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

While some restaurants look to the past for inspiration, others experiment with new flavors. Fusion restaurants, which 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 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, seasonal ingredients. A kaiseki meal has a prescribed order of courses which is determined by the cooking method of each dish.

One way for travelers to enjoy kaiseki is 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. 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 6,000 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 tofu restaurants in Kyoto 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 Kyoto cuisine 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 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

    • Ryokufuso
      A friendly Japanese hotel near Nishi Honganji temple. 5min by taxi from JR Kyoto Sta. Enjoy your stay with the Japanese room and communal baths. Free Wi-Fi & parking lot.
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    • Japanese hotel, Ryokan Nishiyama
      Experience the real Japan at our affordable ryokan. Close to major tourist spots in Kyoto.
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    • Ryokan Hirashin
      A traditional hotel with spacious rooms and high speed Wi-Fi. Conveniently located in the heart of Kyoto city. 3min to Shijo Karasuma Sta. and 5min to the famous Nishiki Market.
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    • Arashiyama Hanaikada
      A little, superior ryokan right near Togetsukyo Bridge in Arashiyama. Free transfer from JR station. Private bath and open-air baths available. 5min walk to the Bamboo Groves.
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Top rated in Kyoto
Budget:
    • 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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    • Mitsuki Kyoto
      Budget-friendly
      In a prime location in Kyoto, Mitsuki Kyoto offers a vegetarian breakfast and free WiFi. The property features inner courtyard and quiet street views, and is 600 metres from Kyoto International Manga Museum. The accommodation features full-day security and luggage storage space for guests. The ryokan provides certain units with garden views, and the units are equipped with a private bathroom. Guests can enjoy a vegan or a gluten-free breakfast, which can also be delivered to your room. A bar can be found on-site. The area is popular for cycling, and bike hire is available at this 2-star ryokan. Guests can relax in the garden at the property. Nijo Castle is 1.1 km from the ryokan, while Kyoto Shigaku Kaikan Conference Hall is 1.8 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 46 km from Mitsuki Kyoto.
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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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    • 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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    • Kyonoyado Gekkoan
      Luxury
      Set in the Nakagyo Ward district in Kyoto, Kyonoyado Gekkoan offers an equipped accommodation with an balcony and free WiFi. The property is 1.1 km from Nijo Castle. This holiday home comes with a kitchenette with a microwave and a toaster, a flat-screen TV, a seating area and a bathroom with a bath. A vegetarian or continental breakfast is available daily at the property. Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.1 km from the holiday home. Osaka Itami Airport is 37 km from the property.
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    • 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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    • 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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    • Yado Kiramachi
      Luxury
      Yado Kiramachi offers accommodation set 600 metres from the centre of Kyoto and provides a garden and a terrace. The air-conditioned accommodation is 600 metres from Kyoto Shigaku Kaikan Conference Hall. The ryokan features family rooms. Certain units in the ryokan have private entrance and are equipped with desk and wardrobe. With a private bathroom, units at the ryokan also have free WiFi, while selected rooms will provide you with a balcony. At the ryokan, some units are soundproof. A bar can be found on-site. Kyoto International Manga Museum is 1.3 km from the ryokan, while Gion Shijo Station is 1.6 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 45 km from Yado Kiramachi.
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    • Guesthouse HANA Nishijin
      Mid-range
      Guesthouse HANA Kyoto is located in Kyoto, 300 metres from Kitano Tenmangu and 1.2 km from Kinkaku-ji Temple. A simple complimentary breakfast service is provided for guests. Bathroom facilities are shared. Guesthouse HANA Kyoto features free WiFi throughout the property. There is a shared kitchen and a common area with a TV at the property. Nijo Castle is 2.1 km from Guesthouse HANA Kyoto, while Imperial Palace is 2.3 km from the property. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 39 km from Guesthouse HANA Kyoto.
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    • Rangetsu
      Luxury
      Located in a quiet neighborhood in Arashiyama district, Rangetsu offers Japanese-style accommodations with a private Hinoki cypress wood bath and free wired internet access. Guests can also relax in the public indoor/outdoor baths as well. Keifuku Arashiyama Train Station is a 10-minute walk away. The air-conditioned rooms feature tatami (woven-straw) floors and Japanese futon bedding. Each comes with a flat-screen TV, a fridge and a safety deposit box. Japanese Yukata robes are provided for all guests. Some rooms have a private open-air bath. Rangetsu Ryokan is a 15-minute walk from Arashiyama Monkey Park and a 10-minute walk from Tenryu-ji Temple. Togetsu Bridge is a 5-minute walk and Hankyu Arashiyama Train Station is a 15-minute walk away. Photocopying services and luggage storage is offered at the front desk. Free parking is on-site.
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Experiences around Kyoto

Top rated in Kyoto