Katsura River runs through the western part of Kyoto; Kamo River runs through the eastern part of Kyoto
Kyoto is an alluvial fan surrounded by mountains and has always been abundant in ground water from ancient times. Ground water of the Kyoto basin is estimated to be nearly 80% of the water quantity of Lake Biwa.
This abundant water led to the spring of food culture in Kyoto such as tea ceremony, Japanese sake breweries, and tofu and yuba (dried bean curd). There are many water wells at shrines and temples in Kyoto where you have free access to their fresh spring waters.
Let's go out for a walk and find good spring water!
A small tip upon visiting a spring water spot is to bring cups. A good balance of temperature (12-14℃, 54-57°F) minerals, and carbon dioxide is essential for good water. Well water and spring water have a good balance of minerals and are nicely cold even in summer. Let’s enjoy the fresh spring water itself first.
It is interesting to know that mineral components in water vary amongst different places even within Kyoto city. Find your favorite spring water by enjoying the different tastes that vary from "slightly hard and clear" to "soft and sweet."
Spring water in Kyoto is soft water that contains little iron and has a mild taste. Kyoto's soft water well extracts the umami (taste) of dashi (soup stock), and this is closely related to the reason why Kyoto cuisine generally has a light taste.
To make a good coffee, selection of beans and roasting and brewing methods are very important, but water is also an important factor. Some owners of famous coffee shops in Kyoto visit wells to bring back spring water to brew their coffees. The soft water that well brings out the umami of dashi is also able to bring out the uniqueness and character of coffee. Enjoy the slight differences in taste from using different spring waters to make your favorite coffee.
Over 60% of cooked steamed rice is consisted of water. As it is said "where there is good rice, there is good water," good water is essential for cooking good rice. Best water for cooking rice is soft water with less minerals as is Kyoto’s spring water. Hard mineral water usually makes rice less sticky and dry. Try cooking rice with Kyoto's spring water once, and you will enjoy soft and fluffy rice. A tip for cooking rice with spring water is to use the water for washing the rice also. Rice absorbs water the most at the very beginning of washing.
Most of the spring water in Kyoto is “sacred” water that abundantly fountains from wells at shrines and temples. The water from Otowa Fall at Kiyomizu Temple is believed to bring love, the water from Utsukushigozen Shrine within Yasaka Shrine is believed to bring beauty, and the water from Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine, the divine protection of the Nishiki Market, is believed to bring luck in studies. Famous waters in Kyoto not only taste good but also bring luck and prosperity.
Bring a small glass bottle when carrying back sacred water, and how about giving it as a gift to your friend? He or she is sure to be happy with a gift that shares a glimpse of Kyoto life.