When you think of symbols of Kyoto, you are bound to think of the old townscape and geisha, and both of them can be found in the hanamachi geisha districts of Kyoto. All the hanamachi districts are either connected or close to each other, so they offer a great place to enjoy sightseeing in Kyoto for a whole day. And in Gion there are many great restaurants that offer such delicious dishes that there is always a line in front of them, so, let us start on our journey to discover the culinary wonders of Kyoto!
First, we have the sidewalk with many great shops by it, and many of the shops offer souvenirs, so many tourists stop by here. The cute tasty sweets on sale look so nice that you sometimes buy a bit too much.
If you walk until the end of Shijo Street, you get to Yasaka Shrine, which is one of the most famous sights in Kyoto. At this shrine there are usually also foodstalls so you can also enjoy some traditional Japanese street food while you check out the temple.
And the famous Shirakawa River is packed with people during the cherry blossom season in spring, but the river is a nice place to visit even when there are no cherry blossoms, as the elegant green of the leaves is also really beautiful.
If you come to Kyoto, you have to also go see the alleys. No matter which one you go to, they are all full of surprises. The way the shops and people’s houses stand side by side, and how they all look like they belong to a past era, is something that makes you long for the past.
It’s getting to be lunchtime, and I’m starting to get hungry, so I have two restaurants for you that offer delicious Japanese cuisine. The rice bowl topped with tempura is definitely going to leave you satisfied. The other one is udon noodles, a great choice for those who wish to have something a bit lighter. What do you want to have for lunch today?
First, I have a tempura restaurant that is loved by locals and tourists alike, and which always has a line in front of the restaurant during lunch hours.
The plum, big shrimp on top of the rice are lightly battered and then deep fried, making the batter crispy and the taste so good that you can’t stop eating.
The rice bowl born from the fusion of shrimp and anago eel tempura is a chance to have two types of seafood at once, and it is something I can recommend. Authentic tempura is not too oily, and for lunch the price is also reasonable, so tempura is a great choice for lunch. The entrance to this restaurant is quite narrow so it’s easy to overlook, but just look for a restaurant with a long line in front of it and you will find it easily!
This udon noodle restaurant is close to Kodai-ji Temple, located in a Japanese style building and especially the noren curtains at the entrance of the restaurant are eye-catching.
When eating the noodles you can make the dipping sauce yourself by mixing the tsuyu sauce with sesame seeds, and eat the al dente noodles with it, and enjoy the fragrance of wheat. Eating these noodles with vegetables is a great way to get your tummy full without eating something that is too heavy.
This picture of BBQ beef topped salad even looks healthy. The grated daikon radish on the beef makes it taste a bit sweet and fresh. If you want to have a lunch that is not going to leave you feeling bloated, this restaurant is a great choice.
After having delicious lunch, how could you not crave some sweets? This area, Gion, is full of cafes offering Japanese style afternoon tea with Japanese sweets, so how about spending a relaxing moment drinking matcha tea?
This Japanese sweets café was opened near Kiyomizu-dera Temple over 100 years ago. The interior of the café is really Japanese, and the café hasn’t changed a bit in these one hundred years, so looking at the antiques inside it is fun.
This assortment of rice cakes consists of two made out of red beans, and one made out of roast soy bean flour, and the taste is definitely Japanese.
This one is a really special mochi rice cake: it is first grilled, then it is seasoned with soy sauce, and rolled in nori seaweed, making the taste at the same time sweet and salty. This type of Japnese sweet is rarely seen beyond Japan, so be sure to take this chance and try some.
This café is run by the famous Japanese sweets shop Kagizen Yoshifusa, and it is located on a small alley. The café fuses traditional Japanese design with modern concepts, and the look of the café with the minimalistic gray lines feels very modern.
The always popular kuzu mochi is something you just have to get. You just can’t stop eating it: the kuromitsu brown sugar sauce and the roasted soy bean flour just go with it perfectly.
This is a cake made out of a combination of kuri yokan and pound cake, and this combination of Japanese and western cakes goes well with tea. The feeling at the café is relaxed, you can feel like you were far away from the bustle and hustle of the city, and just have some afternoon tea in Japanese style.
After eating, time for some shopping! There are many shops in Gion, old and new, and all of them offer great goods that also make great souvenirs!
Almost half of the shops on the shopping street of Gion sell things made out of matcha, but among them the most famous one is Saryo Tsujiri.
They sell all kinds of things, from tea bags and cookies to utensils, so they really have many things on sale.
You can also taste many of the sweets on sale, and after tasting you often just have to buy some because they are so delicious. Besides matcha, they also sell hojicha. The packages of this shop are aslo really pretty and finely made, so they will certainly make the person who receives them happy!
The tsukemono pickles of Kyoto are also very famous, and among them the senmaizuke, made of Shogoin turnip, is maybe the most famous one. Nishiri is one of the famous tsukemono shops in Kyoto, and it is located in Gion, and it is always bustling with tourists.
They have many different kinds of tsukemono, and the distinct taste of them, the crispiness of them, is something you can’t leave out from your Kyoto itinerary.
This old and established manju shop in Gion mainly sells Japanese sweets, and is conveniently located close to Keihan Shijo-Gion Station.
Their most famous product is this rice cake called Shinko, and it has a bit of viscosity in it, and while the soft rice cake looks simple it is just delicious.
The red bean daifuku rice cake with its soft outer shell and the red bean paste inside makes for a great sweet for afternoon tea. The best before date for these sweets is not so long, but you can buy some and go have a picnic.
I also got a tri-colored dango skewer at the shop, and had it outside by the Kamogawa river, looking at the not-so-blue sky while enjoying the deliciousness of the dango.
After walking around Gion for a day, I’m sure you are getting weary. But since you are in Kyoto, you also need to have some traditional cuisine, right? Although the restaurants around Gion may be a bit on the pricier side of things, but still, they are worth it, and are a great reward after a day of sightseeing.
Gion Maruyama was founded in 1988, and the restaurant offers kaiseki cuisine, a type of Japanese haute cuisine. The restaurant is located on a narrow alley, and the building the restaurant is in is a traditional Japanese wooden house with a great traditional atmosphere.
Kaiseki cuisine is a course consisting of many dishes, all made of seasonal ingredients from Kyoto; many of them using fish, and they all go well with sake.
Besides the great ingredients the dishes also look beautiful and the decoration and the plates all change seasonally. You can enjoy the taste, fragrance, and the look of the dishes all at the same time.
The fat in this sashimi is distributed evenly and melts in your mouth right away; getting to eat something as good as this is an experience that is bound to leave you satisfied. This feast does not only taste great, but also looks great, and eating it you get to feel the careful attention that has gone into each dish.
Uokeya U is located on the narrow street of Hanamikoji, and the popular eel restaurant is even mentioned in the Michelin Guide.
The unagi eel glistening on top of the rice that has sucked up the unagi sauce, it all just looks so delicious that you will want to dig in right away.
The eel is soft and tender, and is grilled with superb skill, and you should not forget about the rice that also has a somewhat sweet, nice taste.
This Japanese omelet is really thick, soft, and juicy, and it even has eel in the middle. It tastes great just the way it is, you don’t need to add any condiments to it. When in Rome, you do as the Romans do. So when in Kyoto, I recommend you have some unagi!
|Vanessa[ Sharing Kyoto Staff ]