The capital of traditional Japanese dining, Kyoto has a food scene as rich as its history. The local cuisine, known as Kyo-ryori, is defined by delicate flavors and many vegetarian meals. To experience it, here are some can't-miss dishes and activities for foodies.
The word obanzai refers to home-style cooking with a bent toward seasonal ingredients, and a typical obanzai ryori meal comprises several small, simple dishes prepared skillfully to highlight natural flavors. There's also kaiseki ryori, a traditional multi-course fine dining experience. Shojin ryori, strictly vegetarian dishes developed by Buddhist monks, can be sampled on the grounds of the city's temples.
Meanwhile, seafood plays a starring role in many restaurants, with dishes like sushi, fried fish cakes, saikyo-zuke (miso-marinated fish) and Japanese pike conger eel, a popular summer item in the region. A bento box is a great way to try several dishes at once; these can include pickled vegetables, miso soup, tempura, fish, rice and kinpira gobo, a side dish of root vegetables simmered in a sweet soy sauce.
Kyoto is also famous for its sweets, especially mochi, sweet pastel-hued rice cakes, and wagashi, a traditional Japanese confection made from a variety of ingredients and often served with green tea.
- Put your finger on the pulse of the city's foodie culture with a tour of the 400-year-old Nishiki Market and its 130 food shops and stalls.
- Learn how to prepare regional dishes or popular Japanese fare during a cooking class in a local home.
- Set aside time for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony or sake tasting and brewery tour. (Beverages are just as important in Kyoto as food.)
- Spend an evening dining with a geisha at a private restaurant, a uniquely Kyoto experience.
- Join a food walking tour to get to know one of Kyoto's vibrant neighborhoods such as Arashiyama or Kamogawa and sample Japanese treats along the way.