Not to be confused with the chain of bakery/restaurants that litter Kyoto’s thoroughfares, but sharing the same name and founder, Shinshindo (進々堂) is a famous café/bakery just opposite Kyoto University that is well worth a visit if you happen to be in the area. Hitoshi Tsuzuku founded Shinshindo in 1930, a few years after becoming the first Japanese baker to study authentic French baking in Paris. Since then it has been variously an air-raid shelter during the war years, a centre of radical student debate during the 60s and now a popular hang-out for students and academics.
Unfortunately, the gentleman in charge today is enforcing a strict “no photographs inside!” policy so we shall just have to fall back upon the trusty written word. Both the food and coffee here are reasonable if unremarkable, but it’s really the atmosphere that is something special. The inside is cool and spacious with a high ceiling and long, smooth wooden tables perfect for reading or studying at, or just sitting alone and people watching. Out back is a garden; small, shady, and green. Order a drink and sit out here or indoors for as long as you like, and consider the generations of students, some earnest, some not so; the friendships and rivalries, and the romances that have passed in and out of those doors.
Shinshindo is open from 8:00 – 18:00 and closed Tuesdays.
From Kyoto station you can take buses 206 or 17 to get here. Or from Demachiyanagi station on the Keihan line it is a 15 minute walk. To find it on foot, go east on Imadegawa from Higashioji Dori for a few minutes and look for it on your left. You’ll see a large building with “Notre Pain Quotidien” in large blue letters on the side.