Kyoto: The Mystical Land of Geishas, Ancient Shrines and the Old World
The fascinating world of Japanese history and the delectable dishes of Japanese food culture collide harmoniously in Japan’s old capital of Kyoto. The whole city is an endless loop of historical charm and culinary delights. So, pack your bags to explore this magical city.
10 Best Kyoto Food Tours: Experience Japanese Culture Through Food
BP Guide has compiled a list of 10 best food tours available in Kyoto. The list contains tours to cater to a variety of preferences. Go through it and choose one that you like the most.
1. Night Food Tour
This Tour by Magical Trip is a foodie’s delight. You will explore the neighbourhood of Gion savouring delicious dishes and learning about the food culture of Kyoto. The entire experience costs $111 per person.
- The itinerary involves a casual evening stroll in Pontocho alley and the backstreets of Gion. You will eat dinner at a local outlet and experience the true, local food culture.
- The duration of this tour is approximately 3 hours, which gives you enough time to stroll and explore Gion district and Pontocho alley. A full dinner course and 3 drinks (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) are included in the tour. The dinner menu has vegetarian options, but vegan and gluten free options are not available. The best feature of this tour is that you will share a table with an affable local guide who will fill you in with the amazing history and aesthetics of Gion district, and the food culture of Japan.
2. All-inclusive Food Tour in Gion
Entertainment and food are the two characteristics of this tour. You will stroll and dine at various locations in Kyoto’s Gion district, and experience the unique entertainment that the place has to offer. The Tour is provided by Pinpoint Traveller at $107.12 a person.
- This all-inclusive and comprehensive tour lets you delve into the past and present of Japan. The tour will start at Camo river and proceed to a busy commercial street and then into the peaceful ambience of the Yasaka Jinja shrine. Then, you are off to an in-depth exploration of Gion district with visits to Pontocho alley and Kiyamachi, stopping at various restaurants in between walking.
- A visit to the Yasaka Jinja shrine in the evening is an unforgettable experience as the shrine’s nighttime aesthetics is out of this world. There, you will get an enriching lesson on Japan’s main religions from your knowledgeable guide who is well versed in Spanish, German and French besides English. The 3 hour tour also includes exploring Gion and Pontocho areas of Kyoto which are notable Geisha spots ( you might see one if you are lucky). To top off this wonderful tour is a local dinner between two quality restaurants, featuring a variety of local dishes.
3. Food Tour at Nishiki Market
Arigato Travel K.K provides a guided food tour in Kyoto’s Nishiki Market. The market is known locally as the kitchen of Kyoto. You will walk around visiting the shops ( some of them family-owned establishments) and savouring local delicacies. The experience costs $193 per person you can book on Get Your Guide.
- The itinerary is restricted in the Nishiki Market area. You will visit 12 family-owned stores that have stood the test of time, and savour some specialty products. Post the exploration of the market, you will visit a restaurant for a delicious local lunch.
- This 3-hour tour will be a delight to your taste buds. You will savour local favourites like fresh seafood, dashi tamagoyaki, sashimi tofu and matcha; all of them bought from the family owned traditional shops that are part of your itinerary. These food items are among the highest quality foods available in the country. Besides, you will learn about the farm-to-table processes that make these delicious dishes available to the public. Lastly, you will have a course lunch at a local restaurant.
4. Luxurious Food Tour in Gion
Experience and celebrate Japan’s traditional culture in this evening Tour of Gion and Shirakawa districts. You will savour Kaiseki cuisine, a unique Japanese dinner that amalgamates both local and global flavours. The tour is provided by Arigato Travel K.K and the fare per person is $227.
- This tour spans many destinations in Kyoto. You will stroll along the Kamogawa river, explore Pontocho and Gion districts before sitting down for a Kaiseki dinner.
- In this 3 hour long tour, you will learn about the Meiko and Geiko culture of Kyoto and enjoy the city’s beautiful architecture in a walking tour. Besides, you will stop at places during your walking tour to sample various Japanese snacks. The tour ends with a 10-course Kaiseki dinner that will satisfy both your stomach and soul.
5. Personalised Brunch Tour at Nishiki Market
Enjoy a short walking and brunch tour in the Nishiki Market. You will have the best brunch sampling delicious Japanese fare at the market. The tour is provided by Magical Trip for $39 a person.
- This short stroll will take you through the classic backstreets of Kyoto and then into the Nishiki Market where you will get to sample a multitude of local dishes. Additionally, you will have brunch at a restaurant.
- This is a morning tour where you take a stroll in the crisp morning air for 2.5 hours in Kyoto’s backstreets. The tour also includes tastings of multiple free samples in Nishiki Market and at least 1 street food. The tour ends with a delicious brunch at a local restaurant.
6. Private Street Food Tour
This private food tour organized by withlocals.com is a foodie extravaganza. You will sample a variety of dishes, from snacks to desserts, and get a taste of locally made drinks. This is an ideal opportunity to explore and understand the rich culinary culture of Japan, and it costs $125.55 a person. You can book this on Trip Advisor.
- This stroll-and-eat tour will take you to many locations in Kyoto. Your venues will be the following order; Kyoto Sanjo shopping street, Kyoto Seishu Netsuke Art Museum, Shinsenen, Takenomu Inari Shrine, Yadoru Kyoto, Myogon-in Temple, Shinsen Gallery, a store in Nakagyo ward, Kennin-ji Temple, Nishiki-Tenmangu Shrine and Hanamikoji street. You will sample local delicacies at each of the above stops.
- This private tour of 3 hours includes sampling of 10 dishes and drinks. You will savour them in between your stroll of the city so this tour is essentially a fun-filled and exciting tour where you enjoy a walk, learn about the city and eat at the same time.
7. Walking Food Tour in Sagamo and Arashiyama
This tour lets you experience Kyoto’s cultural highlights while also sampling its food. You will explore two historic districts of Kyoto- Arashiyama and Sagano- by strolling, and savour some local sweets and snacks on the way. Japan Wonder Travel organizes this tour and the fare per person is $110.
- The itinerary includes strolls in some of the most beautiful spots in Tokyo. Your tour venues are Okochi Sanso Garden, The Bamboo Forest Trail, Tenryuji Temple, Arashiyama Kimono Forest and Togetsukyo Bridge.
- This is a comprehensive 3-hour tour that combines strolling, sightseeing and food tasting. So, you get every tourist experience from just one tour. You will stroll along some of the most picturesque areas of Kyoto, soaking in the natural beauty and immersing yourself in the magical ambience of the place.
8. Downtown Kyoto Food Tour
This is a casual culinary excursion that gives you the best food tour of the city. A local guide will take you to the best eateries and food stalls where you can savour the local favourites. Cooking Sun provides this tour for a fare of $119.47 per person.
- The typical itinerary involves visits to Kyoto Yaoichi Honkan, Kyoto Museum, Teramachi-dori street and Nishiki Market. They are popular foodie spots in Kyoto and each stop will be followed by an exploration of food and a lesson on its existent culture.
- This private tour of 3 hours will let you taste some local favourites and iconic Kyoto dishes. You will have solid knowledge about Kyoto food and food culture by the end of the tour.
9. Gourmet Food Tour
A deep food experience where you learn about the many intricacies of Japanese culinary culture while eating in the many food joints of the city. This experience is provided by Trip Partner Night for a fare of $101.15 per person.
- The itinerary is a simple one. You visit various restaurants and bars to sample the local delicacies while your learned guide tells you about Kyoto’s food culture.
- This 2-hour food tour includes 2 foods and 2 drinks for kids, 3 alcoholic drinks for adults, and 3 dishes ( takoyaki, yakitori and the likes). Extra food and drinks can be bought but at your extra expense.
10. A Private Tour of History and Food
This tour will give you a lesson in history and let you sample some of the best dishes available in Kyoto. This tour is a complete package as it lets you experience two of the most prominent highlights of Kyoto; the history and food culture. This experience is provided by Ful Filling for $135.89 per person.
- The destinations that you would visit are Kyoto Imperial Palace, Nijo Castle and Nishiki Market. The tour is 6 hours so that you have enough time to get an immersive experience of all the above.
- Nijo Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has witnessed the long history of the rise and fall of the Tokugawas. You will find ruins of the Momoyama culture that is around 400 years old ( Ninomaru garden and palace, Karamon Gate). The Kyoto Imperial Palace sporting architectural styles of various periods is a sight to behold. Nishiki Market is a foodie’s paradise where you will eat and drink a variety of local and global delicacies.
Must-Try Dishes in Kyoto
The following dishes are a must-have during your visit to Kyoto.
Sushi and Ramen- Kyoto Style
Kyoto style sushi comes in two varieties namely, Hakozushi and Sabazushi. The first variety is rice and eel or mackerel. They are pressed into a wooden rectangular box and then sliced into small bite-sized pieces. The second variety is pickled mackerel wrapped around a log of rice and then the whole of it is encased in a kombu (seaweed) sheet. Kyoto’s sushi is most often characterized by preserved fish as it is a landlocked city.
One of the most popular styles of ramen coming from Kyoto consists of a rich broth with a gravy-like consistency. The broth is prepared by boiling chicken bones for 14 hours, and it is so thick that it’s almost opaque. The broth is then loaded with egg noodles, pork slices, green onions and bamboo shoots. Diners are provided with condiments like chili paste, sesame seeds and spicy sesame oil to flavour the ramen to their liking.
Tsukemono are Japanese pickles. Japanese cuisine consists of a variety of pickles made from fermenting different types of vegetables. Among all the types of pickles, 3 stand out in Kyoto. They are shibazuke, senmai zuke and shizuka. Shibazuke is pickled cucumber, eggplant and red shiso, and it sports a magenta colour. Senmai Zuke is pickled turnip and kelp and so is sugizuke but it uses a different breed of turnip. The Nishiki Market in Kyoto is a popular spot for tsukemono.
Yatsuhashi is a popular sweet in Kyoto, and is mostly popular among tourists as a souvenir sweet dish. It is like a crisp, slightly hard cookie made from steaming and baking a mixture of flour, rice, nikki (Japanese cinnamon) and sugar. This sweet somewhat resembles small brown roof tiles.
Matcha is the world famous Japanese green tea. It is the highest grade of green tea in Japan and is made from quality tea leaves grown in the best conditions. The following processes of drying and grinding are done with special care to heighten the aroma, flavour, nutrition and colour of the tea. Kyoto is home of the elaborate tea ceremony that is typical to Japan, so it is one of the best places to have matcha. Besides tea, you can get a variety of other items of matcha flavour like ice cream, cookies and cake.
Hamo is conger eel and can be savoured in different ways. You can boil it, grill it, deep fry it or put it in soup. You can have it with rice, ramen or by itself with a tart plum sauce.
Yudofu is a simple yet flavourful dish. It is a symbolic dish of Kyoto as it was born here. Yudofu is made from only 3 ingredients - tofu, kelp and water. They are stewed together in a pot and one fishes out the tofu from it before sampling it with a dipping sauce. This dish was derived from the special vegetarian cuisine followed by the Buddhist monks.
A culinary tour of Kyoto is the best way for travellers to discover the city's unique culinary culture. It has a rich and remarkable history and is the perfect place to learn about Japanese cuisine. These Kyoto food tours have something for everyone. Enjoy premium sake, learn more about traditional tea, and enjoy traditional Kyoto cuisine. If you're planning to visit Japan's beautiful cultural capital soon, head over to these booking sites to secure your spot for these unforgettable experiences!