Kyoto: 5 New Places to Experience Tea, Coffee, and Meditation

Kyoto: 5 New Places to Experience Tea, Coffee, and Meditation

Exploring the serene landscapes of Kyoto is a delightful experience, thanks to its flat terrain that allows for leisurely strolls. During my extended stay in May, I discovered that using the vibrant Shijo Street, also known as Shijo-dori, as my central guide made navigating the city a breeze. This strategy made it easy to visit renowned attractions like Nijo Castle and Kiyomizudera while also indulging in delightful tea, coffee, and meditation in zen settings. In fact, I covered nearly 130 miles on foot during my three-month adventure.

1.O’Chill — for meditation and tea

Opened in June 2023
Closest to: Kyoto Imperial Palace (12 minutes)

The path to the front door of O’Chill.
Source: Morgan Awyong

My curiosity led me to O’Chill, a unique destination that offers visitors the opportunity to savor tea in an unconventional way – by both drinking and infusing it into the air.

In the serene ceremony room at O’Chill, a strict no-phone policy prevails, setting the stage for a traditional tea ceremony featuring matcha. Following this calming tea ritual, guests are presented with hookahs, but here, tobacco takes a backseat, replaced by fragrant tea leaves.

Co-founder Kiruta Wataru shared that the use of tea leaves not only removes the common stereotypes associated with smoking but also fills the air with a soothing incense-like aroma. This experience, known as ‘shiko-hin,’ translates into a self-nurturing ritual.

Wataru noted, ‘We firmly believe that any lifestyle is wonderful as long as it brings happiness.’

As I took my first puff, my eyes widened with surprise. The tea-infused smoke carried a delightful, woody essence, as I passed the hookah between the co-founder Daichi Isokawa and our fellow guests.

The 90-minute experience thoughtfully encompasses guided meditation and delightful refreshments.

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2.Rokuhichido — for paper objects

Opened in April 2023
Close to: Hokan-ji Temple (1 minute)

Visitors shop the handmade paper products at Rokuhichido.
Source: Morgan Awyong

While most visitors are captivated by the iconic five-story pagoda nearby, it’s easy to overlook Rokuhichido, a hidden gem specializing in crafting Japanese paper products using traditional techniques like silk screen printing and paper cutting.

Initially renowned for their beautifully designed postcards, Rokuhichido has since expanded its repertoire to include whimsical paper balloons and intricate miniature figurines, taking on forms inspired by marine creatures and iconic places such as Mount Fuji.

Manager Shota Yamada explained that their designs draw inspiration from Japanese traditions, seasonal changes, and picturesque landscapes. Among their offerings, the ukiyo-e postcards, adorned with timeless motifs like geisha and shogun, stand out as the most beloved.

Yamada pointed out, ‘Depending on the specific product, a skilled craftsman can create only a few dozen of our pieces in a day.’

3.Gokago — for matcha drinks and food

Opened in June 2023
Close to: Kiyomizudera Temple (2 minutes)

The front door to Gokago.
Source: Morgan Awyong

While Kyoto boasts its fair share of matcha cafes, none quite compare to the unique experience offered at Gokago. Here, the finely ground green tea takes center stage, gracing everything from beverages and donuts to creamy ice cream, all expertly whisked right before the eyes of guests.

Kazuaki Nakanishi, the director of the company, expressed, ‘Tea ceremonies hold a special place in Japanese tradition. Since participating in a traditional tea ceremony can be a bit daunting, we believe in offering it in a relaxed and approachable manner, making it accessible to a wide audience.’

While it’s true that the Gokago experience can’t entirely replicate the authenticity of a traditional tea ceremony, it’s a perfect pit stop for those seeking an authentic matcha brew on their way to Kiyomizudera, one of Kyoto’s most renowned temples. Visitors also have the privilege of witnessing the precise, formal movements involved in the preparation, adding to the overall sense of ritualistic grace that defines a formal tea ceremony.

4.Kaji Kyoto — for Peruvian and Japanese fine dining

Opened in May 2023
Closest to: Nishiki Market (11 minutes)

Food at the Peruvian Japanese restaurant, Kaji Kyoto.
Source: Morgan Awyong

While Kyoto boasts an abundance of traditional restaurants, Kaji Kyoto stands out as a unique culinary gem.

Head chef Keone Koki has a vision for Kaji Kyoto: he wants guests to leave with a newfound appreciation for how Japanese cuisine adapts when ingredients vary, proving that the results are equally delectable. As Koki explains, ‘I want guests to leave Kaji and see how Japanese people who left Japan had to adapt because the ingredients they had were different — and were just as delicious.’

Koki blends his Peruvian heritage with Japanese culinary traditions, creating innovative dishes. For instance, he uses passion fruit from Okinawa as a marinade for a special twist on tiradito, an onion-free ceviche. ‘It’s also a bit different since most sashimis are only eaten with shoyu,’ he adds.

Nestled within a traditional merchant house, Kaji Kyoto offers an intimate dining experience with just eight seats. The seating arrangement is unique, with a small kitchen positioned in between, resembling a captivating culinary performance. Koki and his team of five chefs engage with guests through friendly banter, enhancing the overall dining experience.

5.Fuku Coffee Roastery — for specialty coffee

Opened in March 2023
Close to: Kennin-ji Temple (4 minutes)

Fuku Coffee Roastery is in a machiya, or traditional wooden townhouse, that Morio Ajiki inherited from his grandmother.

When I first stumbled upon this place, I mistook it for a regular coffeehouse. However, I soon learned from Morio Ajiki that his company is actually a supplier of top-tier coffee beans to local businesses. Thankfully, though, they warmly welcome visitors seeking a great cup of coffee.

Ajiki shared, ‘I had customers dropping by who were eager to taste my coffee, so I decided to serve them.’

What sets this cozy spot apart is the ease of striking up a conversation with the unassuming yet friendly Ajiki. Often, you’ll find him slipping through a set of sliding doors leading to his residence, and you might even catch a glimpse of his feline companion, the namesake of the shop.

While the coffee here is designed for those on the move, there are two inviting benches—one indoors and another outside—for those who prefer to linger.

Notably, the roastery proudly showcases artwork from talented local artists in the adjacent alley. This spirit of collaboration and mutual respect among Kyoto’s artisans makes discovering hidden gems like this one truly rewarding.

About Author

Emily Johnson

Meet Emily Johnson, a rising star in the world of news reporting. Armed with a Communications degree from Harvard University, Emily's writing is a perfect blend of creativity and fact-based journalism. She specializes in human-interest stories, bringing the personal touch that makes every story relatable. Whether it's heartwarming tales or societal issues, Emily is your guide to the trending news you won't want to miss.

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