Kyoto is full of hidden gems for those who are willing to stray off the beaten path.
One such place is accessible only by mountain paths, although only a 20-minute walk from tourist hotspot, Ginkakuji. Most tourists never chance on this magical spot during their stay and it has been reserved for those in the know.
Mo-An Café sits on top of Yoshida hill, and can be easily accessed from the Imadegawa entrance to Yoshida hill. I recommend taking a longer walk from Marutamachi, through Kurodani Temple, past Shinyodo, then up the hill to the café. If you have trouble finding it, just remember that the seeking makes the find all the sweeter.
If you take the longer path I just described, it will lead you through the forest, past a number of Chashitsu (tea rooms) — quaint little huts made expressly for the enjoyment of the tea ceremony. Legend has it that a successful businessman named Mojiro Tanigawa built eight Chashitsu and a grand dining hall on Yoshida hill in honour of the great tea master Urasenke, in the Taisho era (1912 – 1926). The dining hall is what has been renovated into Mo-An Café.
Enjoying a maccha (green tea) poured over vanilla ice-cream is a quintessentially modern Kyoto experience. Taking a moment out of your temple hopping to surround yourself with lush green forest and breathe in the fragrance of tea is not to be missed. I wish you happy explorations in Kyoto, with quiet moments in between.
For those of you who are interested in going deeper into the tea experience, rumour has it the Chashitsus down the hill from Mo-An are still used for tea ceremonies, and that you can reserve a spot with the café owner. Mentioned earlier, the Urasenke name is one of the most respected and well-known lineages in the world of Japanese tea.
May the simplicity in what you find be the stepping stone to an unending journey of new knowledge and growth.