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As Japan's former capital and seat of the imperial court for over a thousand years, Kyoto offers a rich culinary tradition. The local food culture is diverse and ranges from aristocratic kaiseki ryori course dinners to the vegetarian shojin ryori of monks and the simple obanzai ryori home style cooking.

While some restaurants look to the past for inspiration, others experiment with new flavors. Fusion restaurants, that combine ingredients and techniques of Kyoto cuisine with cooking styles from other parts of the world, can also be found in the city. The Pontocho nightlife district is one of the best places to find good fusion restaurants alongside traditional establishments. Not far away, the Gion district also offers a wide range of interesting dining opportunities, as does the Kyoto Station area.

Regular Japanese food that is not necessarily associated with Kyoto in particular, such as ramen, sushi and udon, is also available across the city. Food fans should not miss a visit to the Nishiki Market in central Kyoto, which has been serving the city for many centuries.

Kaiseki Ryori

Kaiseki ryori has its origin in the traditional tea ceremony, but later evolved into an elaborate dining style popular among aristocratic circles. Kyoto style kaiseki ryori (kyo kaiseki) is particularly refined, placing an emphasis on subtle flavors and local and seasonal ingredients. A kaiseki meal has a prescribed order of courses which is determined by the cooking method of each dish.

A common way for travelers to enjoy kaiseki is by staying at a ryokan where a kaiseki dinner is included with the stay. But kaiseki meals can also be enjoyed at restaurants, including high end ryotei, many of which can be found in the Pontocho and Gion districts of Kyoto. A good kaiseki meal usually costs around 10,000 yen per person, but prices can go as high as 30,000 yen or as low as 6000 yen. Some restaurants depart from tradition and include elements of foreign cuisines.

Shojin Ryori

Whereas kaiseki developed out of the affluence of the aristocrats, shojin ryori developed from the austerity of Buddhist monks. Prohibited from taking the life of other living creatures, Buddhist monks had to make do without meat or fish in their diet. Consisting of strictly vegetarian dishes, shojin ryori can nonetheless be savory and filling. Travelers who spend the night at a temple lodging will be able to enjoy a meal as part of the stay.

A common ingredient in shojin ryori is tofu, which is a local specialty of Kyoto. The preparation of tofu is so common that it can also be referred to as Tofu Ryori ("tofu cuisine"). One popular dish that is widely served at restaurants is Yudofu, soft tofu simmered with vegetables in broth. A meal of Yudofu usually costs 1500 to 2000 yen, but the price can be higher or lower depending on the quality of the restaurant. The Nanzenji and Arashiyama districts are particularly famous for tofu cuisine.

Obanzai Ryori

Obanzai Ryori is the traditional home style cooking of Kyoto. It is made up of multiple small dishes that are usually quite simple to prepare. Local produce that is in season is best suited for the dishes. Although the cooking methods are usually not complicated, obanzai dishes can be made very rich by chefs skillfully bringing out the natural flavors of the ingredients.

Restaurants that serve obanzai ryori can be found all over Kyoto. Many of them have a relaxed and friendly atmosphere that reflects the home style of cooking. A full meal usually costs 2000 to 3000 yen, but can vary depending on the number and type of dishes ordered.

Kawayuka/Kawadoko

Kawayuka, or Kawadoko as it is known outside of central Kyoto, is the summer pasttime of dining outdoors on temporary platforms built over flowing water. Developed as a way to beat the summer heat, kawayuka is a great way to experience one of the traditional Kyoto cuisines listed above while taking in the cooling effects of the flowing water and lively summer atmosphere.

The most famous area to experience kawayuka is along the Kamogawa River in central Kyoto, especially around Pontocho. From May to September, restaurants here construct temporary wooden decks over the canal on the river's west bank. Many places serve kaiseki meals, however other types of cuisine are also available.

Kibune and Takao in the forested mountains just north of central Kyoto, are also popular places to try kawayuka, although here it is called kawadoko. In Kibune especially, the platforms are built just centimeters above the river and provide almost complete relief from the summer heat.

Terrace dining is popular, especially along Kamogawa River in the evenings on weekends and during holidays, when advance reservations are a must at most river facing restaurants along Pontocho (usually in Japanese by phone).

Hotels around Kyoto

Top rated in Kyoto
Budget:
    • Guesthouse Engawa
      Budget-friendly
      Guesthouse Engawa offers accommodation in Kyoto. Guests can relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of Kyoto in their rooms. Each comes with a flat-screen TV, and an electric kettle will be provided upon request. Bathroom facilities are shared with other guests. Free toiletries and hairdryers are also available. There is luggage storage space at the property. Kiyomizu-dera Temple is 600 metres from Guesthouse Engawa, while Heian Shrine is 2.4 km from the property. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 39 km from the property.
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    • IMAYA Hostel Kyoto
      Budget-friendly
      Attractively situated in the centre of Kyoto, IMAYA Hostel Kyoto features air-conditioned rooms, a bar, free WiFi and a shared lounge. The property is situated less than 1 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum, a 16-minute walk from Nijo Castle and 2.4 km from Samurai Kembu Kyoto. The accommodation provides a shared kitchen, a concierge service and luggage storage for guests. All guest rooms at the hostel are fitted with a flat-screen TV and a kitchenette. The rooms have a shared bathroom, slippers and bed linen. Kyoto Imperial Palace is 2.9 km from IMAYA Hostel Kyoto, while Heian Shrine is 3.1 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 48 km from the accommodation.
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    • Guesthouse KYOTO COMPASS
      Budget-friendly
      Located in Kyoto, this traditional Japanese guest house features free Wi-Fi and a free public computer. Shichijo Onmae bus stop is 3 minutesf walk away. A seating area and shared bathroom are provided with each room at Guesthouse KYOTO COMPASS. Free toiletries are provided and blankets are available upon request. Select rooms have a garden view. A shared living area and bicycles are available for guestsf use during their stay at this Kyoto Guesthouse Compass. Access to the shared kitchen is available upon request. The guest house is 4.5 km from Imperial Palace and 2.2 km from Kyoto Station. Nijo Castle and Toji Castle are within a 30 minutesf bus ride away.
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    • Gallery Nozawa Inn
      Budget-friendly
      Gallery Nozawa Inn offers accommodation in Kyoto, 25 minutes on foot from JR Kyoto Station. Free WiFi is available throughout the property. Every room includes a flat-screen TV and air conditioning. Each room is equipped with a private toilet, and bathrooms are shared. For your comfort, you will find free toiletries and a hairdryer. There is luggage storage space at the property. Guests can sample Japanese-style breakfast featuring seasonal ingredients. There is a public bathhouse located a 10-minute walk away. Nijo Castle is 2.4 km from Gallery Nozawa Inn, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.4 km from the property. Osaka Itami Airport is 36 km away.
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    • Guest House Oumi
      Budget-friendly
      Well set in the centre of Kyoto, Guest House Oumi provides air-conditioned rooms, a shared lounge, free WiFi and a garden. Featuring family rooms, this property also provides guests with a terrace. The accommodation offers a shared kitchen and room service for guests. All units include a shared bathroom, slippers and bed linen. A continental breakfast is available daily at the guest house. Nijo Castle is less than 1 km from guesthouseoumi, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.2 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 48 km from the accommodation.
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    • Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie
      Luxury
      Ideally situated in the Shimogyo Ward district of Kyoto, Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie is situated 1.3 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum, 1.9 km from Samurai Kembu Kyoto and 2.3 km from TKP Garden City Kyoto. Among the facilities at this property are a 24-hour front desk and a concierge service, along with free WiFi throughout the property. The hotel has family rooms. The hotel will provide guests with air-conditioned rooms offering a wardrobe, a kettle, a fridge, a safety deposit box, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with a bidet. At Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandere the rooms have bed linen and towels. An American breakfast is available each morning at the accommodation. Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie offers a terrace. Shoren-in Temple is 2.7 km from the hotel, while Nijo Castle is 2.8 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 48 km from Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandere.
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    • Ryokan Mugen (Adult Only)
      Luxury
      Mugen is a property that was built 160 years ago, situated in Kyoto, 1 km from Nijo Castle. Every room at Mugen features an en suite shower room, toilet, free toiletries and a hairdryer. Free WiFi is available throughout the entire property. You will find a shared lounge on site and a bar at the annex building. The ryokan also offers bike hire. Imperial Palace is 1.1 km from Mugen, while Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is 1.6 km from the property. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 39 km from the property.
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    • Kyono Mori Yurinsha
      Mid-range
      Boasting a bar and views of city, Kyono Mori Yurinsha is set in Kyoto, 1.5 km from Sanjusangen-do Temple. Among the facilities of this property are a restaurant, room service and luggage storage space, along with free WiFi. The property is 2.2 km from the city centre and 2.6 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum. All guest rooms come with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with cable channels, a microwave, a kettle, a shower, slippers and a desk. The rooms feature a private bathroom, a hairdryer and bed linen. Guests at the inn can enjoy a ? la carte or an American breakfast. Kyono Mori Yurinsha provides an ironing service, as well as business facilities like fax and photocopying. Popular points of interest near the accommodation include Kiyomizu-dera Temple, TKP Garden City Kyoto and Samurai Kembu Kyoto. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 47 km from Kyono Mori Yurinsha.
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    • Yadoya Kikokuso
      Mid-range
      Yadoya Kikokuso is set in Kyoto, a 10-minute walk away from JR Kyoto Station and a 5-minute walk from Shichijo Station of the Keihan Line. Kiyomizu-dera Temple is 2 km from Yadoya Kikokuso. Higashi Honganji Temple and Sanjusangen-do Temple are respectively a 5 and 10-minute walk from the property. Every room is equipped with a flat-screen TV. Certain units have a seating area where you can relax. The rooms are fitted with a shared bathroom. Extras include slippers and free toiletries. There is luggage storage space at the property. Samurai Kembu Kyoto is 2 km from Yadoya Kikokuso, while Tofuku-ji Temple is 2 km away. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 37 km from the property.
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    • Ryokan Tori
      Mid-range
      Ryokan Tori is located in Kyoto, 2 km from Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. The property is around 2.3 km from Nijo Castle and Kyoto Imperial Palace. The property is 3.2 km from Kinkaku-ji Temple and 3.7 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum. All guest rooms in the ryokan are fitted with a kettle. Each room has a shared bathroom, while selected rooms are fitted with a balcony and others also offer a garden view. All rooms will provide guests with a fridge. Guests at tori can enjoy an Asian breakfast. Heian Shrine is 5 km from the accommodation. Itami Airport is 50 km from the property.
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