April 22, 2018
by Mayu Matsumoto, Sae Kawabata and Mayumi Otsuka
Kyoyasai is a general term for all local vegetables that are cultivated in Kyoto. In Japanese, ‘kyo’ stands for ‘Kyoto’, while ‘yasai’ means vegetables. What qualifies as kyoyasai, as opposed to just a normal vegetable has developed with each passing year. At present, there are 35 vegetables that qualify as kyoyasai. And in order for a restaurant to describe their food with the term ‘kyoyasai’, it must meet the following conditions.
- The vegetable must have been introduced in the Meiji era.
- It must be cultivated all throughout Kyoto Prefecture.
- It should contain bamboo shoots, in some form or another.
- It must excludes shiitake mushroom and ferns.
- It should includes vegetables that were grown or preserved, and extinct varieties.
Vegetables that satisfy these conditions don’t necessarily have to be of a species specific to Kyoto, they just have to be cultivated using methods specific to Kyoto. This would include, for example, Horikawa burdock, Ebiimo (literally, shrimp potato), Kyoto aralia cordata, Kyoto ginger, Kyoto bamboo, and so on.
Isoya GroupOne of the most popular groups of kyoyasai restaurants in Kyoto is the Isoya Group. It is kind of food management company with four strong values.
The first value is original farms. They have farm called Isozumi Farm in Mukou, Kyoto. The company owner grew up on a farm, so he has intimate knowledge of vegetable farming. The dedicated staff grow kyoyasai on these original farms to make customers happy.
The second value is about freshness. It is important to eat vegetables while they are still fresh. Isoya Group employees work hard to limit the time between harvesting and serving the vegetables. Furthermore, employees closely manage ways to keep the vegetables fresh in each restaurant.
The third value is a local farm network. The Isoya Group has cultivated a network of local farms that allow farmers to cooperate with each other. This allows the Isoya Group to always have a fresh supply of not only basic kyoyasai, but also specialty vegetables which may be hard to farm or difficult to find otherwise.
The last value is seasonal kyoyasai. The Isoya Group believes that it is important to eat food that is in season in Japan. Therefore, they make seasonal kyoyasai and cook it in an original way.
The Isoya Group has five restaurants in Kyoto.
This restaurant’s main food is oden, which is common and popular Japanese food. It contains many ingredients like eggs, white radish, and kelp boiled together in a large pot with a traditional type of Japanese broth called dashi.
Address: 388 Komeyamachi, Kawaramachi line Shijyo, Tyukyouku, Kyoto city
Time: 17:30-24:00 (except Monday)
This restaurant offers many kinds of boiled kyoyasai food like oden, tempura, and nabe, which are typical homemade foods in Japan. Also, nabe is similar to oden, but offers more varieties.
Address: 388 Komeyamachi, Kawaramachi line Shijyo, Tyukyouku, Kyoto city second floor
Time: 17:30-24:00 (except Thursday)
This restaurant offers many kinds of baked kyoyasai food. Many of their dishes contain salt, miso and some kind of sauce dipped into which you can dip your kyoyasai. Furthermore, they pay close attention to their baking methods and fire temperatures.
Address: 4215, Shimomaruyacho, Kiyamachi line, Tyukyouku, Kyoto city
Radicle Matsuya building 1F
Time: 17:30-24:00 (except Tuesday)
This restaurant make kyoyasai food that pairs well with wine, as it is prepared in an Italian or French style. There are also big wine sellers, so you can enjoy many kinds of wine along with many kinds of kyoyasai food.
Address: 384, Komeyamachi, Kawaramachi line Shijyo, Tyukyouku, Kyoto city
Time: 17:30-24:00 (except Tuesday)
ISOISMISOISM is a restaurant serving many kinds of marinated kyoyasai vegetables. For example, you can eat eggplant marinated in soy sauce, celery marinated in orange sauce , and tomato marinated in white wine. These dishes are unique and original, and are enjoyed by both Japanese and foreigners alike.
Like other restaurants from the Isoya Group, the vegetables served in ISOISM are grown on organic farms and are pesticide-free. Therefore, this restaurant is famous for its originality and safety.
Lunch at ISOISMISOISM offers a lunch plate of marinated vegetables. You can eat up to 12 marinated vegetables, each of which has good effects on the health of your body. For example, you can eat sweet potato marinated with honey and lemon, and topped with cream cheese and nuts. The effect of this meal is improvement of your intestinal environment. Another one is pumpkin marinated with sweet soy sauce and cheese. The effect is hormonal adjustment and body rejuvenation. A third one is onion marinated with sake and salmon roe. The effect is to speed up the metabolism. Additionally, you can eat seasonal takikomi-gohan and soup. Takikomi-gohan is boiled rice seasoned with soy sauce and mixed with meat or seafood and savory vegetables. In this way you are able to experience the Japanese seasons and you can enjoy Japanese culture in this restaurant.
But be warned: ISOISM is famous, so you should get appointment beforehand.
Adress: 114, Nakai-sho, Karasumanishiiru, Shichijo-line, Gekyo-ku, Kyoto city.
Access: 5 minutes on foot from Kyoto station
Tel: 075-353-5016 ( You can get appointment, if you tell this number.)
Time: Lunch(11:30-15:00) Dinner(17:30-24:00)
As you can see, there are many restaurants in Kyoto using Kyoyasai. If you are not sure which restaurant is best for you, we recommend you to go Isoya group restaurants. They have the most enthusiasm toward serving kyoyasai dishes, and they also have the famous omotenashi spirit which makes Japanese hospitality an unforgettable experience. Since their restaurants are sometimes full of customers, we recommend you call ahead and check availability before you visit.