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Best Kyoto Food: Where and What to Eat in Kyoto Japan

When it comes to eating in Kyoto, there are many traditional Japanese food and local specialties that you must try. And the good news is that you can find all the best Kyoto food in the touristy areas including Kiyomizu, Gion, Arashiyama and around Kyoto Station.

I spent over a month in Kyoto eating around the city and came up with a list of food that you must eat. They range from affordable street food to Michelin-level food that won’t break the bank. Plus, I included some indulgent dining options if you want a high-end experience.

So if you are planning to spend a few days in Kyoto and not sure where to eat, follow my Kyoto food guide and find where and what to eat in Kyoto for your upcoming trip.

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Tips for eating in Kyoto, Japan

Before trying some of the best food in Kyoto, take a look at my post on everything you need to know before going to Japan. I included a lot of travel information, including how to get around Japan and other travel tips.

Here are a few additional tips for eating in Kyoto:

  • Some popular restaurants have a queue. The wait is not as long as the restaurant queues in Tokyo but the popular ones including Michelin restaurants always draw a crowd.
  • Most restaurants accept cash only, especially the small noodle shops where you must buy a ticket before sitting down.
  • Bring your credit card, as some places accept credit cards.
  • Check the hours of operation when you are eating in Kyoto. Some restaurants are open for lunch only. Some are open for both lunch and dinner but breaks in between.
  • Download Google Translate, an app that can translate Japanese to English. Some restaurants have Japanese-only menus, but most seem to have English menus. 
  • Tipping is not required in Japan.

Best Food in Kyoto: Where and What to Eat in Kyoto

In this post, I listed all the famous Kyoto food and the best restaurants in Kyoto. Also, I included the hours of operation, and Google Maps links to each Kyoto restaurant and food outlet so you can easily find them.

See the summary of the best food to try in Kyoto below. This is a quick guide for you when searching for what to eat in Kyoto.

And when you scroll down, I include a more extended explanation for each food and where you can find the local food. And I also included photos.

Here is a quick summary of all the food you should try in Kyoto:

Kyoto Famous Food

  1. Yodofu and Yuba – boiled tofu and tofu skin
  2. Mackerel sushi – pressed sushi made with mackerel with vinegared rice
  3. Chazuke – simple Japanese rice dish made by pouring a hot liquid over it
  4. Tsukemono – Japanese pickles
  5. Obanzai – traditional Kyoto-style home cooking dishes made with local ingredients
  6. Kaiseki – luxurious multi-course meal prepared with seasonal ingredients and eaten in a traditional setting

Kyoto noodle dishes

  1. Nishin Soba – Japanese buckwheat soba noodles with dried herring
  2. Kyoto Ramen – straight noodle with a rich flavoured soup broth
  3. Kyoto Udon – thick wheat flour noodle

Desserts in Kyoto

  1. Matcha Desserts – Japanese dessert made with matcha green tea
  2. Warabi Mochi – soft mochi covered with roasted soybean flour or matcha powder
  3. Mitarashi Dango – Japanese rice dumplings with sweet soy sauce glaze
  4. Kuzukiri – Kudzu starch noodles with brown sugar

What and Where to Eat in Kyoto Japan

Kyoto Famous Food

1. Yodofu and Yuba

What is Yodofu: boiled tofu made with soy beans and high-quality water in Kyoto. Can be eaten in several ways and can be found in many restaurants throughout the city.

What is Yuba: tofu skin that can be eaten in savoury dishes or can be made into a dessert like soft-serve ice cream.

Where to eat Yodofu and Yuba in Kyoto:

  1. Saga Tofu Ine (11am-9pm) -casual restaurant in Arashiyama serving different tofu set meals. English menu available.
  2. Yodofu Sagano (11am-5:30pm) – traditional restaurant in Arashiyama specializing in tofu set meals with tables overlooking the Japanese garden. English menu available.
  3. Junsei (11am-2:30pm & 5-7pm) – an elegant restaurant at the east end of Kyoto that offers tofu set meals, or you can order from the a la carte menu.
  4. Okabeya (10:30am-5pm) – traditional restaurant in Kiyomizu serving yudofu and yuba set meals. English menu available.
  5. Saga Tofu Sanchu (8am-6pm) – a cheap food stall near Arashiyama Bamboo Forest serving many noodle and tofu dishes.
  6. Yosiya (11am-5:30pm) – try their popular fried Yuba cheese (has fish paste) on a stick or try it with udon or soba noodles at the restaurant.
  7. Kyozuan (10am-5pm) – try their tofu soft serve ice cream. Sounds weird but oddly tasty! And they promise that the ice cream doesn’t fall off the cone even if you turn it upside down. They also sell soy milk donuts, soy milk pudding and other soy products.

2. Mackerel Sushi

What is Mackerel Sushi: or Sabazushi. Instead of making individually sushi separately, a thick piece of salted mackerel is placed on a bed of vinegar-seasoned rice and then individual portions are cut with a knife. Eat the pressed sushi as is; don’t need wasabi or soy sauce.

Where to eat Mackerel Sushi in Kyoto:

  1. Izugen (11am-6:30pm; closed Thursdays) – I tried the chirashi sushi (vinegar rice topped with egg, shrimp, octopus and seaweed) and mackerel zushi at this cozy Michelin sushi restaurant. English menu is available.
  2. Izuu (11am-10pm Monday, Wednesday to Saturday; 11am-9pm Sundays; closed Tuesdays) – Michelin mackerel-based sushi restaurant in Gion. I ordered Kyozushi (Kyoto-style sushi), which includes several types of pressed sushi, futomaki and mackerel sushi. English menu available.
  3. Cooked food section in department stores – you could find one or more food stalls in the cooked food section that sell prepared mackerel sushi.

3. Chazuke

What is Chazuke: simple Japanese dish that is made by pouring a dashi broth (dashi chazuke), green tea or oolong tea (ochazuke) over white rice. The dish is topped with various ingredients like fish, Tsukemono, seaweed, and much more.

Where to eat Chazuke in Kyoto:

  1. Kyoto Obuya (11am-10pm) – try dashi chazuke at this popular JR Kyoto Isetan Annex restaurant. Pour homemade dashi in your bowl of rice and sprinkle bonito flakes (dried fish flakes) on top.
  2. Saryo Fukucha (8:30am-8pm) – a cute cafe in Kyoto Station with tea chazuke on their breakfast menu.
  3. Dashi-Chazuke En (11am-10pm) – they have several dashi chazuke items at this restaurant in Kyoto Porta at Kyoto Station.
  4. Gion Duck Rice (11am-3pm & 5:30-9pm) – try their duck rice with dashi at this Gion restaurant that only has emojis on their menu.

4. Tsukemono

What is Tsukemono: Japanese vegetables pickled with salt and vinegar. Popular Tsukemono includes ginger, daikon, ume plum, turnip, cucumber, cabbage and eggplant. The colourful Japanese pickles are served as a garnish, a main course or as sushi.

Where to eat Tsukemono in Kyoto:

  1. Akoya-chaya (11am-4pm) – popular Tsukemono buffet restaurant in Kiyomizu. The lunch buffet comes with ochazuke, miso soup and monaka dessert.
  2. Gion Kawakatsu (10am-6pm; closed Wednesdays) – get a colourful set meal with 11 types of Japanese pickles with ochazuke at this Tsukemono restaurant in Gion.
  3. Kamado-Takitate-Gohan Doi (11am-8pm) – they have several locations in Kyoto where you can order set meals, which include all-you-can-eat Tsukemono. And if you can buy some to take home.
  4. Nishiri (9am-6pm) – many locations across Kyoto where you can eat in or get Tsukemono sushi boxes to-go.
  5. Nishiki Market (varies) – many shops along Nishiki Market sell Tsukemono.

5. Obanzai

What is Obanzai: traditional Kyoto-style home cooking with many ingredients produced or processed locally. This is a style of Japanese cuisine native to Kyoto.

Where to eat Obanzai in Kyoto:

  1. Gyatei (11am-2:30pm; closed Wednesdays) – Kyoto-style obanzai restaurant with a set lunch menu. The colourful obanzai set comes with 12 side dishes, including Kyoto rice with yuba, tofu skin, conger eel, and other seasonal ingredients.
  2. Nakashimaya (5pm-12am) – family-run restaurant for Kyoto obanzai cuisine during dinner service. Use Google Translate to translate the Japanese menu or check the English website before going.
  3. Kyoto Kotokoto (11am-10pm) – Japanese regional restaurant serving traditional dishes on the 11th floor of Kyoto Station. Get free-flow obanzai side dishes throughout lunch.

6. Kaiseki

What is Kaiseki: Kyoto is known for Kaiseki, which is a multi-course meal with many types of local dishes including sashimi, grilled and simmered foods, soup, rice and dessert and everything is presented meticulously. Individual dishes are prepared base on the freshness of the ingredients and seasonal changes. Both lunch and dinner courses are available but lunch is more affordable.

And most restaurants require reservations. Unfortunately, I didn’t make any reservations so I can’t show you an example of a Kyoto-style Kaiseki. However, below are three places that are highly recommended by a local.

Where to eat Kaiseki in Kyoto:

  1. Umemura (11:30am-2pm & 5-10pm) – try kaiseki lunch or dinner at this traditional Japanese restaurant in Kawaramachi. If you are there between May and October, you can have your meal on the cool summer bed next to Kamo River.
  2. Shimagamo Saryo (11:30am-3pm & 5-9pm; closed Tuesdays) – located near Shimogamao Shrine, the long-established restaurant is in a traditional Japanese house with a beautiful garden. Try their lunch or dinner kaiseki meal which is inspired by the seasons.
  3. Hiroya (11am-2pm & 5-7pm) – dine on the riverbed along the Kibune River during warmer months.

Kyoto Noodle Dishes

1. Nishin Soba

What is Nishin Soba: Japanese buckwheat soba noodles with dried herring. Since the city is located inland, people of Kyoto preserve a lot of food including herring. This popular dish has been around for over 150 years and it is one of Kyoto’s signature dish.

Where to eat Nishin Soba in Kyoto:

  1. Sohonke Nishin-Soba Matsuba (10:30am-8:40pm) – 160-year-old noodle shop in Gion with lots of soba and udon dishes.
  2. Gion Yorozuya (12-3pm & 5:30-6:40pm) – try their Michelin udon noodles with lots of green onion. Use Google Translate to read the menu but also look through the photos on Google Maps as the translation is kind of wonky.
  3. Jurakuan (11am-4pm) – traditional Japanese restaurant in Saga Arashiyama serving herring soba, tofu soba and other noodle dishes during lunch.
  4. Saga Tofu Sanchu (8am-6pm) – besides tofu dishes, the cheap food stall also serves different types of soba including herring soba, udon and tofu dishes.

2. Kyoto Ramen

What is Kyoto Ramen: straight noodle with a rich flavoured soup broth. Each ramen shop has their own signature soup broth and toppings.

Where to eat Kyoto Ramen in Kyoto:

  1. Mendokoro Janomeya (11:30am-4pm & 6-9:30pm) – popular Michelin ramen restaurant near Teramachi Street. The Toripaitan, white chicken broth ramen noodle, was delish! Use the Google Translate app to translate the menu, or pick one of the chicken ramen from the photo menu.
  2. Kamodashi Chukasoba ROKU (11am-3pm & 6-9pm) – small Michelin ramen noodle shop in Kawaramachi serving traditional Chinese noodle soup. I tried the special dashi ramen – so good!
  3. Kobushi Ramen (11:30am-2:30pm & 6-10pm; closed Wednesdays) – Michelin ramen shop near Kyoto Railway Museum. I had their delicious duck and fish soup ramen.
  4. Men-ya Inoichi (11am-2:30pm & 5:30-9pm) – small Michelin ramen shop in Kawaramachi. Even though you may have to wait a bit, their thin ramen is worth it! I had the Kyoto Pork cold dashi ramen and a side order of homemade sui mai.

3. Kyoto Udon

What is Kyoto Udon: thick noodle made from wheat flour. Many styles of udon are found throughout Japan and Kyoto has excellent water which makes delicious udon noodles. Try it hot or cold.

Where to eat Kyoto Udon in Kyoto:

  1. Kyoudon Kisoba Okakita (11am-5pm; closed Tuesdays) – a busy Michelin udon restaurant in front of Okazaki Park that serves delicious tempura cold udon and other udon noodles.
  2. Yamamoto Menzo (10am-4pm; closed Thursdays) – next door to Kyoudon Kisoba Okakita, is also a Michelin udon restaurant. But you have to make a reservation to try their burdock udon. Otherwise, buy the takeout and eat it at the park.
  3. Hinode Udon (11am-3pm; closed Sundays) – udon restaurant at the east end of the city serving lunch only. Use the Google Translate app to translate the menu or choose one of the curry udon noodles from the photo menu.
  4. Ikazuchi Udon (11:30am-3pm & 6-8pm; closed Mondays and Tuesdays) – try cold or hot udon at this Michelin udon restaurant at the east end of the city. Use Google Translate to translate the menu.
  5. Udon Arashiyama-tei (11am-4pm; closed Wednesdays) – udon restaurant south of Katsura River in Arashiyama. I had their cold homemade udon noodles with beef and onsen egg.
  6. Saga Tofu Food Stall (嵯峨豆腐 三忠) (8am-6pm) – a cheap food stall near Arashiyama Bamboo Forest serving affordable dishes including udon, herring soba, and tofu dishes.

Desserts in Kyoto

1. Matcha Dessert

What is Matcha Desserts: Japanese dessert made with matcha green tea, including soft-serve ice cream, kakigori (shaved ice dessert), warabi mochi, jelly, cookies, pudding, crepe and much more. Since Kyoto is near Uji, a city known for its high-quality green tea production, it is easy to find many types of matcha desserts throughout Kyoto

Where to eat Matcha Desserts in Kyoto:

  1. Kiyomizu, Gion, Arashiyama, Kyoto Train Station – many dessert shops have locations in the touristy areas of Kyoto. These dessert chains include Tsujiri Tea House, Maccha House, Nana’s Green Tea, Itoh Kyuemon, and Nakamura Tokichi.
  2. Toraya Karyo – Kyoto Ichijo (10am-5:30pm; closed Mondays) – a classy dessert restaurant with views of the beautiful garden. They serve many desserts, and I tried the matcha shaved ice with Azuki bean paste.

2. Warabi Mochi

What is Warabi Mochi: Japanese dessert made from warabiko (bracken starch) and covered with kinako (roasted soybean flour) or matcha (green tea). The mochi is soft in texture and mildly sweet. Usually a summer treat and they can be found in tea shops, cafes, restaurants, convenience stores and supermarkets. 

Where to eat Warabi Mochi in Kyoto:

  1. Fujinami (10am-5:30pm) – small dessert restaurant in Kiyomizu selling warabi mochi and mitarashi dango.
  2. Kiyomizu, Gion, Arashiyama, Kyoto Train Station – many dessert chains have shops in the touristy areas of Kyoto. See the names of the dessert shops above.

3. Mitarashi Dango

What is Mitarashi Dango: traditional Japanese rice dumplings with sweet-flavoured soy sauce glaze. The chewy dumplings are skewered, charred on the grill before drenching in the glaze. They are eaten in a cafe, tea house or as a quick snack.

Where to eat Mitarashi Dango in Kyoto:

  1. Kotoimo Honpo (9:30am-6pm) – they sell dango near the Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama.
  2. Ohagi no Tanya (10am-6pm) – Japanese confectionary shop in Gion specializing in dango.
  3. Fujinami (10am-5:30pm) – besides warabi mochi, they also serve mitarashi dango with a matcha drink.
  4. Umezono (10:30am-7:30pm) – their mitarashi dango is smaller and flatter but just as tasty. Order it by itself or get it with one of many dessert combos. I got an assortment of 5 types, which included mitarashi dango, warabi mochi, and other sweet treats.
  5. Wakana (11am-6pm) – small cafe in Kiyomizu serving dango and donburi meals.
  6. Jumondo (10:45am-5:30pm; closed Wednesdays and Thursdays) – small tearoom in Kiyomizu serving traditional Japanese sweets. They have many different types of dessert sets.

4. Kuzukiri

What is Kuzukiri: Kudzu starch noodles that is made with kudzu powder, which is Japanese arrowroot. Mix this starch with water, heat it and cut the solid into fine noodles. Serve it with brown sugar syrup and you have one of the most popular summer desserts in Kyoto.

Where to eat Kuzukiri in Kyoto:

  1. Kagizen Yoshifusa (9:30am-6pm; closed Mondays) – 300-year-old traditional Japanese confectionery shop and tea room in Gion. Kuzukiri is the shop’s specialty. Choose white sugar syrup or brown sugar syrup. 
  2. Toraya Karyo – Kyoto Ichijo (10am-5:30pm; closed Mondays) – classy Japanese tea room near Kyoto Imperial Palace. They serve kuzukiri and other desserts.

Which must-eat food in Kyoto are you most excited to try?

Before going to Kyoto, I wasn’t sure if there was any special local food I should try. But after spending a few weeks in the city, I learned so much about Kyoto cuisine and what the city offers.

I hope you can try most of these famous Kyoto food while you are there. Let me know in the comments which ones you tried.

Thank you for reading my Kyoto Food Guide

You might also like these other posts on solo travel in Japan and food around the world:

Introduction to Japan

Kansai region

Food around the world

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 20+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

2 Comments

  • Alex
    April 20, 2024 at 6:00 am

    Hello,

    I’m currently in Kyoto, thank you so much for the food recommendations I’ve been hitting up some of the spots you listed and let’s just say I’m am very happy:). It so hard to decide we’re to eat and you have made it much easier!!!

    10/10 recommendations!!! If anyone else reads this just use these recommendations (if you can get in lol) can’t go wrong!!!

    Thanks again:)

    T

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      April 20, 2024 at 7:34 pm

      Hi Alex,
      Oh I’m so happy to hear! Food is such a big part of my trip and finding these gems in Kyoto was so much fun! I hope to add more to the list when I go back. Enjoy Kyoto!

      Reply

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