the plus side is that there are so many things to see in Kibune that you can easily leave and come back when it is close to your turn.
While we waited, we walked around the river, tried some ice cream from a local confectionery, and hiked by the Kibune Shrine Okumiya so we could test our luck. There is also the nearby Kurumadera Temple and hotspring that you can visit to kill time. If you think about it, three hours in nature really goes by quickly. It would be a lot more mundane if we had to wait that long for a restaurant in the city. At first I hesitated about waiting, but now I’m so happy that I did because I got to experience pretty much everything Kibune has to offer.
Getting to Kibune
From Kyoto Station, take the Nara Line Rapid Miyakoji to Tofukuji Station, then the Keihan Main Line Semi-Express to Demachiyanagi Station Station, then the Eizan Main Line Local to Kibuneguchi Station. From here you can take a local bus to the shrine. Though it involves a few transfers, the journey only takes about 1.5 hours and costs 1020 yen making it the perfect day trip from Kyoto.