Find a little bit of Zen in a tea cup by enjoying one of Kyoto’s many traditional tea houses located in its historic areas of Gion and Higashiyama. The “Way of Tea” is one of Japan’s best known traditional cultural practices, and something everyone should experience in Kyoto. Whether it’s just relaxing with a calming cup of tea, or taking part in a traditional tea ceremony, Kyoto has it all. Here is our guide to some of the best tea houses in Kyoto.
En Tea House
En is a small Japanese-style tea house in the geisha and entertainment district of Gion in Kyoto. Located next to Chion-in Temple in the heart of the Higashiyama sightseeing area, this quaint tea house features tatami mat tea rooms, kimono-clad waitresses, and English-speaking staff. You can sample an authentic tea ceremony experience first-hand here that is a great introduction to the world of the Japanese tea ceremony.
Ichiriki Chaya is one of the most famous and historic ochaya, or tea houses, in Kyoto. Located right on the doorstep of Hanami Koji Lane in Gion, this is one of the places where geisha entertain their guests. Established over 300 years ago, it is an exclusive and high-end establishment that is invitation only. It became famous because the leader of the 47 Ronin (Japan’s most famous samurai tale), Oishi Kuranosuke, spent several nights here. It was also made famous as the scene of most of the action of Arthur Golden’s book Memoirs of a Geisha.
Okitsu Club is a traditional Japanese tea house located near the Kyoto Imperial Palace. It offers an upmarket introduction to the refined world of Japanese culture via tea ceremony, incense ceremony, and kimono. This is one of the most elegant places to enjoy tea in Kyoto and is for the serious tea connoisseur.
Ran Hotei is a delightful café on the Sanjo-Horikawa Shopping Arcade in downtown Kyoto near Nijo Castle. The café in a traditional Kyoto Machiya Townhouse is run by a Canadian-born tea master and is a great place to experience the Japanese tea ceremony. It features a tatami tea room and Taisho Period (1912-1926) art décor. If the tea ceremony is not for you, just sit back and enjoy the café, which is the perfect place to relax with a hot tea or coffee and some of the best cake in Kyoto.
Camellia offers an authentic Kyoto tea ceremony experience in English in a beautiful traditional house right off Ninen-zaka steps between Gion and the famous Kiyomizu-dera Temple. It is an oasis of peace and quiet from all the tourist hoards in one of Kyoto’s most popular sightseeing areas. The sun-bathed tea room is calm and elegant and the perfect place to relax with some Uji matcha tea and wagashi (traditional confectionary).
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