Eat & Drink

Here’s The Ultimate Foodie’s Guide To Kyoto. Itadakimasu!

If you’re visiting Japan for the first time, get used to hearing the word itadakimasu. Said by most Japanese before every meal, itadakimasu is basically a super quick way of saying grace; though it doesn’t have to have spiritual connotations. For some it could simply be meant as “let’s eat”, “bon appétit” or even “thanks for the food”, though a more literal translation could be read as “I humbly receive”. Whatever meaning you place on the word, chances are, you’ll be hearing a whole lot of it in Japan, and definitely if you’re venturing out to explore the Kyoto food scene.

The perfect place to belt out a good old “itadakimasu”, the old capital Kyoto, which once stood as Japan’s imperial capital for over a thousand years, is Japan’s undisputed cultural centre. The city is absolutely rinsed in tradition. You can see it in the architecture, you can feel it as you walk along the Kamo River, and you can taste it in the food.

Furthermore, the Kyoto food scene is heaven for anyone who fancies a meal. It’s a city where tradition is served for every meal, and where custom and modernity meet. A day in the old capital is a day prime with opportunity to take your taste buds on a sensory journey through Japanese culture and history.

Matcha making experience

 

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Matcha is synonymous with Japan. In the land of the rising sun, almost everything is available in matcha flavour, but this fine powder made up of ground green tea leaves is so much more than just a gimmick floating in a teacup. No, matcha has deep roots in ancient Japanese tradition, with matcha tea ceremonies standing up there as one of the most important customs in Japanese culture.

While a cup of the good green stuff is common on the Kyoto food scene, there’s a place in the heart of the city where you can go to have an authentic matcha making experience. At Jinmatsuan, you can learn the art of producing matcha from scratch, as well as making some traditional Japanese sweets, known as Ohigashi, which pair perfectly with the bitter taste of matcha.

Enjoy a hearty Sukiyaki brunch

 

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Sukiyaki is, in my mind, the perfect brunch food, especially so when it’s cold outside. It’s the perfect Kyoto food in winter. Nothing quite warms the bones and the soul like the slowly simmering meat, vegetables, and other seasonal ingredients that make up a good sukiyaki. This traditional dish is served up in a shallow iron pot filled with an absolutely mouthwatering sweet yet salty broth consisting of a base of sugar, soy sauce, and mirin.

One of the best sukiyaki spots in town for both quality and atmosphere is Izutu, where the sukiyaki is top class. Located just across the road from the Kyoto Minamaza Theatre, this special set up offers traditional Kyoto-style fare along with an incredible view of Kyoto city and the picturesque Kamo River.

Make your very own Umeshu at Choya Kyoto

 

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When you think of umeshu, one name should come to mind; Choya. Known throughout the world as one of the best umeshu makers on the planet, they’ve now opened a specialty store in the heart of Kyoto that allows mere mortals like you and me to temporarily become umeshu gods.

Since its grand opening in the spring of 2018, Choya’s Specialty Hands-On Ume Experience Shop has been providing tourists and locals alike with fun and interactive workshops, teaching the art of producing top quality umeshu to the masses.

Grilled skewers at Kushikura Main Branch

 

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If we’re talking about quality Kyoto style yakitori, there’s only one place to go in my humble opinion – Kushikura. This 140-year-old former merchant house has been transformed into one of the best yakitori joints in the country, with the humble chicken skewers served here enjoying an almost cult-like following, along with the Kyoto-specific grilled vegetables on offer.

Explore the izakayas of Pontocho

 

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There are few things in Japan more beautiful than an old-style izakaya in full bloom, and you’ll find some of the best on the Kyoto food scene. These dark, smoky waterholes are a staple of Japanese society, they’re where every great night out begins or ends. The smell of the charcoal grill, the noisy electric atmosphere of salary men and women who’ve had a few too many – izakayas are eclectic, places to eat and drink, to meet new friends and reminisce with old ones. It’s the food Kyoto locals eat so you can’t go wrong.

Izakayas exist throughout Japan, but there’s only one Pontocho. Located in the Hanamachi district of Kyoto, Pontocho is known for its ample geisha houses and traditional tea houses, though it’s at night when Pontocho truly shines. This narrow alley is one of Kyoto’s most atmospheric dining spots, and home to a number of bustling izakayas, so have a stroll thought and take your pick—they’re all winners. Itadakimasu!

Check out Qantas flights to begin your next adventure.

(Lead image: Fancycrave)