Yuka Season (納涼床) — Kyoto
They’re called Noryou Yuka (納涼床), or simply, Yuka (床). It’s Yuka season in Kyoto now. Yuka are the platforms that restaurants along the Kamogawa (the Kamo River) put up in the summer, extending themselves out to the river’s edge. The Kamogawa separates city Kyoto from the sublime, quiet Higashiyama (East Mountains) area. Noryou means, “Enjoying the cool evening” (amazing that Japanese has a word for that) and Yuka means “Platform” or “Flooring,” or more specifically in this case, a temporary wooden terrace, a deck, put in place from the first of May until October.
While I usually prefer writing my own copy, in this case I think I’ll let someone else sum up the history of the Noryo Yuka (with no edits, thus the somewhat quirky, but quite understandable, English):
The riverside of the Kamo River had been an entertainment area for people of Kyoto since Nanboku-cho period (1336-1392). Enjoying the cool breezes of the evening flourished, especially in summer, and many performances were held in the riverbed of the Kamo River where the folding benches called “Shogi” were set up from Sanjo-dori St. to Matsubara-dori St. In the 27th year of Meiji period (1894), the wooden terraces, which some east riverside restaurants had owned, were pulled down due to completing the works of a canal. And Noryo Yuka was quite abolished for some time due to opening a municipal streetcar because the Sijo-ohashi Bridge was rebuilt across the Kamo River in the last Meiji period. Source.
In the photo above notice the hoses coming from the tables. They’re actually attached to the portable burners that sit atop those tables. When it’s time for dinner the burners are lit and dishes like the gloriously delicious shabu-shabu are enjoyed.
The “Yuka Scene” really comes alive at night, but I can’t find any photos (of mine) handy. I’m due in Japan, and Kyoto, later in the summer and will make sure to get some night shots, then supplement this post accordingly.
Here’s a 1 min 14 sec vid I did, standing on the west side of the San-jo Bridge over the Kamogawa in late May 2010, a little over a year ago. A a Sunday afternoon. Between 23-30 seconds in, you can see some Yuka on the right-hand side of the frame: