Most major cities in Japan have their share of cafes that were established in the Showa Era and have weathered the changing times by maintaining a loyal customer base, providing a welcoming atmosphere, a beautiful decor, a distinctive menu or a combination of these things. For example, we previously covered the 60-year-old Café Benisica in Tokyo, birthplace of pizza toast in Japan.

If you are interested in experiencing Showa Era cafe culture when you visit Kyoto, you can't go wrong with Salon de thé François. A cherished Kyoto fixture with a long history dating back to 1934, the cafe is the perfect place to relax and unwind. You can listen to classical music, appreciate the elegant, Italian Baroque interior, and enjoy delicious cakes and excellent coffee.

After sightseeing, have a rest at this nostalgic cafe in Kyoto with an elegant and classic interior

The cafe is easily recognizable with its French-inspired exterior and the gaslamp sign.

Source: © grape Japan

Founder Shoichi Tateno named Salon de thé François after the painter Jean-François Millet, whom he admired. The cafe was renovated in 1940 by Tateno's friend, a Dominican friar studying in Kyoto, to resemble the lounge of an Italian luxury liner. With its white domed ceiling, red velvet chairs, stained glass windows and reproduction of the Mona Lisa, it stood out in those days as a very elegant and luxurious establishment.

Source: © grape Japan

Source: © grape Japan

Source: © grape Japan

Delicious Desserts and Excellent Coffee

The desserts are truly sensational. For example, their famous rare cheese cake is so good that visitors apparently come from out of town just to enjoy it. Made with rich cream from Daisen milk, mellow Danish cheese and a hint of lemon, topped with blueberry sauce, it's worth ordering

Source: © grape Japan

When we visited, their apple cake was on the menu. With a perfect balance of apple and almond, and just the right amount of sweetness, it's also a winner.

Source: © grape Japan

In addition to their rare cheese cake, Salon de thé François is also famous for its Wiener Kaffee (580 JPY), with its layer of cream above an Arabica blend. You can order both cake and coffee in a set for 1100 JPY.

Source: © grape Japan

Many other desserts and drinks are on their menu. The full list is available on their website.

A Cafe With Cultural and Historical Importance

Cafe founder Shoichi Tateno was a labor activist whose friends created an anti-fascist newspaper called Doyobi (Saturday). In the late 1930s, the papers' editors gathered at the cafe, along with members of Kyoto's intelligentsia, students, labor unions, artists and activists who were opposed to fascism and militarism. With its historically significant past and its original lighting fixtures and paintings maintained since its establishment, Salon de thé François became the first cafe in Japan to be granted status as a Registered Important Tangible Cultural Heritage site in 2003.

Conveniently located near Yasaka Shrine, Heian Shrine and Kiyomizu-dera Temple

After sightseeing in the Shijo Kawaramachi area or after your visit to Yasaka Shrine, Heian Shrine or Kiyomizu-dera, Salon de thé François is the perfect place to relax in a cozy and comfortable atmosphere.


  • Name: Salon de thé François
  • Address: Kyoto, Shimogyo, Nishikiyamachi-dori, Shijo-kudaru, Sendocho 184
  • Hours: Every day from 10:00 to 23:00 except December 31, January 1, and Summer Holidays (2 days)
  • Directions: From Hankyu Kawaramachi Station, take the Kiyamachi Minami Exit (1).
  • Tel: 075-351-4042
  • Website: LINK

By - Ben K.