With a name like the Samurai Cafe, you’d probably think this is just another kitschy gimmick targeted at tourists but you’d be mistaken. While the Samurai Cafe does seem more popular with tourists , the food, decor and ambiance feel authentically Japanese.
Meaning heart of the Samurai, Shi-shin is housed in a traditional “machiya” townhouse. Its interior is decorated with replicas of edo-period artifacts such as a suit of armor worn by feudal warlord Date Masamune (1567-1636) and a replica of a katana carried by Sakamoto Ryoma (1836-1867).
The cafe welcomes its guests to pick up and take photos with the katana as well as other samurai weapons such as the wakizashi (short companion sword to the katana) and shurikens (contrary to popular belief samurai did sometimes use concealed weapons).
Factoid: Date Masamune was a legendary one-eyed warrior during the edo-period and Sakamoto Ryoma was a visionary who led the movement to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate in the 19th century.
If you’re wondering why the article is titled “Katanas, Burgers & World Peace”, the answer lies in the cafe’s concept, which is to achieve world peace through Food, Culture and Bushido.
The owner, a western-educated philosopher, Tomonari Hamamura has a Master’s Degree in Peace Studies and opened the cafe as a first step towards his vision for a world with no war.
Hamamura sees food as the primary cause of war and culture as a “soft power” to prevent war. He also believes that the Samurai code of Bushido’s ultimate goal is to achieve peace.
Put the three together and you get interesting fusion foods like the Japanese Cuscus Salad (symbolizing peace between North Africa and Japan), Japanese Chicken Masala (peace between Islam and Japan) and the Samurai burger (peace between America and Japan).
Even if you’re not convinced Samurais have much to do with world peace, you’re still going to enjoy the food. Absolutely everything we ordered from the menu was a delight.
In keeping with the spirit of bridging cultures and ideologies, the menu is an eclectic mix of traditional, modern, authentic and fusion.
Popular dishes at the cafe include the garlic fried noodles with bonito, miso flavoured braised pork belly, omu rice and the samurai burger .
A section of the menu is dedicated to Samurai Food, featuring dishes the Samurai themselves ate in the edo-period.
The chef also prepares daily specials featuring a selection of typical dishes from various prefectures around Japan – from Kagoshima’s fish cakes to Aichi’s Miso Katsu.
A Final Word
If you don’t fancy sitting cross legged on the tatami mat for too long, you can opt to sit in the front where they have chairs crafted from old wooden sake containers or at the back on sofa chairs overlooking a small garden. Just make sure to call ahead to avoid disappointment.
The Samurai Cafe has English menus and the staff here are very comfortable speaking in English.
The only thing to take note of is that there seems to be only one chef so the food might take awhile to be served – we waited close to 30 minutes for our Samurai Burger. On the bright side, it was well worth the wait and i’d definitely go again.
Kyoto 604-0025, Kyoto Prefecture
Tel: +81 231 5155
Hours: 12pm to 11pm, closed on Tuesdays
Closest Station: Karasuma or Tōzai lines to Karasuma-Oike
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