Review-Arashiyama Rilakkuma Sabo, Japan
Rilakkuma Sabo in Arashiyama, Kyoto, was the last themed restaurant we visited in my 2019 Japan trip, and it wasn’t a Must Do item on my list. I had already been to the Gudetama cafe and the Snoopy Tea House by this point, and it was a mixture of random factors that had lead me to a third themed restaurant.
Arashiyama Rilakkuma Plans
Firstly we’d decided not to eat at the renowned Unagi Hirokawa since we had eel earlier in our trip and didn’t fancy a long queue for a heavy meal. We had chosen to have a simple udon meal at Ozuru instead which had a more manageable crowd. If we had eaten at Unagi Hirokawa I would have probably felt too full, and my wallet too empty, to hunt for dessert. The Rilakkuma Sabo happened to be really conveniently located on the main street and the lure of the plastic bear was too strong.
Similar to the Snoopy Chaya there was a ticketing system in place that gave us an estimated waiting time for an available table.
and we had a one hour wait to explore the Rilakkuma shop downstairs along with the shrine.
Yes there was a Rilakkuma shrine which was probably there for you to pay respect to the bear. I’d never seen a literal shrine to capitalism before so I was very excited.
I’d never seen capitalism so blatantly worshipped in my life but there you go.
The Rilakkuma store had a very strong bear theme throughout with a wide variety of jam and other foodstuff on sale. There were plenty of tasters and some of the jam was pretty tasty if rather overpriced. In fact the whole store was quite expensive, but this was a given for a branded store and the bears were printed everywhere.
When we finally got into the restaurant the floor was half empty which either meant that Rilakkuma fans were flaky, or that the ticketing system wasn’t quite working out. Either way there were plenty of opportunities to take photos of the strongly themed surroundings without getting in anyone’s way.
We ordered a strawberry sundae and a matcha latte which costed 1,280.00 JPY / 8.56 GBP and 550.00 JPY / 3.68 GBP respectively for a total of 1,830.00 JPY / 12.24 GBP. This was standard overpricing for a themed cafe in Japan and you were definitely paying for the presentation.
I mean look at that unemotional bear. How can you resist?
It looked exactly the same as the photograph and came with a cute, if flimsy, card coaster.
Unfortunately its good looks came at a price and the taste just didn’t match up. The fruits on the dessert were frozen and added this iced crunchiness to the taste which was very distracting.
I can’t even tell you about the flavours because my mouth was busy being intermittently frozen. I’m sure that the cake and the ice cream would have tasted delicious if not for the overpowering taste of frozen water.
Fortunately I’ve never had a bad matcha latte before and this time was no different.
Altogether it was the least impressive of the themed restaurants that I’d experienced. The food was nicely presented as is expected of these establishments and the decorations were very cute if over the top. However the food quality was mediocre and combined with the large shop area downstairs gave a feeling that this café was just a cash grab. This was a shame since I quite like Rilakkuma and the traditional café exterior fitted so harmoniously with the surrounding area. I can only recommend the experience for Rilakkuma or cute themed café fans.
Arashiyama Rilakkuma Sabo
Address: 15 Sagatenryūji Kitatsukurimichichō, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8374, Japan/〒616-8374 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨天龍寺北造路町15
Opening hours: 10:30-17:30