Kyoto Food Guide – A Gourmet Guide to Kyoto

The definitive Kyoto food guide! We've got everything you need to know about Kyoto specialities and recommendations for the best spots to try them!

If you get the chance to visit Kyoto, a favorite city among tourists in Japan, you definitely need to try the unique cuisine on offer in the area. Kyoto is famous for its food, the cooking style and tradition giving us a window into this most historic of Japanese cities. For a little while, let’s forget about sushi, ramen, udon and soba and think about specific Kyoto food specialities.

Kyoto Kaiseki (Kyo Kaiseki)

Kyoto Kaiseki

Photo Credit: Mandy via Flickr cc

Kaiseki, simply put, is a Japanese set meal, comprised of multiple traditionally prepared dishes and considered the finest form of Japanese dining. This is the best way to try a lot of specialities and is an eating habit which guarantees the nutritional balance of a meal. It has its historic roots in Kyoto and is still undoubtedly the best destination in which to try the finest Kaiseki.  

Photo Credit: Jun Seita via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: Jun Seita via Flickr cc

Appetizer

Kaiseki has become a culinary art form, a way to showcase food in an elegant but modest style. The ingredients are selected carefully from the best local and seasonal products and each course has a different method of cooking.

In Kyoto, the easiest wat to experience Kaiseki is in ryokans (Japanese Style Hotels). The price can be as reasonable as a normal lunch (1,000-2,000 yen) or very expensive (10,000 yen~), as in a Michelin-star restaurant. But if you’re willing to pay, you’re in for a uniquely traditional experience, akin to an imperial dinner. One of the best ways of doing this is by booking a stay at a ryokan and trying Kaiseki whilst there. Kill two birds with one stone!

Top Recommended Ryokans/Restaurants

(Source: Tabelog.com – The most famous restaurants ranking website in Japan) 

1. Tawaraya (俵屋旅館) – 3.67/5

Price: Lunch:¥30,000~ |Dinner: ¥30,000~

Address: 278, Nakahakusanchō ,Nakagyō-ku, Kyōto-shi 

2. Kanameannishitomiya (要庵西富家) 

Price: Lunch: ¥6,000~¥7,999 |Dinner: ¥30,000~

Address: 562 Honeyacho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-shi 

3. Gion Hatanaka (祇園畑中) – 3.51/5

Price: Lunch: ¥5,000~¥5,999 |Dinner: ¥15,000~¥19,999

Address: 505 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi

4. Yuzuya Ryokan (柚子屋旅館) – 3.42/5

Price: Lunch: ¥4,000~¥4,999 |Dinner: ¥30,000~

Address: 545 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto

5. Gion Shimmonsou (祇園新門荘) – 3.01/5

Price: Lunch: ¥3,000~¥3,999 |Dinner: ¥4,000~¥4,999

Address: Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto

Tofu Dishes 

Kyoto tofu dishes are its defining specialities. Tofu’s ingredients are very simple: water, soy beans and nigari (coagulant). Kyoto’s water, containing less calcium and magnesium makes it much softer than elsewhere, and results in a smoother texture of the tofu. Find this smooth tofu in one of the city’s age-old tofu shops or in one of the countless specialist restaurants. 

Photo Credit: pelican via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: pelican via Flickr cc

Tofu is very healthy and an ideal summer food. Find yourself in Kyoto during the summer and you’ll have a chance to try the special seasonal tofu such as Hiyayakko Chilled Tofu and even Tofu desserts. 

Photo Credit: Kris Miller via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: Kris Miller via Flickr cc

Top Recommended Restaurants/Shops

(Source: Tabelog.com – The most famous restaurants ranking website in Japan) 

1. Kikkouya (亀甲屋) – 3.6/5

Price: Lunch: ¥1,000~¥1,999 |Dinner: ¥4,000~¥4,999

Address: Kikkōyachō, Nakagyō-ku, Kyōto-shi 

2. Toyoukechaya (とようけ茶屋) – 3.55/5

Price: Lunch: ¥1,000~¥1,999 |Dinner: ~¥999

Address: Kamiyagawa Nishi, Imadewa Gozen, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto-shi

3. Konnamonja (こんなもんじゃ) – 3.53/5

Price: Lunch: ~¥999 |Dinner: ~¥999

Address: Nakauoyachō, Nakagyō-ku, Kyōto-shi 

4. Nanzenjijunsei (南禅寺顺正) – 3.52/5

Price: Lunch: ¥3,000~¥3,999| Dinner: ¥3,000~¥3,999

Address: 60 Nanzenji Kusagawachō, Sakyō-ku, Kyōto-shi 

5. Toufudokorotougaden (とうふ処 豆雅傳) – 3.44/5

Price: ¥1,000~¥1,999

Address: 87 Nakajimachou, Nakakyou-ku, Kyoto-shi

Shojin

Shojin is well-known as a dish popular among Monks and followers of Buddhism. Since meat, fish, onion, leeks, garlic and other root vegetables were prohibited, Buddhists food embraced beans, fruit and tofu, especially in Shojin-ryori. It is said that Monks coming from China brought Shojin-ryori to Kyoto originally, but it is now one of the cities most notable specialties. The best areas in which to try Shojin in Kyoto are Arashiyama and Nanzenji. 

Top Recommended Restaurants/Shops

(Source: Tabelog.com – The most famous restaurants ranking website in Japan) 

1. Harise (はり清) – 3.54/5

Price: Lunch: ¥8,000~¥9,999 |Dinner: ~¥999

Address:  Daikokuchō, Minami-ku, Kyōto-shi

2. Hambeifu (半兵衛麩) – 3.04/5

Price: Lunch: ¥3,000~¥3,999 |Dinner: ¥5,000~¥5,999

Address: 433 Gojō kudaru shōninchō, Toiya-cho, Higashiyama-ku Kyoto Kyoto

3. Okutan (奥丹) – 3.53/5

Price: Lunch:¥3,000~¥3,999 |Dinner: ¥4,000~¥4,999

Address: 3-340 Kiyomizu 1-chome, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi

4. Daitokujiikkyuu (大徳寺納豆一久) – 3.43/5

Price: Lunch: ¥4,000~¥4,999 |Dinner: ¥8,000~¥9,999

Address:  20 Murasakino Shimomonzencho, Kita-ku, Kyoto-shi

5. Youshuuji (雍州路) – 3.2/5

Price: Lunch: ¥2,000~¥2,999 |Dinner: ¥1,000~¥1,999

Address: 1074 Kuramahonmachi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi

Kyoto Sweets

Photo Credit: Makoto SATSUKAWA via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: Makoto SATSUKAWA via Flickr cc

As the motherland of Sado (Japanese Tea Ceremony), naturally, Kyoto is also famous for its wagashi (Japanese Sweets), teas ideal accompaniment. To visit Kyoto and not enjoy its bitter green tea and sweet wagashi would be a big waste, especially as there are so many unique sweets on offer. Some favorites include: Nama Yatsuhashi, Cinnamon Cookie, Nikiniki (carré de cannelle), Cha no Ka (Malebranche), Senju Senbei (Kogetsu), Konpeito (Ryokujyuan Shimizu), Ajarimochi (Mangetsu), London-yaki, Green Tea Corneta (Jouvancelle) and Zen Castella.

Photo Credit: Yoko Nekonomania via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: Yoko Nekonomania via Flickr cc

The sweet side of Kyoto is also represented by Soft Ice Cream, Matcha Azuki Parfaits, filled Soft Sweet Buns and Western style Desserts. Treat your sweet tooth at a dessert shop or even take some Kyoto food souvenirs back home for your family. Here are some top recommendations for sweet shops and cafés in Kyoto. 

Top Recommended Sweet Shops

(Source: Tabelog.com – The most famous restaurants ranking website in Japan) 

1. Shougetsu (嘯月) – 4.29/5

Price: Lunch: ¥1,000~¥1,999 |Dinner: ¥2,000~¥2,999

Address: 6 Murasakino, Kamiyanagicho, Kita-ku, Kyoto-shi 

2. Saryouhousen (宝泉堂) – 4.18/5

Price: ¥1,000~¥1,999

Address: 21 Shimogamo, Nishitakagicho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi 

3. Shioyoshiken (塩芳軒) – 4.1/5

Price: ¥1,000~¥1,999

Address: 180 Hidadono-chō, Kamigyō-ku, Kyōto-shi 

4. Kawabatadouki (川端道喜) – 4.08/5

Price: ¥3,000~¥3,999

Address: 2-12 Shimogamo Minaminonogamicho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi

5. Kansendou (甘泉堂) – 3.9/5

Price: ¥1,000~¥1,999

Address: 344-6 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi

Kyoto Food Market – Nishiki Market

Nishiki market is a very famous spot in Kyoto; it is Kyoto’s traditional central market and today a must-visit hub for foodies. The market is said to be roughly 400 years old with the modern addition of a large shopping center and surrounding streets packed with pachinko halls, karaoke shops and other entertainment for all ages. In the market itself, find fresh seafood, meats, vegetables and kitchenware, as well as a whole load of unrecognisable ingredients and specialities. Whatever you want, find it here. 

Also find endless food stands, shops and restaurants with delicious food prepared using traditional methods right before your eyes. 

This really is “Kyoto’s Kitchen”, and heaven for food lovers. On top of the various Kyoto specialities, find Kyoto-style sushi, ramen, udon, tonkatsu, tempura and okonomiyaki restaurants in Nishiki Market. 

Photo Credit: Aussie Assault via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: Aussie Assault via Flickr cc

Address: Sakaimachidori(堺町通), Nakagyō-ku, Kyōto-shi

Access: Kawaramachi Staion, Shijo Karasuma Station, Karasumauike Station, Kyotoshiyakusho-Mae Station

Finally

Hopefully now you are ready for a Kyoto food tour of your own and can impress with your new-found knowledge of Kyoto’s specialities!

For information on where to stay in Kyoto, check out our article:”Where to stay in Kyoto – Everything you need to know“. Happy traveling and please share with us your amazing experiences!

Linh Tran

Linh Tran

Hey guys, I'm Linh Tran. Welcome to Compathy Magazine. We promise to bring you the best travel informations, tips and interesting experiences.



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# Kyoto Restaurants # What to Eat in Japan

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