By Bonson Lam
Miyazu is the gateway to the north shore of Kyoto Prefecture. What is surprising to first time visitors is the blending of European and Japanese influences in this port town. While some European influences are beneath the surface, others are easy to spot, like the Catholic Church and the Syphon Coffee and Tea House, a black and white English looking 2 story house with a Tudor like facade.
Let's step inside and imagine you are in a small English town in the nineteenth or early twentieth century. The stained glass windows, antique clocks, and square tan leather chairs with rounded edges that were modern at that time, but now belongs to an Art Deco curio store. They are a bit short, like a cross between sitting on the floor and sitting up, perhaps reflecting Japanese sensibilities at that time.The customers also look like if they are from a time past, so even on weekdays this place is filled with their laughter and gentle chatting. Young people are welcome too, especially if you enjoy a fine cup of filtered coffee by the counter or at the tables of four. Concessions to modern life are few. There is no Wi-Fi, but at least there are electric outlets to charge your phone. For readers, there is a rack full of Japanese magazines, and a grandfather in the corner reading his newspaper by the high windows. Unfortunately for non-smokers, the smoking trays are a throwback from that time as well, and while most people aren't smoking, you can still get a free whiff of the smoke, though no fragrance of a Cuban cigar.
Everything here reminds me of an earlier time in the nineteen century when Japan looked to Western Europe for the definition of progress and fashion, with Victorian tea cups on display in the wooden cabinets adding a touch of quaintness, and while they don't use the best china for their meal service, the china ware, like their home style cooking, is very solid. Fortunately they have kept their prices low. The breakfast set served until 11 am is only 590 yen. The coleslaw like shredded cabbage salad has a distinctly Japanese interpretation; being a goma sesame dressing with a creaminess of mayonnaise. Likewise, their toast is super thick and soft with a generous layering of butter, and while they serve eggs and ham on a plate Western style, most customers here use chopsticks to eat the western style food, though it is okay to eat the toast and banana by hand, or ask for a knife and fork. The egg is nice and runny, and the Ceylon tea was pleasant. They don't offer bottomless tea or coffee, but like an earlier time, they pride on their range of coffee, including Blue Mountain filtered coffee (520 yen), as well as Colombian, Arabian Mocha (starting from 330 yen).
Syphon is opposite Miyazu Station. With its Tudor style exterior and a high pitched roof, you can't miss it from the station entrance. With trains to Fukuchiyama and Kyoto running only every hour or so, this is a good place to relax while waiting for the train. They open from 7am to 10pm on weekdays and to 7pm on Sundays, so you can drop in for breakfast, lunch or a late snack.
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I knew my future was destined to be with Japan the moment I flew from Sydney to experience the atmospheric lane ways of Kyoto last century. From the skies above Sapporo to the old charm of Naha's alleyways, I have been enchanted by the beauty and variety on every island. I am humbled to have met many distinguished people in my role as Regional Partner, especially the national living treasures of Japan, such as the doll maker to the Imperial Family. From sushi cooking classes to Ninja training grounds I welcome your ideas on what you like from JapanTravel.com. Please visit us in Kyoto or Osaka and have some green tea or sake with us.