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Japanese food can have a lot more meat in it than you might expect! For not-too-picky pescetarians, navigating Japanese menus might come without too much of a headache, but strict vegetarians and vegans may find themselves in a bit of a minefield. Not to worry, though–Kyoto has many vegetarian cafés and restaurants to try!
See a selection of Kyoto’s vegetarian restaurants below.
Tofu and “yu do-fu” are traditional dishes in Kyoto, and have roots with the Zen priests in Kyoto’s temples, such as Nanzen-ji Temple. Since tofu is made from soy beans, it’s a popular dish with vegetarians, but you’ve never tried tofu like this… Tousuiro offers tofu kaiseki sets, including vegan options, in beautiful, traditional displays. Vegan and vegetarian dining options are available at Tousuiro’s Gion location, in downtown Kyoto.
This popular vegetarian/vegan-friendly restaurant is located centrally along Kyoto’s Teramachi shopping street, and serves a fusion of Western and Japanese-style dishes. The food is vegetarian, and menus will indicate when a dish contains fish. Be sure to come in advance or make a reservation, though–there is often a wait at Mumokuteki.
Just because you don’t eat meat doesn’t mean you have to miss out on some delicious Japanese ramen while you’re in Kyoto! Towzen serves vegetarian ramen in a style that is traditionally Kyoto: with a soymilk broth. Side dishes include more vegetarian Kyoto food, like yuba (made from the thick skin that forms on boiled soymilk).
This vegan restaurant is located in southern Kyoto, not far from Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine, and serves more Western dishes like pizza, as well as Japanese fare, like miso ramen. The café also strives to serve organic vegetables as much as possible.
CHOICE, in Kyoto’s central Sanjo area, serves only gluten-free, vegan dishes. The menu is mostly western, including vegetarian burgers and vegan cheeses.
This vegan Kyoto café is located close to Kyoto Station, on the banks of the Kamogawa River, and offers mostly Western vegan options.
Sujata’s is a vegan and vegetarian restaurant close to Kyoto University and Ginkaku-ji Temple, serving both Japanese and Indian cuisines.
Tucked away close to Kyoto Station, Organic House Salute is located in a traditional Kyoto machiya, and serves vegan and vegetarian curries, Japanese-style dishes, and more.
“Shojin ryori,” or shojin cuisine, is a kind of Zen Buddhist vegetarian cuisine. Originally created in accordance with Buddhist principles respecting all life, shojin cuisine is prepared with no meat or seafood, and instead uses vegetables, beans, tofu, and yuba in artful displays. Some temples in Kyoto offer their own original varieties of shojin cuisine for tourists to enjoy. The following are a few locations where you can taste this traditional Japanese vegetarian food.
This vegetarian shojin restaurant is located right in the gardens of Tenryu-ji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Guests must also pay the 500-yen garden entrance fee, but will be treated to its lovely views while dining on a variety of zen vegetarian sets. Shigetsu has also been designated a “Bib Gourmand” in the 2018 Michelin Guide, indicating a restaurant that serves “exceptionally good food at moderate prices.”
You can find Izusen within the Daitoku-ji Temple complex (it has a second location in the Sagano area, a twenty minute walk from JR Saga Arashiyama Station), where it has been serving shojin vegetarian cuisine since 1963. Enjoy a variety of dishes here within a temple garden setting.
Kyoto also has many options for Halal dining and other Muslim-friendly food options! To see a list of Halal restaurants in Kyoto, see here!