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Cafes in Kyoto

Kyoto is perhaps most identified with elaborate traditional tea ceremonies, but it is also home to its own distinct cafe culture that can be dated to the country’s embrace of European modernity at the turn of the 19th century into the 20th.

  • In the early 20th century, cafes, coffee shops, and kissatenrepresented swinging, sophisticated modern life for a generation of Japanese urbanites. Now, a century on, cities like Kyoto host a mixture of old-school cafes, where men puff Peace-brand cigarettes and drink pour-over coffee, and austere third-wave-coffee establishments whipping up cold brew and artisanal snacks.

    Sarasa Nishijin

    Sarasa Nishijin

    Sarasa Nishijin is one of a half-dozen Sarasa-branded shops in Kyoto but is perhaps the microchain’s most iconic location, in a former bath house a brief stroll west of Kuramaguchi Station. The shop’s regularly rotated set lunch menu is popular, and there are also modern takes on kissatenclassics like Napolitanand omurice. Sarasa also offers vegan and vegetarian options.

    Sarasa Nishijin

    Sarasa Nishijin

    Sarasa is as far as one can get from chain shops like Starbucks (or smoky salaryman hangouts like Doutour and Excelsior). The charming interior is unique and inviting, and there are many hints at the former use of the space, like the tile mosaics and rough walls. Spending an afternoon in Sarasa, it’s impossible not to imagine dropping everything to take up a new life as a Kyoto hipster.

    Cafe Hassui

    Cafe Hassui

    Cafe Hassui located in the luxury hotel Suiran is a taste of the rarefied opulence that attracted princes and film stars to Kyoto’s western hills. The dining room offers one of the most relaxing views in Kyoto, overlooking the Arashiyama Hills and the Hozu River. The menu is reminiscent of a that of British tea room: delicate appetizers that blend native ingredients and French technique, carefully selected teas, and unpretentious sweets.

    % Arabica Coffee

    % Arabica Coffee

    Kenneth Shoji's % Arabica developed from a single location in Kyoto into a miniature third wave coffee empire akin to Oakland's Blue Bottle Coffee (but without the corporate backing of a firm like Nestlé). Shoji bought a coffee plantation in Hawaii and recruited head barista Junichi Yamaguchi. The menu is basic and the three locations in Kyoto all equally austere, but the quality and attention to detail are undeniable. % Arabica has become a pilgrimage site for true heads.

    eX Cafe

    eX Cafe

    Another fine spot in the western hills of the city, eX Cafe is comfortable and not far from sites like Okochi Sanso. It offers a modern take on the Kyoto sweet tradition and kissaten favorites. The parfaits and upscale interpretations of traditional sweets are some of the best in the city, and many swear by the surreal emerald and cream colored green tea soba carbonara.

    Salon de Royal

    Salon de Royal

    Salon de Royal on the Kamo River is home to some of the finest chocolatiers in the country and also hosts a riverside cafe and terrace. Salon de Royal is a fine place to while away an afternoon snacking on sweets and small plates, but it’s also great in the early evening, when it hosts performances by local musicians.

    Sarasanishijin
    Address
    Kyoto Kyoutoshi Kita-ku Murasakinohigashifujinomorichou 11-1
    Phone
    0754325075
    Cafe Hassui Suiran Hotel The Luxury Collection Kyoto
    Address
    Kyoto Kyoutoshi Ukyou-ku Sagatenryujisusukinobabachou 12
    Phone
    0758721222
    Arabikakyoutofujidaimaru
    Address
    Kyoto Kyoutoshi Shimogyou-ku Shijouteramachi Fujii Daimaru 1F
    Phone
    0757465995
  • Arabikakyoutoarashiyama
    Address
    Kyoto Ukyo-ku Sagatenryujisusukinobaba cho 3-47
    Phone
    0757480057
    % Arabica Kyoto Higashiyama
    Address
    Kyoto Kyoutoshi Higashiyama-ku Hoshinochou 87-5
    Phone
    0757463669
    eX cafe Kyoto Arashiyama Main Store
    Address
    Kyoto Kyoutoshi Ukyou-ku Sagatenryujitsukurimichichou 35-3
    Phone
    0758826366
    salon do Royal Kyoto
    Address
    Kyoto Kyoutoshi Nakagyou-ku Kiyachou Through Oike Agaru Kamikoriki cho 502
    Phone
    0752114121
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