8 Local Foods in Kyoto That You Can Relax and Eat

One thing that you look forward to when traveling is food. If you come to Kyoto, Kyoto’s upright, formal cuisine is good but if you want to relax and eat, then you should definitely try the more local cuisine. This time, we’ll be introducing 8 recommended local foods from meals to sweets.

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1. Yudofu

If you visit Kyoto, one thing you have to try is yudofu (boiled tofu). Tofu is placed in a pot with kelp soup stock and heated, then the tofu is dipped in the dashi stock or ponzu (citrus vinegar sauce) and eaten. A very simple food but the delicate flavor is very Japanese and you can taste the essence of Kyoto. As Kyoto was originally a place with many temples, yudofu was eaten as part of Buddhist monks’ vegetarian cuisine. Even now, particularly in Kyoto city’s Higashiyama area, there are a number of long-standing shops that offer yudofu beginning with “Okutan” which was established in 1635 and is located close to Nanzenji temple. So be sure to try it for yourself.

2. Kyoto Ramen

In Japan, each area currently has its own local variation of ramen and the strong soy-sauce based flavor is characteristic of Kyoto ramen. Close to Kyoto station is the “Shinpuku Saikan Honten” and next to it is “Daiichi Asahi” which are both well-known, long-standing ramen shops that have lines of customers every day. In addition, the areas of Ichijoji and Higashioji-dori neighborhood in Sakyo-ku and Fushimi-ku are said to be "ramen battlegrounds", due to the many ramen shops that have opened, so you are sure to find your favorite.

※Pictured is Shinpuku Saikan shop’s ramen.

3. Nishin Soba

One of Kyoto’s specialty cuisine is “Nishin Soba”. Well-boiled sweet and salty herring is placed on top of soba and the soup’s characteristic stock is made using dried bonito, lightly flavored soy sauce and Kelp which comes together in a mild, refined flavor. In Japan, it is a custom to eat soba on New Year’s Eve and the type of soba eaten varies based on region. However in Kyoto, Nishin soba is commonly eaten. Close to Shijo Ohashi in Kyoto City across from Minamiza is “Matsuba” which is said to be the inventor of Nishin soba but you can also eat it at many other soba restaurants in Kyoto.

*Image is for illustration purposes.

4. Kyoto Gyuzen

One of the best things about traveling around Japan by train is the ekiben (train station boxed lunches) packed with the local foods. At Kyoto station, an ekiben you will want to buy without a doubt is the “Kyoto Gyuzen” (1,000JPY tax included) from Awajiya which was established in 1903. An ample amount of sukiyaki style seasoned beef is laid atop of rice and garnished with one of Kyoto’s famous pickled vegetables “suguki pickles (fermented sugukina turnips are pickled in salt). Be sure to savor it on the bullet train from Kyoto.

5. Kaneyo Kinshidon

In the Pontocho-dori red light district between Kamogawa and Kiyamachi-dori, there are many high-class restaurants lined up. In this place is a long-standing unagi restaurant established over a period of 100 years “Kyogoku Kaneyo” which offers the “Kinshidon” (regular size: 2,100JPY tax included). The eel is grilled with a base of salty-sweet soy sauce and placed atop of rice with a thick fried egg, making a superb dish. This is an item that you can only eat at this restaurant so be sure to come and give it a try.

6. Mitarashi Dango

The Japanese style confectionery that is familiar throughout the country, Mitarashi dango. The name is said to originate from the “Mitarashi festival” originally held at the Shimogamo shrine. The “Kamo Mitarashi Tea House” close to the Shimogamo shrine where Mitarashi dango are said to have originated is often bustling with tourists. Mochi rice is shaped into balls for dango and skewered on sticks, they are lightly grilled, covered with a sweet soy sauce glaze and eaten. If you are in Japan “Mitarashi Dango” is sweets that you must try.

*Image is for illustration purposes.

7. Donuts

Kyoto does not only have Japanese-style sweets but there are also many shops that sell Western-style confectioneries. Among others, there are many donut specialty shops; donuts made from regional ingredients, donuts made from ingredients that are good for your body and more. Each shop offers its own original flavors. Some of the exemplary shops are “Hitsuji”, “Sakihana”, “Miyako Donuts”, “Kinzou”, “Konna Mon Ja” and more. During the day, it might be fun to explore the various shops and gaze at the streets of the ancient city.

*Image is for illustration purposes.

8. Bread

As a matter of fact, Kyoto is the biggest consumer of bread in all of Japan’s administrative divisions. There are even chain stores and lots of bakeries. Among other things, Imadegawa street located in the northern part of Kyoto City that passes in front of Kyoto University and runs from east to west is called “Bread Highway” due to the many bakeries lined up here. Some exemplary shops are “Shinshindo”, “Shiduya”,”Maruki-sei pan-jo”, “Le Petit Mec” and more, with each shop offering its own original goods. No doubt about it, it will be hard to choose from the many shops available. Just like the donuts, we recommend walking around and eating.

*Image is for illustration purposes.

There you have it, local foods that you can eat freely in Kyoto. When you go sightseeing in Kyoto, be sure to give these foods a try.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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