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Kyoto is Japan’s secret trove of delicious bites
TRAVEL GOING OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
Kyoto is Japan’s secret trove of delicious bites. There’s a certain appeal about Japan. It could be how they can make even a pedestrian crossing become an Instagram spot. Or their amazing ability to invent gadgets that provide endless entertainment. Be honest — you probably spend an extra five seconds in the bathroom giggling over the installed box that plays the sound of crashing waves to mask the real sound of someone having a really good pee. But what always stays with you is the food. And by that, I mean more than just sushi. Delicate vegetarian cuisine that is fresh and delicious. Silky ice cream made of blended tofu and soy beans. All enjoyed with a tasty side of view. If Tokyo’s charm is in its bright lights and bustling nightlife, then Kyoto wins you over with its pockets of nature and secret food places worth the hunt. Here are some of our best finds.
IN THE CITY
605 Takahashi-cho, Higashinotoin-dori Bukkoji Tonan-kado,
Closed on Tuesdays
This is Kyoto’s best-kept secret. Social media will hype up another omu rice specialist who makes a big show of his fluffy, oozing lava egg over piping hot rice, but Saffron Saffron serves a much meaner omu rice, sans drama. There are two types on the menu — regular, or with cream sauce. Get both with a hamburg steak on the side. The combination of creamy egg, fluffy rice and savoury meat is a winner.
AT FUSHIMI INARI-TAISHA SHRINE
Don’t come here just for the ‘gram. One of Kyoto’s oldest shrines is also one of its most beautiful ones. Thousands of orange-and-black tori gates form a long trail that leads into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari.
What to try here:
Opens from 10am-6pm
Entrance of Keihan Fushimi Inari station
Fuel up before you begin the hike up. Come out of Fushimi Inari Station and grab a couple of inari sushi from take-out store SENBONINARI. The store sells modern versions of the popular sushi rice in fried tofu. Here, the rice is flavoured with citrus zest and filled with delicious ingredients like lotus root, simmered beef with ginger, and minced mushrooms. A fried tofu skin, soaked in a Kyoto-style broth, is wrapped around these tasty morsels. A piece of inari sushi here is priced from 120 to 280 yen.
16-20, Fukakusa Haraigawacho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto
Opens from 10am-6pm
Around 110m from Keihan Fushimi Inari station, on the way up to the shrine.
Make your way towards the shrine and you’ll spot a dessert shop that specialises in tofu ice cream. Stop and grab a cone — you won’t regret it. At Kyōzuan, the soft ice cream is the result of blending thick soy beans and uji tea from a nearby shop. Its dense texture is so thick, the ice cream won’t drop even when you turn the cone upside down. If you’re worried you’ll miss this store, just keep your eyes peeled for a store plastered with photos of tourists grinning happily with upside-down cones.
ARASHIMAYA BAMBOO GROVE
Arashimaya Bamboo Grove, located on the western outskirts of Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto, is a Unesco World Heritage Site and is one of the city’s most photographed locations.
What to try here:
3-47, Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, Ukyo-ku
Opens from 8am to 6pm daily
About a 5-minute walk from Arashiyama Station, Keifuku Arashiyama line
There’s usually a snaking queue, but don’t worry, it moves fast. This particular branch of one of Kyoto’s best artisanal coffee shops looks out to the Hozu-gawa River, just upstream from the Togetsu-kyo Bridge. The coffee comes from a sexy beast of a machine called Slayer, and the bittersweet aromatic brew delivers a jolt of caffeine for scenery-chewing tourists with sore feet.
Arashiyama Togetsukyo Kitazume Nishi Nikemme,
Ukyo-ku, 616-8385, Kyoto Prefecture (Western Kyoto)
Opens daily, 11am-5pm
You pick between a tofu vegetarian restaurant, or its next-door neighbour serving fresh hand-made soba. The springy noodles come with a side of crisp, lightly-battered tempura and a refreshing dipping sauce with plenty of grated radish. Snag a window seat if you can. The view of the Hozu-gawa River and the Arashiyama mountains is wonderful to drink in as you take your lunch.