Kissaten are retro cafes – rather like Japanese-style European coffee houses – and they’re an interesting alternative to more contemporary indie cafes. Here are some of our favourite kissaten in Kyoto.
Smart Coffee in Kyoto – image © Florentyna Leow
Modern Kyoto has no shortage of great independent cafes, but we have an equal fondness for more retro kissaten. Think of kissaten as retro cafes. They’re distinct from cafes in that they are rather like a Japanese take on European-style coffee houses, with more than a hint of belle époque to their atmospheres. And, kissaten-style coffee is distinctly inky and dark, verging on burnt. You won’t find cafe lattes here, that’s for sure!
In a city that prizes tradition and preserving old establishments, there are many kissaten across the city. Most have been operating for decades, if not a century or more. Some even date back prior to World War II. The few we’ve listed here only just begins to scratch the surface of kissaten culture in Kyoto! But, they’re a great introduction to retro coffee spots in the city.
- Smart Coffee (Downtown Kyoto)
Retro kissaten Smart Coffee in Teramachi Shopping Arcade not only serves fantastic coffee, their egg sandwiches are also killer. Sparing some time for breakfast or tea here is a no-brainer!
- Inoda Coffee (Downtown Kyoto)
There are several branches of the venerable Inoda Coffee chain around Kyoto, but we like the old school atmosphere at their downtown “honten” (main branch).
- Otafuku (Downtown Kyoto)
For a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of downtown Kyoto, drop by Otafuku in Kawaramachi. Though it’s right in the heart of the city, you’ll be whisked away to another world in this retro kissaten.
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Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com - usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too.
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router.
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass - here's my explanation of why it's worth it
- A prepaid Icoca card makes travelling around Kyoto easy - here's how.
- Get travel insurance for Japan - we recommend World Nomads (and here's why)