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Food Diversity

Food Diversity

Kyoto’s culinary culture has its roots in the city’s long history and natural environment, and there are many factors that have given foundation to the sophisticated culinary culture today.

Firstly, the geographical elements, such as the high-quality groundwater and fertile soil of the farms surrounding the city, have allowed the food ecosystem of the consumer economy and agricultural production to develop closely together. Also, the nearby rivers and Lake Biwa made it possible to source freshwater fish and other produce locally. Secondly, the influence of Buddhist principles through the large number of temples in the city resulted in promoting the use of vegetables as a central ingredient of meals. Thirdly, because Kyoto was the capital of Japan, in addition to the locally sourced ingredients, the best food from across the nation was gathered and consumed. This included seafood brought not only from the nearby seas but also from as far as the North Sea, which created a basis for culinary techniques to skilfully preserve and elegantly cook these ingredients.

In addition to the availability of good ingredients, the art forms that came from various cultural contexts and flourished in Kyoto, such as chanoyu (tea ceremony) and ikebana (flower arrangement), and the production of craftworks such as lacquerware, ceramics, wood and bamboo crafts, contributed to developing the appreciation of seasonality, hospitality, and a commitment to authenticity in Kyoto's food culture.

The following is a list of ingredients and dishes that have been handed down in Kyoto, all of which are based on cooking methods that make the most of the natural flavors of the ingredients and do not use many animal products.
(In the dashi stock, seafood such as bonito is often used, so please check information for individual products or dishes)

In October 2013, the City of Kyoto designated "Kyoto's Food Culture" as the city's own "Intangible Cultural Heritage Connecting Kyoto,” and in December of the same year, "Washoku, traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese" was registered on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Kyoto, a city steeped in these traditions, is also home to many restaurants that offer plant-based meals, foods, and experiences, with more than 300 restaurants offering vegan and vegan-friendly menus. We invite you to find the restaurant that best suits your tastes.

Special characteristics of Kyoto's food ingredients and cuisine

Kyo Yasai (Kyoto vegetables)

Kyoto's distinctive climate, high-quality water, and fertile soil have nurtured a wide variety of vegetables over many generations, and some of their variants are unique to Kyoto. Also, the vegetables that have been cultivated in Kyoto since before the Meiji period (1868-1912) are known as “traditional Kyoto vegetables,” and these include Shogoin daikon (radish), Kujo negi (leeks), Kamo nasu (eggplant), and Horikawa gobo (burdock root).

Shojin Ryori (Buddhist-derived vegetarian cuisine)

Shojin ryori was originally the vegetarian food introduced to Japan in the Kamakura period (1185-1333) along with the new wave of Buddhism from China and was cooked and eaten by the Buddhist priests in the monasteries.
Vegetarian cuisine is a treasure trove of vegetable dishes that do not use meat or fish, and Kyo yasai (Kyoto vegetables) were needed to obtain the necessary nutrition. As a result, vegetables came to play an important role in the cuisine as the main ingredient in both quantity and quality.


Obanzai are the everyday dishes passed down from generation to generation in Kyoto households. The dishes use seasonal ingredients, especially vegetables, and the seasoning is based on dashi stock. The recipes that use all the ingredients to their fullest, producing minimum waste, is characteristic of the dishes.



Saba-zushi (mackerel sushi) is especially famous, but mushi-zushi (warm steamed sushi), eaten mainly in winter, is also a specialty of Kyoto. *Mushizushi is sometimes topped with cooked seafood such as prawns.


Senmaizuke (turnip), suguki (turnip), and shibazuke (eggplant, shiso and other vegetables) are some of the representative pickles of Kyoto. These have a deep umami flavor produced through fermentation.

Kyo-gashi (Kyoto sweets)

With the high-quality water resource and access to production areas of the ingredients, Kyoto sweets have been developed and refined through their history of being provided in a variety of ways during traditional events and tea ceremonies. The main ingredients used are azuki beans, sugar, wheat flour, chestnuts, yams, and rice.


The groundwater of superb quality has allowed Kyoto's sake to be well known throughout Japan. Matsuo-taisha, a shrine dedicated to the deity of sake, is also located in Kyoto City.


There are seasonings that are indispensable in Kyoto cuisine, such as white miso and light soy sauce. A typical Kyoto-style dashi stock for obanzai or Kyo ryori (Kyoto cuisine) is often made of kombu kelp and other ingredients, including bonito flakes. *Soy sauce itself does not generally include animal products, but dashi shoyu (flavored soy sauce) may include dashi stock using bonito, etc.

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