If you want a break from international coffee chains, why not try a real Japanese teahouse when you need a break? Here are our favorite teahouses in Kyoto.
Matcha tea drinks at a Japanese teahouse © 82088316@N05
Why You Should Try A Japanese Teahouse
- Starbucks has really taken over Kyoto and you’ll see that ubiquitous green sign all over town. And, they’re always filled with foreign tourists. It makes me wonder: Why travel all the way to Japan just to patronize the same coffee joint you go to back home? You’ve come all this way to Japan, wouldn’t it make sense to try a real Japanese teahouse next time you need a break?
- Japanese teahouses serve green tea in all its forms, starting with matcha. They also serve traditional Japanese sweets (wagashi), usually as a set that comes with a hot bowl of matcha. The combination of the slightly bitter tea and the bright sweetness of the wagashi is hard to beat.
- In summer, many teahouses also serve cooling treats like uji kintoki, which is a mountain of shaved ice saturated with sweet matcha syrup, usually with a few hidden goodies inside, like sweet adzuki beans and sweet mocha balls.
Our favorite teahouses in Kyoto:
Matcha tea and a Japanese sweet at Kagizen Yoshifusa © hyougushi
Located on Shijo-dori, in the heart of Gion, this esteemed Kyoto sweet shop has a beautiful tearoom hidden in back. The tearoom overlooks a small garden and it’s almost always blissfully quiet. There’s an English menu and they’re quite comfortable with foreign tourists. You can choose from a variety of classic Japanese sweets to go with your tea. This is highly recommended when you need a break in Southern Higashiyama. More Info
This fine little teahouse near the top of Sannen-zaka, a short walk from Kiyomizu-dera Temple, is almost too quaint for words. It’s rickety, cramped and oozing with old-Japanese flavor. There’s an English menu and their tea, sweets and shaved ice treats (in summer) are delicious. It’s the perfect way to power yourself through an afternoon of sightseeing in Southern Higashiyama. More Info
Ippodo tea shop © jweiss3
Located on Teramachi-dori Street, a short walk north of downtown, this is my favorite tea shop in Kyoto. It’s the perfect place to pick up some Japanese tea to take home with you. And, next door to the shop, there’s a small café where you can sample some of the shops excellent matcha and leaf teas like gyokuro and sencha. More Info
Sakamaruyama interior – image © Michael Lambe
This small teahouse in Maruyama-koen Park is a hidden gem. They serve artisanal Japanese sweets and sublime green tea in a beautiful traditional Japanese tearoom. It’s one of the most beautiful tearooms in town. Just don’t go there in a hurry – they carefully brew the tea for each customer and it takes time. But, it’s always worth the wait. There’s no English menu (at the time of writing), but the staff should be able to help you choose. More Info
A great place to try Japanese tea and sweets is in the Teahouse Motoan at the Marukyu Koyamaen Nishinotoin Tea Shop. It’s just west of downtown, not far from Nijo-jo Castle (it makes a great rest stop after visiting the castle).
What About The Japanese Tea Ceremony?
For information on where to experience a full Japanese tea ceremony, visit our Kyoto Tea Ceremony page.
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
- Get travel insurance for Japan - we recommend World Nomads (and here's why)