Asia Destinations

My Top 5 Kyoto Hidden Gems: Shop Small and Local

Kyoto, Japan is known for its rich history, including temples, pagodas and bamboo forests. However, we are going to visit a few lesser-known spots. These are what I call my Kyoto hidden gems. These are the places you will miss if you are not looking for them. Only those who take the time to really explore Kyoto will find them. However, I’m sharing them with you, so you can make the most of your trip to Kyoto.

Tower Records

Step back in time and journey to the late 90s/early 2000s. Listen to all the newest music right at the music store. That’s the feeling you’ll get when you enter the Tower Records store in Kyoto. While this isn’t exactly a small business, it still deserves a place on this list due to its uniqueness.

The store is located in a building with other stores. It is a short walk from Kyoto Station. On the same floor is a shop where you can rent props and take pictures in photo booths.

Pick through J-pop, K-pop or even R&B CDs. The store also sells magazines, DVDs and other music related items like CD players.

There were a few J-pop artists I recognized, and I looked through a few of their CDs. The CD below is of the artist Ayumi Hamasaki. She has been in the music industry since 1998 and I like a lot of her songs.


Are you into vinyl? Tower Records has a great selection of records from so many different music genres. They lined almost the whole back of the store. You will also find accessories and cleaners to take care of your records.

Address: Japan, 〒604-8505 Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, 河原町OPA 9F


Mar Cafe

I will start with the fact that I am not a “burger person.” I will eat a hamburger every once in a while, but it’s not my favorite thing.

Mar Cafe is tricky to find. The directions will take you to a building garage. All the signage is in Japanese, so I had no idea where to go from there. Fortunately, I had watched Sundai Love’s YouTube video (She recommended this place.). Also, two women nearby were going there as well, and led the way. Take the elevator in the garage up to the 8th floor.

They have other food besides burgers. My sister had a burger set which included a burger, salad and omelet. Our friend had a Mar Burger and loved it as well. Mar Cafe is one of the Kyoto hidden gems that will not stay hidden much longer!

The Mar Burger at Mar Cafe blew me away from the first bite. Was it the fried avocado on top? Maybe it was the two different sauces, each trying to get my attention. Whatever the case, this burger is amazing! The fries it came with were seasoned well and fried to perfection.

Address: Japan, 〒600-8029 Kyoto, Shimogyo Ward, Nishihashizumecho, 762 京栄中央ビル 8F


Vintage Kimono AN Gion

This shop was so much fun. Imagine stepping into an old traditional Japanese home filled to the brim with vintage Kimonos. Some were 100 years old. I could have spent hours there, just looking at everything.

The shop is located on a main street and very easy to find. It is cramped inside the shop, so you may have to wait in the tiny courtyard for others in the store to exit before you can enter. And the steps to the second floor are steep, so be careful. This is what you get when you’re in a true vintage Japanese building. But it’s all part of the experience.

Each room had more Kimonos than the next. The colors and patterns were endless. There were tall Kimonos and short kimono jackets. Other racks had Kimono skirts or pants. Take the steps to second floor for the children’s Kimonos.


Besides Kimonos, there were traditional Japanese accessories such as combs and hair pins to choose from.

Signs were everywhere. Some displayed which Kimonos were which. Others reminded you to not mess up the Kimonos and other items. The shop keepers were very friendly and helpful. Credit cards are accepted. See the image below for the Kimono jacket that I purchased from the shop.

Address: 37-4 Bishamoncho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0812, Japan (This is the official address, but Google will take you to a side street. The shop is located on the main street, not a side street. When I said that this was one of my Kyoto hidden gems, I meant it.)


Ginjo Ramen Kobota

Have you ever heard of those ramen shops where people stand outside and wait in a long line to taste ramen noodles of legend? Those places usually have only five seats to sit on inside, but people wait because it’s just that good. This is that type of place.

Credit cards are not accepted. They accept cash only. The process to eat there is unique. Purchase a ticket from the vending machine inside. On the vending machine, everything is labeled in Japanese. Take a chance. From the Google reviews, everything is delicious. So, it doesn’t matter what you chose.

After purchasing your ticket, get in the line outside of the building. As seats open up, the chef will come outside and start taking people’s tickets. This tells the kitchen staff what meals to prepare next. Finally, you will be asked to come inside.


I had the Tsukemen noodles. How do I even describe how good my Tsukemen noodles tasted? One bowl had cold noodles. The other had delicious warm broth. It had spices and pork (There are no vegetarian options.) I can’t even put the flavor into words. It was hearty with a light spicy kick.

For this type of noodle, the broth is not poured over the noodles. That would lower the temperature of the broth. Instead, the noodles are dipped into the broth. Slurping is encouraged.

This shop definitely deserves a spot on my list of Kyoto hidden gems. It’s a must visit if you are in Kyoto.

Address: 563-2 Nishimatsuyacho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, 600-8326, Japan


Handmade bags by Mama Akemi

This location is a small shop on the side of the road. They sell handmade bags and wallet-type items. Used books are also available for sale. More items were available inside the building.

The prices were very reasonable. There was a wide variety of fabric items to choose from. I bought a few fabric card cases. All the patterns were very unique.

This shop takes Kyoto hidden gems to a whole new level. I found this shop on the way back from Ginjo Ramen Kobota. There is no official listing on Google. It is listed on Google as an “electronics repair shop”. A man and woman at the shop were very friendly and helpful. I don’t believe credit cards are accepted. It’s best to bring cash.

Address: Japan, 〒600-8456 Kyoto, Shimogyo Ward, Tenshitsukinuke 4chome, 483-3

Kyoto is so much more than just bamboo forests and pagodas. It is a bustling region with both urban and rural zones. It’s home to amazing food and unique shopping experiences. Many of these shopping experiences allow you to purchase handmade and vintage items. I always want to encourage you to shop small and local when you travel. If you are ever in this part of the world, be sure to check out any one of these Kyoto hidden gems.

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