Kyoto locals can feel the change of the seasons through the local seasonal foods. If you know what foods are in season during your trip you will be able to enjoy your time here that much more as you eat delicious, seasonal foods. We will tell you the best restaurants where you can enjoy seasonal dishes as well as the top three seasonal food for each of the four seasons. You can also enjoy the foodie side of Kyoto while you are here!
Best 3 Seasonal Foods in Spring
1. Takenoko – bamboo shoots
Takenoko is used throughout many parts of Japan and China. The shoot of the bamboo tree, takenoko, shoots up from below the ground in the spring. The shoots are surrounded by several layers of sheath which are removed before eating. It is typically boiled and used in nimono (dishes made by simmering many vegetables together) or pickled dishes.
Udo is an edible plant often seen in spring dishes. Its best trait is its lovely aroma. It is related to ginseng and is often used in Chinese medicine. After being pretreated it is typically used in a sort of cold vegetable dish with dressing or nimono and is mostly seen as a side dish.
Uji-cha is known for its slight tint of color, robust umami, and refreshing aroma. Sencha (the product of lightly brewed leaves), Gyokuro, (a refined green tea known for the strong sweetness of its leaves), matcha (made from leaves that were grown for a long time, not massaged), karigane (tea made from the twigs left over from making sencha and gyokuro) are some of the different products made from Ujicha.
Best 3 Seasonal Foods in Summer
1. Hamo (pike conger)
A white fish that looks like eel with its long, thin body, hamo is a luxury fish with many fine bones loved by Japanese people. It is especially loved in the Kansai area and is seen in dishes like nabe (hotpot) among others.
2. Kamo nasu (Kamo eggplant)
Kamo nasu, a certified “Kyoto Traditional Vegetable,” is very cute with its round form. Because of its delicate nature, it can break with the slightest impact, so it can be hard to find it markets. It is delicious in various forms including fried, nimono, and miso dengaku (grilled eggplant and miso dish).
3. Manganji Togarashi (Manganji pepper)
Manganji togarashi is easy to eat with a consistency similar to that of a green bell pepper. It is considered to be a Kyo-yasai (Kyoto vegetable). It looks like a pepper with its long, thin body, but the taste is actually quite sweet. Just like bell peppers, if they are picked later they turn red and similar to red bell peppers have a sweetness to them. If they are picked after turning red they are called Aka-Manganji (Red Manganji).
Best 3 Seasonal Foods in Fall
1. Tamba Kuri (Tamba Chestnut)
Tamba kuri can be in the Tamba region which stretches from Kyoto into Hyogo Prefecture. What makes the Tamba kuri unique is its size. It is said to be the largest chestnut in Japan. With its rich sweetness and high nutritional values, it is loved by all ages.
2. Kujo Negi (Kujo green onion)
Another “Kyoto Traditional Vegetable” is kujo negi. Compared to other green onions it has a sweetness which comes from the condensation which builds up between the leaves. The green part of the leaf is full of nutritional value with vitamins A, B1 and C along with carotene. Long loved and used by the people of Kyoto, you can find kujo negi as a topping on ramen and in miso soup, as well as a component of nabe and other dishes.
3. Horikawa Gobo (Horikawa burdock root)
Horikawa gobo has a low resistance to moisture and is therefore has to be grown very carefully. The taste changes depending on which part of the plant you eat. The thick torso is tender and meaty. The thin tip area is best served lightly stir-fried.
Best 3 Seasonal Foods in Winter
Mibuna has been eaten in Kyoto since long ago and is another “Kyoto Traditional Vegetable.” It is unique with a slight tangy taste. Thanks to advances in growing techniques and it is recently grown in greenhouses and can be found in local supermarkets year round. However, it is best as an ingredient in nabe in the cold winter months.
2. Shogoin Daikon
Shogoin daikon is a round daikon first made in Kyoto and considered to be a “Kyoto Traditional Vegetable.” Compared to the common daikon it has a less spicy taste and a more tender meaty texture. Because of its taste and texture it is best enjoyed in boiled dishes. It doesn`t have a strong smell so it is a vegetable even kids can enjoy.
3. Kintoki Ninjin (Kintoki carrot)
Kintoki ninjin is a carrot with a color that is more reddish than orange. Its shape is thinner than typical carrots. In the Kansai area it can be found in Ozoni (a type of soup dish served on New Year’s Day with mochi and vegetables) and Osechi (served on New Year’s Day and made of easily preserved dishes). It is a winter delicacy and not often seen in the markets in other seasons. Kids love these carrots because of their sweet taste.
Best 3 Restaurants for Seasonal Dishes
Arashiyama Onsen Hanaikada
You can experience traditional Kyoto dishes here. Also, at Hanaikada there is a hot spring which you can enter without spending the night, so you can fill your stomach and heat and rest your body all in one visit. It is the perfect place to stop by after a day of sightseeing in the Arashiyama area.
Address: 57 Nakao Shitamachi Arashiyama Nishikyo-ku Kyoto-shi
For a restaurant in a great location, walkable from Yasaka Jinja and other sightseeing spots, you should check out Gion Yuyama. They have horigotatsu (tables on the floor with space dug out below for your feet) seats along the counter as well as private rooms. The owner was trained in Kyoto Cuisine at a famous restaurant and can deliver you an authentic meal of dishes in the Kyoto style.
Gion Yuyama Information
Address: ArtHeights 1F Shinbashidori Hanamikoji Higashi Iru Higashiyama-ku Kyoto-shi
Hours: 11:30am – 2:00pm / 5:00pm – 11:00pm
This is a restaurant located in Ponto-cho, known for its many great restaurants. Run by a husband and wife pair, you can enjoy Kyoto cuisine at an affordable price. They have quite a selection of alcoholic beverages as well.
Address: 209-11 Pontocho-dori Shijo Agaru Nabeya-cho Nakagyo-ku Kyoto-shi
Hours: 5:00pm – 10:00pm
For more information: https://tabelog.com/kyoto/A2601/A260301/26010483/
If You Want to Enjoy Kyoto Cuisine
There are many other restaurants where you can enjoy Kyoto cuisine, but since you are here we hope you will have an authentic experience. If you use our Kyoto with Kids Babysitting services, you can go for dinner as just a couple and enjoy your dining experience without the stress of eating out with kids. Please don’t hesitate to contact us!