1. Home
  2. Articles
  3. Kyoto Food Guide

Kyoto Food Guide

Japan’s eternal city, Kyoto, is home to the refined flavors of washoku, or Japanese cuisine. Its tofu (beancurd) cuisine and pickled vegetables, called tsukemono, are recognized as one of the best in Japan. 

Tofu & Vegetables
Yudofu, or boiled tofu, is a signature local dish that you will find served in refined traditional ryokan guesthouses, or at Japanese cuisine restaurants. Yuba, or beancurd skin, is another specialty. If you are under the impression that tofu is tasteless, one tofu meal here will change your mind. 
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org
Kyoto is also famous for its vegetables, called “kyo-yasai”, from succulent radish, to eggplants and leeks, to name a few. These are eaten cooked in various ways, grilled, as tempura, or pickled. These pickles are often served to accompany rice. 

Traditional Foods
Soba, or buckwheat noodles, served in hot broth and topped with a simmered herring, is a Kyoto specialty harking from the Meiji era. Surrounded by mountains and with no access to the sea, fish was often pickled or simmered to keep for longer in Kyoto. 
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org
This explains Kyoto’s other famous dish, the shime saba, or vinegared mackerel. There are some old shops over a hundred years old specializing in shime saba sushi, or vinegared mackerel pressed over rice. 
Image source: photozou.jp
At the Gion district, you will find many old shops and tourists queuing up for shime saba sushi, or soba.

If you visit the Pontocho nightlife district, you will find many exclusive restaurants serving kaiseki, or traditional course meals, catering to clients who hire geisha entertainers with their meal - though of course you can enjoy kaiseki without geisha entertainment at many restaurants.
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org
Kyoto is also home to famous green tea producers, and is a good place to try authentic matcha served with wagashi, or Japanese dessert. Nowadays, you will find dessert parlors serving up matcha desserts, from cheesecakes to soft serve ice-cream and milkshakes. Tofu desserts in the form of ice-cream and puddings are also popular and commonly found. 
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org
Summer Dining
In the summer, eating at a kawadoko, or riverside dining, is an experience not to be missed. The cooling Kamogawa river breeze can be enjoyed while having your meal outdoors on a terrace. At the Kibune mountain region, you can sit directly above the gushing river while enjoying your meal, which will include a sweetfish caught from the river. 
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org
Hamo, or pike conger eel, is a summer staple in Kyoto, and is eaten during the summer for its high nutrition and invigorating powers.
In autumn, chestnuts from the Tamba region in northern Kyoto are famous throughout Japan for their size and sweetness.

Gourmet Zones
During the year-end, the Nishiki Market will be crowded with locals doing shopping for their New Year meal. This long covered market spanning a few blocks with shops lining both sides of the walkway is where you will find many specialty shops selling seafood, pickles or meat.
Image source: photozou.jp
Another place to sample the best of Kyoto cuisine is the Kyoto Station, where you can find popular local restaurants, including tasty and crisp tonkatsu - so don’t worry about not being able to find popular soul food in Kyoto either!

You might like


Fukuoka Must Eat

Fukuoka is without doubt a food haven. Fresh seafood from both the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Japan aside, it has a vibrant local food culture, the m...Read more

  • favorite_border

Nara Food Guide

The food culture of the ancient capital of Nara is influenced by its past as the center of power in Japanese Buddhism during the Nara era in the 8t...Read more

  • favorite_border

Okinawa Food Guide

When in Okinawa, you will soon realize the cuisine is quite different from the rest of Japan and reflects a heavy influence from China, and in more...Read more

  • favorite_border

Osaka Food Guide

Osaka is famous as the place to go to “eat till you drop” - or literally “kuidaore” in Japanese. In the Edo era it was also known as being the “kit...Read more

  • favorite_border


Leave a comment