Inspiration

The Terroir of Kyoto on a Plate: Seven Great Local Eateries

2023.06.01

Kyoto by the Sea Woodland Kyoto Kyoto Tea Country Kyoto Otokuni Bamboo Grove

With a history of more than a thousand years, Kyoto has earned a reputation as a food capital, but it’s not limited to the city. All manner of tasty gastronomical experiences await further afield across Kyoto Prefecture. From the fresh seafood of the Sea of Japan to the wild plants and game of the central mountains, from delicious rice and vegetables nurtured by pristine countryside water to some of the best green tea in the country, and the rising-star of health-conscious eating, fermented foods, there’s so much to enjoy throughout the region. So dig in as we introduce some of Kyoto’s deeper food culture organized here into three categories.

1. Farm-to-table: Fresh Vegetables Straight from the Field

As we become more aware of food safety, food miles and other environmental aspects of eating, more restaurants are choosing to use local ingredients. Locally sourced vegetables are not only better for the planet but also fresher and sweeter. Restaurants are focusing on simple cooking that lets the natural flavors of the ingredients shine.

  

 Maizuru Fururu Farm (Maizuru City)

A Farmers Restaurant with an Ocean View

Maizuru Fururu Farm in northern Kyoto Prefecture is located on the Oura Peninsula that juts out above the port city of Maizuru. Blessed with fresh seafood from the Sea of Japan and rich natural environs that produce an abundance of fruit and vegetables, the area is a veritable playground for foodies.

The farm itself is an agricultural theme park with expansive grounds. The numerous facilities and attractions include an animal farm, two restaurants, a market selling local agricultural and marine products, a dessert shop, and gardens where the farm grows its own produce largely pesticide-free.

Particularly recommended is Fururu Farm Restaurant. The restaurant offers buffet-style dining with about 80 to 100 dishes made with local seafood and seasonal vegetables from Fururu and nearby farms, so you can feast on all the tasty goodness that Maizuru has to offer till your heart’s content. The ingredients are all freshly picked or caught, as you can tell with just one bite!

Take in the beautiful view of the sparkling blue waters of Wakasa Bay from the restaurant and go for a post-dining stroll in the clean air of the farm grounds. The nourishing fare and soothing natural surroundings will refresh both body and soul.

Address: 60 Sezaki, Aza, Maizuru City, Kyoto Prefecture
Fururu Farm Restaurant Hours: Lunch 11:00 am – 3:00 pm (last orders 2:00 pm), Dinner (Saturdays only) 18:00 – 21:00 (last orders 19:30)
https://fururufarm.com/(Japanese only)

Maizuru Fururu Farm

Furufuru Farm is located away from Maizuru’s city center, surrounded by mountains and the sea.
Multiple cottages are available for rent, and there are a variety of ways to enjoy your time here, from barbecueing to e-bike riding to stargazing.
The popular lunch buffet is hearty and sure-to-satisfy.

  

 Hito-to-ki Gallery Café (Kizugawa City)

Vegetable-packed Lunches in a Casual Café

Kizugawa City in the southernmost part of Kyoto Prefecture is a historical area that was the location of the capital for a time in the mid-8th century. It’s also known for agriculture. The banks of the Kizu River that runs through the city are fertile grounds for growing vegetables and rice, and hilly areas produce bamboo shoots, fruit and green tea. Don’t miss out on sampling some of these local delights after exploring the area.

The popular Hito-to-ki Café is a great place to enjoy delicious local vegetables and rice. An old house-turned-café located in a sleepy residential area among tranquil fields, it has a relaxed atmosphere that feels like visiting the home of an old friend from the moment you take your shoes off to go inside.

Lunch is cooked by the café owner Katsumi Morita. There are two options: a Japanese-style meal that includes a steaming bowl of Kizugawa Hinohikari rice; and a toast set with toast made from light, fluffy bread from a nearby bakery. Both sets allow you to enjoy plenty of seasonal vegetables from local farms.

The Japanese-style meal is a visual feast beautifully presented on shiny lacquerware that sets off the colorful vegetables and looks mouthwatering! The day we visited, the main dish was a Western-style version of oden, a traditional Japanese hotpot dish. Morita’s iteration consists of chicken and vegetables simmered in a light, golden broth until they’re so tender, they fall apart with chopsticks. It has a gentle, understated flavor that permeates the body and soothes the soul.

Dessert can be ordered for an extra charge. There are also arts, crafts and ceramic items made by local artists for sale in the café.

Hito-to-Ki Gallery Café

Hito-to-Ki Gallery Café

This old home-turned-café is full of people who go out of their way to visit for its lunch, made with Hinohikari rice from Kizugawa and rice from locally contracted farmers. Artist’s pieces are also d …

2. Epicurean Delights of Kyoto’s Forests

When it comes to food, Kyoto might be known for dishes like yudofu simmered tofu or elaborate kaiseki meals, but they are the mere tip of the region’s epicurean iceberg. For a next-level gourmet experience, the blessings of the forest are the key. Home to beautiful mountains, forests and rivers, the inland areas of Kyoto Prefecture are the place to visit for rustic, seasonal flavors such as mountain plants, wild game and river fish.

 Miyamotoya (Kameoka City)

Fruits of the Forest to Stimulate all Five Senses

Miyamotoya is a restaurant in Kameoka City just over the mountains to the west of Kyoto City. Close to the Yunohana mountain hot spring resort and boasting a history of over 90 years, this eatery is well accustomed to feeding discerning-palated travelers and locals alike.

Third-generation owner Kunitaka Kido says that Tamba, as the central part of Kyoto Prefecture is called, has long held a reputation as a treasure house of delicious ingredients. For example, there are bamboo shoots and mountain plants in spring, the summer delicacy of sweetfish (known also as “fragrant fish” due to its fresh fragrance), and plump wild boar in winter. In addition, Kameoka City is famous for quality vegetables and rare Kameoka beef. Miyamotoya’s course meals feature the best of this Tamba seasonal produce.

“Ingredients taste very different depending on the topography of the field, the sunlight, and the producer’s approach, so I always examine them carefully and select the very best for the restaurant,” says Kido. You can also experience luxury ingredients at Miyamotoya such as the prized matsutake mushroom, an autumn delicacy dubbed “the truffle of Japan” that is renowned for its fragrance. There is even a menu option where diners can go matsutake-picking and then eat their matsutake in a beef hotpot.

The authentic full course meals are served at traditional-style floor seating. There is also table seating where customers can enjoy casual Japanese meals for about 1,000 yen per person without a reservation. Please be sure to take a Japanese speaker with you to translate.

Address: 32 Dainichido, Hiedanocho-saeki, Kameoka City, Kyoto Prefecture
Hours: Lunch 11:30 am – 2:00 pm (until 3:00 pm on Saturdays), Dinner from 5:00 pm
Closed on Thursdays
https://www.miyamotoya.jp/(Japanese only)

Miyamoto-ya

Miyamoto-ya

Miyamoto-ya is a restaurant in Kameoka City. Boasting a history of over 90 years, Miyamotoya’s course meals feature the best of the Tamba area’s seasonal produce, such as mountain plants in spring, an …

  

 Yamanoue Shokudo (Yosano-cho)

A Mountain Eatery with a View

A visit to the Japanese countryside wouldn’t be complete without eating somewhere unpretentious frequented by the local crowd. After all, nothing beats an inexpensive meal full of ingredients from the area enjoyed amidst the chatter of the regulars!

One such place is Yamanoue Shokudo in Yosano-cho in the northern part of the prefecture that is known as “Kyoto by the Sea.” The restaurant itself is about 20 minutes from the coast by car partway up the verdant Mt. Oeyama. It’s part of Kaya Yamanoie, a guest house that opened in 2021 in a newly renovated accommodation facility that has served the area for more than 40 years.

Manager and head cook Hiroshi Aoki is Yosano born and bred. Aoki’s food includes lots of local ingredients prepared with his own unique epicurean sensibility developed by working in Japanese, Italian and Vietnamese restaurants and backpacking around the world in search of the delicious.

Aoki personally prepares fresh deer and boar meat from animals caught in the nearby mountains in a game meat processing facility on the premises. The meat is served in the restaurant as hamburgers and steak. The rice and vegetables also come from surrounding farms and taste fantastic.

Local craft beer made with fresh Yosano-grown hops is available at the bar. The restaurant also serves coffee roasted by a local roaster and its own house-made juice. The friendly staff speak English and are a good source of travel information.

Address: 1401 Atsue, Yosano-cho, Yosa-gun, Kyoto Prefecture
Hours:Lunch 11:00 am – 2:00 pm (last orders), Dinner 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm (last orders) Reservations are required for dinner.
Closed on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays
https://kaya-yamanoie.com/

Kaya Yamanoie

We are located in Tango in northern Kyoto, surrounded by the Oeyama mountain range. Our inn is nestled in the middle of the mountains. It is a pristine rural setting, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The air is clear and you can sometimes see a sea of ​​clouds in the early morning. Lend your ears to the sound of the wind and the songs of the birds and insects, and experience the nostalgic way of life of Atsue. Using rice from the terraced fields below, seasonal produce, and game meat from our own butcher shop, we serve dishes that are good for both the body and soul.

3. Experience the Latest Food Trends

Our final category is an eclectic collection of culinary experiences that reflect the breadth of Kyoto’s gastronomy culture—food and sweets containing green tea, the fermented food trend, and finally a super-spicy dish that also packs something of a punch in entertainment value.

  

 Itoh Kyuemon Uji Main Store Sabo (Uji City)

Chill out with elegant matcha sweets

Let’s take a break from main meals and switch focus to sweets and drinks. The national drink of Japan is of course green tea, and the southern part of Kyoto Prefecture is where some of the country’s best quality green tea is grown. Known as Uji-cha (Uji tea), it is highly fragrant and has a mild flavor with relatively little bitterness. Kyoto Prefecture also boasts the greatest output anywhere in Japan of the finely ground green tea called matcha that is currently enjoying worldwide popularity as a superfood. Visiting Kyoto’s tea region gives you the chance not only to sample the famous beverage but also to indulge in delectable matcha sweets and foods.

Established in 1832, Itoh Kyuemon is one of Japan’s great tea purveyors and a favorite with fans of matcha sweets. Two of its three locations in Uji City have tearooms offering a range of matcha parfaits, cakes and Japanese sweets created by a specialist pâtissier.

The most popular item is the parfaits. There are always at least five types on the menu including seasonal varieties such as cherry blossom and matcha in spring, peach and grape in summer, Mon Blanc in autumn, and chocolate and strawberry in winter. Not only divine-tasting, these creations are visually exquisite—you’d be forgiven for thinking the beautiful parfait in front of you was actually a collection of colorful jewels.

Savory light meal options are also available. We recommend the matcha soba or curry udon noodles. The bright green color comes from matcha kneaded into the dough when making the noodles. There is also a large gift shop where you can pick up treats to take home afterwards.

Itoh Kyuemon

Itoh Kyuemon

Founded in 1832, this Uji tea specialty shop offers a variety of Uji teas, as well as sweets made from Uji matcha green tea that make for perfect gifts. At the attached teahouse visitors can make thei …

  

 Kyoto Hanakoji (Muko City)

Amazake, the Fatigue-fighting Fermented Drink

Amid a global health boom, Japanese fermented foods are rapidly gaining attention for their benefits to the immune system. There are many different kinds of fermented foods around the world, but the Japanese diet includes an especially wide variety of them. Some of the more famous ones are condiments such as miso and soy sauce, sake (rice wine), and pickles, but there’s even fermented sushi.

Emi Nonaka is a firm believer in the power of fermentation and runs a grocery store and café in Muko City that specializes in fermented foods.

Nonaka is especially interested in koji malt, a kind of mold unique to Japan that is cultivated on grains such as rice, barley or soybeans (see the image above). Koji is the key to fermentation in Japan, having played an essential role in the making of miso, soy sauce, sake and the like since ancient times. Nonaka explains that the fermentation process not only enhances ingredients’ umami and sweetness, but also makes them effective in promoting digestion and healthy gut flora. Additionally, she tells us that fermented foods are rich in vitamin B and therefore beneficial for combating fatigue and maintaining healthy skin.

The store carries a range of condiments and foods made with koji that Nonaka spends three days cultivating. Some of the more popular items include enzyme juice made with seasonal fruits and sweets containing healthy okara (soy pulp).

The most popular product is fermented amazake-based drinks (amazake is a drink made from rice koji). They’re offered in eight different flavors including matcha, cocoa, and frozen fruit and are delicious warm or chilled. “Amazake is Japan’s own traditional ‘energy drink’ and a wonderful pick-me-up when you’re tired,” says Nonaka. “It’s so nutritious it’s dubbed the ‘intravenous drip that you drink,’ and healthy because it’s naturally sweet so there’s no need to add sugar.” A glass of amazake at Kyoto Hanakoji sounds like just the ticket to recharge during your travels!

Address: 3-2 Nishitanakase, Teradocho, Muko City, Kyoto Prefecture
Hours:11:00 am – 6:00 pm
Closed on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays (and occasionally on other days)
https://kyotohanakouji.com/ (Japanese only)

Kyoto Hanakoji

Kyoto Hanakoji

Kyoto Hanakoji carries a range of condiments and foods made with koji (a kind of mold used for fermenting food products) that spends three days cultivating. Some of the more popular items include enzy …

  

 Super Spicy Shopping District in Muko City, Kyoto

A Pilgrimage to the Holy Land of Hot Food

One of the joys of eating in Kyoto is the huge variety of food available. Not only can you sample all the subtle flavors of traditional Kyoto cuisine, but there’s almost any kind of domestic and international cooking you can name. One of those is extremely spicy food. Spicy food booms occur regularly in Japan, and in recent years one has been sparked, at least in part, by Muko City southwest of Kyoto City.

In 2009, the city set out to revitalize its flagging shopping district. They named it “Super Spicy Shopping District,” and the local traders started selling various types of extremely fiery food they devised in their shops and restaurants. The idea was a sizzling success, and now Muko City is something of a holy land for lovers of spicy food who make the pilgrimage there from around the world.

Kirin-en’s Tan Tan Ramen, also available in a take-home kit.

One of these foods is tan tan ramen noodles by Kirin-en, a Chinese restaurant that has been in the neighborhood for over 50 years. The dish has the distinction of being the winner of the inaugural “Kara-1 Grand Prix” held by Muko City in 2012 to determine Japan’s best super spicy dish. It has enjoyed unwavering popularity ever since.

Tan tan ramen as they are known in Japan evolved from a spicy, soup-less noodle dish that originated in Shicuan, China—the soup is a Japanese addition. Kirin-en’s owner Ryo Miyachi explains that the restaurant’s tan tan ramen soup consists of a chicken and sesame broth with five types of chili peppers, including bhut jolokia, a variety 800 times hotter than jalapeno. This combination of ingredients gives it both depth and spiciness. Indeed, with the rich, deep flavor of the sesame and niku miso (minced meat fried in miso) amid the searing heat of the spices, it tastes superb.

First-time visitors to Kirin-en can choose from five levels of spiciness (level 2 is the most popular). If you finish a whole bowl of level 5 noodles successfully, you’ll be allowed to attempt levels 6 to 10. Spicy food is the perfect way to work up a cooling sweat in summer or boost your body temperature and metabolism in winter, so why not add some spice to your trip with a hot energy boost?

More information about Super Spicy Shopping District:
https://kyoto-gekikara.com/ (Japanese only)

Kirin-en
Address: 5-54 Higashitanakase, Teradocho, Muko City, Kyoto Prefecture
Hours: 11:00 am – 2:00 pm (last orders 1:25 pm), 4:30 pm – 11:00 pm (last orders 10:15 pm)
Closed on Tuesdays
https://kirinen.com/ (Japanese only)

Super Spicy Shopping District Kirin-en

Super Spicy Shopping District Kirin-en

Kirin-en is a Chinese restaurant that’s been in business for over 50 years. It serves tan tan ramen noodles, a dish that has the distinction of winning the inaugural “Kara-1 Grand Prix” held by Muko C …