Kyoto’s Top Foodie Experiences You Have to Try

Kyoto breathes history and tradition. As Japan’s capital for over 1,000 years, it comes as no surprise that Kyoto is also home to some of it’s finest cuisine. Our local insider, Bjorn, uncovers the best dishes in this ancient capital.


Kyoto Street Food Stall Photo © iStock/NicolasMcComber

Kyoto-style Sushi

Sushi here comes in a variety of unique styles, each either incorporating a key local ingredient or takes into account variations in diet. 

The most-loved and internationally renowned is saba sugata sushi. It’s made of mackerel, laid on top of packed sushi rice, and wrapped with thick pickled kelp. 

In the past, mackerel was a luxurious ingredient and hard to come by, yet its excellent taste and texture convinced Kyoto’s chefs to devote decades of their life to refine and balance the dish to perfection.

Be Tempted at Nishiki Market

A trip to Kyoto is never complete without a visit to Nishiki Market. After all, the narrow shopping street lined with dozens of shops is known to be “Kyoto’s Kitchen”. 

Ranging from renowned sake (rice wine), fresh seafood and some of Japan’s purest green tea, Nishiki Market is a foodie’s heaven. It’s hard to resist the free samples offered. 

You have to try the warabi mocha. It’s a sweet made from bracken starch covered by toasted soybean flour, perfect with an equally rich cup of green tea.

Yatsuhashi – Higashiyama’s Delight

The walk towards the 1,200 year-old Kiyomizu-dera temple is filled with shops and restaurants. One street snack you have to try is yatshuhashi. It’s a flat, triangular-shaped sweet, made by mixing rice-based flour with sugar.

It’s then garnished with flavoured pastes such as azuki beans, or with chocolate or fruit between the sheets. These are by far the most popular omiyage (souvenier) and definitely worth a try.

Kaiseki Dining Over the Mountain River

For our final culinary delight, we have to leave Kyoto’s main streets and head into the mountains of Kifune to the north, or Takao to the east. 

Known as kawayuka, or kawadoko, guests are invited to a kaiseki dining experience on a temporary platform, built over a flowing mountain river. This unforgettable experience is a favourite amongst locals.

Kaiseki is a traditional, multi-course meal, with each dish elaborately ordained in the style of the preparing chef. These dishes are often small, yet carefully balanced to enhance each ingredient’s individual flavour. 

While it might not come cheap, nothing encompasses Kyoto’s culinary excellence and devotion as a kaiseki course made from the finest local ingredients.

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