Gion Restaurants – The 10 Best Restaurants in and around Kyoto’s Gion District
If you’re in pursuit of the perfect Gion restaurant, look no further. Here’s an assorted list of the 10 best restaurants in and around Kyoto's Gion area.
If you’ve journeyed to Kyoto to get a taste of traditional Japan, nothing quite rivals a stroll through the cobbled streets of Gion. In contrast to the flashing lights and chain restaurants lining Shijo-dōri, Kyoto’s main drag, your first step into Gion is a step back in time to a Japan before vending machines on every street corner.
Tucked away in the heart of Kyoto between Yasaka-jinja Shrine and the Kamo-gawa river, Gion boasts beautiful wooden architecture and is the best spot for your first sight of a real geisha or maiko (geisha in training) pottering into one of the mysterious machiya (wooden houses). With an abundance of traditional restaurants in the Gion area, we have selected a handful of eateries that reflect the quality in the price, as well as some affordable alternatives.
1. Gion Hatanaka 祇園畑中 ¥¥¥¥
Gion Hatanaka gives you the chance to test out Kyoto’s legendary kaiseki in the tranquil setting of a traditional ryokan (Japanese guest house) while enjoying a performance of customary singing and dancing by geishas and their apprentice maikos. Originating from Kyoto, kaiseki is the epitome of Japan’s haute cuisine and Gion Hatanaka provides a fine example. Brace yourself for a gastronomical rollercoaster as your taste buds adjust from the more recognizable flavors and textures of tempura and sushi to unidentifiable pickles and innards.
Although somewhat pricey, this is a 2-hour show with bottomless glasses of sake (or any other alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks) and drinking games with the geisha. It is no ordinary dining experience, more accurately a spectacle of tradition and custom you’re unlikely to forget. With a spread of intricate, beautifully presented dishes prepared by top-class chefs, the food is as elegant and mesmerizing as the performing geishas.
Reservations: The restaurant can book up weeks in advance so be sure to reserve your table before arriving in Kyoto. You can also book a room in the ryokan.
Price: ¥19,000 – Check out the menu here.
Access: 10-minute walk from the Keihan Shijo Station/Hankyu Kawaramachi Station
Opening hours: Performance 18:00 – 20:00
2. Toshigami 年神 ¥¥
While a kaiseki set will often leave you flinching at the bill, Toshigami offers a more relaxed and affordable home-style take on kaiseki known as kappō. This charming little restaurant offers an intimate homely experience with bar seats delivering a view right into the chef’s kitchen. Put your fears of the unknown behind you and give up your appetite to the fruitful experiments of this talented chef. The focus here is on seafood, and all the dishes are exquisitely prepared right in front of your eyes. This is the perfect opportunity to branch out from your usual dinner of sushi or rāmen, and although a full set is still not a cheap meal – averaging at around 4000 yen – it is one of the best prices you’ll find for this typical Kyoto-style of cooking.
Price: Around ¥4,000
Access: 8-minute walk from Gion-Shijo Station (Keihan Main Line)
Opening hours: 17:00 – 02:00, closed Tuesdays
3. Sushi Matsumoto 鮨まつもと¥¥¥¥
Kyoto may not be known for its sushi but remember, we’re in Japan, good sushi is never more than a few geisha shuffles away. The Gion district is the proud home of Sushi Matsumoto, the only sushi establishment in Kyoto to be awarded 2 Michelin stars. Get up close and personal with the chef as you discover the precision and expertise that goes into creating each bite-size chunk of culinary joy from across the counter. To claim one of the 7 much sought after seats in this popular wooden establishment, be sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment. With the hefty price tag comes guaranteed quality, freshness and a sushi experience not to miss.
Reservations: Only by phone in Japanese (Ask your hotel or go to the shop in person the day before). +81-75-531-2031
Price: Lunch ¥8,000 – ¥10,000, Dinner ¥15,000 – ¥20,000
Access: 5-minute walk from Gion-Shijo station (Keihan Main Line)
Opening hours: 12:00 – 14:00, 17:30 – 21:00, Wednesdays 18:00 – 21:00, closed Tuesdays
4. Izujū Sushi ¥ いづ重
After an evening amble around Yasaka Shrine, pop across the road to one of the oldest sushi restaurants in Kyoto: Izujū Sushi. This prosperous business started over 100 years ago and to this day, the fluffy, vinegary rice is still prepared in a wood fire fueled by used wooden chopsticks – now there’s some eco-friendly cooking!
Unlike the common Edo-mae sushi most are accustomed to, Izujū Sushi will introduce you to the unique flavors of Kyoto-style sushi, most famous for the sabazushi, a perfectly formed roll of pickled mackerel and rice wrapped in kelp seaweed. On a par is their inari sushi, a bundle of rice enveloped in a soft thin layer of sweet bean curd – a must-try for those with a sweet tooth. Although not quite ¥100 rotating sushi prices, a substantial set menu at this little independent restaurant starts at around ¥1000.
Price: ¥1000 – ¥3000
Access: Corner of Shijo and Higashi-oji-dori, across from Yasaka Shrine
Opening hours: 10:30 – 19:00, closed Wednesdays
5. Gion Manzara ぎおんまんざら ¥¥¥
After working up an appetite weaving in and out of the streets of Gion, Manzara Izakaya is the ideal destination to try out some homemade sake and relish an array of Japanese dishes among family or friends. If you’re yet to experience an izakaya, this is a sociable style of eating and drinking, common among salarymen, that allows you to enjoy a variety of Japanese-style tapas dishes and eat modestly or like a king. Although located in central Gion, people don’t tend to fall upon this gem hidden off Hanamikoji Dori street, but the traditional floor seating and family-friendly atmosphere will capture the hearts of any gaijin (foreigner). Test out the Kyoto Seasonal Cuisine set menu (starting at ¥5,000) if you feel that you haven’t yet mastered the art of dish picking.
Price: Average ¥5,500
Access: 10-minute walk from Gion-Shijō station (Keihan Main Line)
Opening hours: 17:00 – 00:00
6. Izakaya Ichi 居酒屋一 ¥¥
Escape the crowds of tourists flocking towards the west side of Kamo-gawa river and head over the bridge to Izakaya Ichi located in a serene corner of Gion. The Japanese menu and the staff’s limited English present you with the perfect opportunity to pull out some Japanese: perhaps “Osusume wa?” meaning “What would you recommend?” Contrary to your standard izakaya chain, this little independent restaurant is guaranteed to provide you with unique recipes and high-quality produce. With your appetite in the capable hands of these young talented chefs, it’s hard to go wrong with a menu brimming with fresh sashimi, succulent pork and vegetables prepared in supreme sweet miso.
Price: Lunch ¥1,000 to ¥2,000, Dinner ¥3,000 -¥ 5,000
Access: 2-minute walk from Gion-Shijo Station (Keihan Main Line)
Opening hours: 12:00 – 14:00, 17:00 – 00:00, Closed Sundays
If you’re looking for an izakaya elsewhere in Kyoto, check our list of the 10 best izakaya in town.
7. Gion Café ギオンカフェ ¥¥
Between its wooden sliding doors and its traditional Japanese garden lies Gion Café’s seamless marriage of Japanese teahouse and French bistro. This fusion restaurant offers a refined taste of Europe, in a traditional Japanese setting. If you need a break from noodles and rice, rejoice in this rare find of good bread, cheese and tarts at reasonable prices, not to mention the French owner’s delightful selection of fine wines. With seats overlooking the restaurant’s immaculate Japanese garden and an assortment of Japanese cakes, including the legendary matcha cake, there’s no need to feel like you’ve escaped back to the West. You’re simply appreciating another vital part of Japanese culture; their love for everything European.
Price: ¥1,000 – ¥4000
Access: 5-minute walk from Yasaka jinja shrine
Opening hours: 10:00 – 22:00
8. Café Opal カフェオパール ¥
If you’re looking for some trendy, retro vibes to balance out all those temple visits, discover Café Opal, modestly self-labeled: “the most soulful café in the world.” A stone’s throw from Kenninji Temple, this quirkily renovated old teahouse is the perfect spot for a cozy afternoon cake break among locals and the friendly Japanese owners. Seated inside or outside, enjoy the café’s lunch and dinner menus as well as alcoholic beverages at any time of day with a ¥100 discount on all drink refills. With a playlist of soul, jazz and funk, Café Opal does a pretty good job of living up to its label.
Price: ¥1,000 – ¥2,000
Access: Keihan Rwy. Main Line: Gion-shijo Sta. Exit 1 or Hankyu Kyoto Line: Kawaramachi Sta. Exit 1B
Opening hours: 12:00 – 21:00, closed on Tuesdays and third Wednesday of month
9. Tōsuirō (vegetarian) 豆水楼 ¥¥¥
Vegetarian and vegan options tend to be few and far between when it comes to Japanese cuisine. Luckily, one of the nation’s favorite forms of fermented soya – tofu – is done particularly well in Kyoto thanks to its soft, low-mineral water. Tōsuirō offers a vegan-friendly version of kaiseki serving up several dishes based around Kyoto’s renowned silken tofu at similar prices to those of a lavish kaiseki set.
So what’s on the menu? Not just tofu, unlike some specialist tofu restaurants. You’ll be served up seasonal favorites including pickles, soups, tempura dishes and the unmissable soya ice-cream. Easy to lose your way in the labyrinth of Gion’s toy wooden houses, this inimitable gem is worth locating on Google maps beforehand to avoid bypassing Tōsuirō’s Japanese sign down this concealed street.
Reservation: By phone in Japanese (Ask your hotel or go to the shop in person the day before). +81-75-561-0035
Price: Set meals¥ 2,500 – ¥6,000. Have a look at the menu here.
Address: 38-1,Bisyamonten-Cho,4 Matubara-Agaru,Higashioji,Higashiyama-Ku,Kyoto
Sister restaurant in Kiyamachi overlooking Kamo-gawa river
Access: 5-minute walk from Yasaka jinja, south down Higashioji street, opposite Seven Eleven.
Opening hours: 11:30 – 14:00, 17:00 – 21:30. Weekends 11:30 – 20:30
10 – Café Matsuontoko (vegan) カフェマツオントコ ¥
The true beauty of Gion cannot be fully experienced without a trip down Shimbashi-dori street, especially during cherry blossom season or in the winter months. Luckily for all you veggies and vegans out there, Café Matsuontoko lies just a short walk from the street voted one of the prettiest streets in Asia. In need of something a bit more substantial than tofu? Café Matsuontoko is renowned for its specialty vegetarian burger served up with chips and salad. Although the portions are on the small side for those with a big appetite, the low prices give you an excuse to order sides and dessert guilt-free. Sit back and enjoy an organic beer or glass of wine with your favorite Ghibli film projected on the wall behind you.
Price: ¥800¥ – ¥1,500
Access: 5-minute walk from Kawaramachi station
Opening hours: 11:00 – 22:00
For recommendations and advice on other Kyoto restaurants, check out our ultimate guide to Kyoto restaurants: