Food Culture in Kyoto

November 24, 2019

by Shinij Yasuda, Shogo Koizumi and Kosuke Ono

On December 4, 2013, “Japanese traditional food culture” was registered as intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Japanese food has heart that the Japanese cherish and much wisdom, which was cultivated over a long history. This registration means that the value of Japanese food culture has been recognized by the world. Kyoto has a variety of traditional food that has been refined in long history and seasons, as well as fresh vegetables using seasonal vegetables. We would like you to know about food culture of Kyoto in this opportunity and enjoy this article.

 Background of food culture in Kyoto

Mountains and some rivers surround Kyoto. Because of this beautiful nature, Kyoto became capital city of Japan for hundreds of years after the Heian Era (794 – 1185) and Kyoto developed culture, religions and politics. Living in Kyoto, people had connection with the royal family, samurai and priests. Therefore, there is a cultural relationship with them. These events and conventions take root deeply in daily life that is became unique culture. Especially, food culture in Kyoto became very famous and it is necessary for Japan.

Kyoto is blessed with high quality water and the fertile soil, and the farm village region is nearby the urban area. In this way, transport of food is easy and this made a connection between village and city. Moreover, there is a teaching of Buddhism, so Kyoto people developed their food culture mainly on vegetables. Foodstuffs were carried from not only near places but from far places, so people in Kyoto had to improved preservation techniques. Moreover, people device a way to cook, and these developed the food culture of food.

In addition, diverse culture came from all over the country in Japan, which includes livelihood culture such as tea ceremony and flower arrangement in Kyoto. Moreover, more, Kyoto became famous place of production of lacquerware, ceramics, wood, and bamboo crafts as well. These built spiritual culture such as hospitality to others and seasonal feeling that affect the food culture of Kyoto.

 Characteristics of food culture in Kyoto

Japanese do not forget appreciation to animal food and vegetable food. Therefore, Japanese express their appreciations with the words, which are ‘itadakimasu’ said before meals, and ‘gochisousama’, said after meals. In addition, Japanese have a rule of not wasting food in the life. Moreover, it is very important for people who live in Kyoto to ascertain the essence of food. That is why people in Kyoto have more opportunities to be exposed to sophisticated culture of food than other people. Today, some spirits supports food culture in Kyoto.  The spirit of this culture embodies the ideas that Japanese should cherish beautiful nature in every season and treat someone very politely as a guest.

 Food culture of daily life

There is a food culture called “obanzai”. It is a kind of common traditional dish in Kyoto. Obanzai is flavored with soup base and it is made of vegetables in season. That is devised ways to use everything with no waste. In addition, by having a variety of foods, to people in Kyoto can maintain nutritional balance. Even now, merchant families carry on the life wisdom of tradition. Moreover, traditional food has meaning that a family’s health, safety, and it is made at each event. For example, osechi is Japanese New Year’s cuisine, a daggertooth pike conger dish is eaten during Kyoto summer Festival called Gion festival, Japanese people eats soba noodles on New Year’s Eve and so on. There is a dish that is eaten at every celebration and turning point in life. For instance, there are particular dishes for the sixtieth birthday celebration, the ceremony for a baby’s first meal and for a wedding. Furthermore, sushi culture developed like mackerel sushi because they have preservability. It is necessary as a special dish at anniversary. Kyoto has unique noodle dishs like Tanuki udon and herring soba. Soup bowl and rice bowl dishes orginally spread among craftsmen. As a unique Kyoto dish, there is a kinugasa-don. (Don means bowl of rice with topping)

 Famous food in Kyoto

Green tea… Green tea grows well in the high quality water and the fertile soil in Kyoto.

Japanese-style confection…It is served in traditional events and in the tea ceremony.

Refined sake…Kyoto is blessed with good quality ground water and sake of Kyoto has become very famous.


In conclusion, our Japanese cuisine; Japanese traditional dietary culture was designated as UNESCO cultural heritage. This is a great honor and indicates that Japanese terrific culture is recognized by the world. Kyoryori is made from special fresh vegetables and by mature people’s skill. Kyoto is surrounded by mountains and Lake Biwa is near Kyoto as is the Kamo River. It is related to why some clean vegetables are used to cook or make Kyouryori. This cuisine is based on four types of cuisine. “Japanese culinary art and culture which focuses on court noble”, “highly ritualized full-course meals which focuses on Samurai warriors”, “vegetarian dishes which focuses on the Buddhist monks who cannot prey on animals” and “tea ceremony dishes which developed with tea ceremony. This implies table manners.These are recognized that people eat these cuisines while drinking. Primarily, the most significant thing to make Japanese cuisine is aesthetic appeal. In addition, color scheme is also essential thing. Chef has an important role to cook these food and care about beautifully arranged on plates. Plates such as a bamboo ware, woodenware, glassware and utensils have to be suitable. Besides the appearance of food, one thing that is important is a sense of the season. Chefs always consider what they have to do to make customers enjoy the meals so they have to figure out which food is currently in season and cook seasonable delicacies. Ultimately, they bring out the natural flavor of ingredients and make the most of the flavor of each food. Most of the ways of cooking Japanese cuisine are simple. For example, sliced raw fish is used as sushi. That way, seafood is eaten raw. It could be the best way to keep the flavor from tasting bad. Most foreign countries do not do this.


por Takeshi Uchizato

Washoku se refiere a la gastronomía japonesa que se ha desarrollado con el clima y en el ambiente de Japón, que se elabora con ingredientes naturales y frescos. Wasyoku fue declarado Patrimonio Cultural de la Humanidad en noviembre de 2013.

La comida japonesa depende básicamente de los ingredientes frescos y de buena calidad, por lo tanto no se necesita elaborar mucho los alimentos. La comida japonesa se aprecia y se valora ampliamente en el mundo. Es una de las caracterìsticas que tiene la gastronomía japonesa. Todos los alimentos se deben preparar cuando todavía estan muy frescos. La comida japonesa tiene mucha variedad y es rica en nutrientes. Los platos siempre se sirven con un poco de arroz. También se representa y se expresa la belleza de la naturaleza y las cuatro estaciones. Los métodos de cocción suelen ser simples. Generalmente, se usan ingredientes como arroz, verduras, legumbres, frutas, mariscos, pescado, algas y carne. No es frecuente usar productos lácteos.

¿Cómo se sirve?

La presentación visual es tan importante como el sabor para enriquecer la experiencia culinaria. Es importante elegir platos y cubiertos adecuados para cada comida, y pensar en el balance y la armonía. Debe sugerir la estación del año correspondiente. Siempre se coloca el arroz a la izquierda y la sopa de miso a la derecha. Porque en épocas precedentes se decía que la persona más importante se sentaba a la izquierda. Los condimentos tradicionales de Japón son los siguientes: Azúcar, vinagre, salsa de soja, miso y sake

Comida de temporada

Hay comida especial para cada temporada. En Año Nuevo se come mochi en Japón.

Comida popular

La mayoría de los japoneses, cuando cena, come arroz de acompañamiento. Les doy algunos ejemplos de la comida japonesa: Sushi, chirashizushi, sopa de miso, sashimi, udon, soumen, oden, tempura, sukiyaki etc.

Nishiri – Unusual Sushi and Japanese Pickles

By Haruka Chaya and Ayaka Endo


Special Sushi

Visitors to Kyoto often take back Japanese pickles for souvenirs. Nishiri is one of Kyoto’s famous tsukemono, or pickles, shops. It is located in Arashiyama, but it is not quite like other pickle shops. It offers something different. Japanese have been eating pickles since olden times and they usually eat them with rice. Like this:


The traditional basis for a Japanese meal is often referred to as “one soup; one dish.” Rice and pickles are givens, so the fundamental Japanese meal consists of one soup, one dish and then rice and pickles. This is the usual manner in which Japanese eat.  However, we’d like to recommend another way of eating Japanese pickles.

In the Nishiri pickle shop, there is a meal that looks like a box of carefully prepared sushi called Kyo-tsukemono-sushi. Almost everyone likes sushi, don’t they? So this  bento meal looks quite appealing.


However, the individual items are not raw fish placed on cakes of rice. In this case, all of these toppings are different types of Japanese pickles that are made from eggplant, radish, ginger, daikon and shibazuke (chopped vegetables pickled in salt and shiso leaves). This really suits the Japanese taste.

Furthermore pickles are good for you. They have a lot of dietary fiber, vitamins and lactobacillus. Also, they are low in calories, and are good for your skin. If you get tired after walking through Arashiyama, you can take a rest at Nishiri and eat pickle sushi. Besides experiencing  traditional Japanese tastes in a novel way, you will get health and beauty.

If you decide to buy a box of pickle sushi for your family or friends, please be careful because it spoils easily and needs to be kept refrigerated. It is worth giving to a friend at least once; imagine their surprise!


Other products

Nishiri also sells small servings of pickles in what is called a “cutting cup.” This enables customers to try a wide variety of pickles without spending a lot of money. The price of just one cup of pickles is 108 yen. Three cups are 324 yen. You can enjoy sampling many kinds of pickles this way. At Nishiri, the foods are dished up so beautifully. This is an example of Japanese sincerity when it comes to guests.



UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage Certification

Traditional Japanese food —washoku—was recently added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural heritage list . Japanese food was evaluated as being fresh, healthy, well-balanced in nutrition, and beautiful.


Where is Nishiri?

Nishiri is in Arashiyama in western Kyoto and is near the famous Arashiyama landmark, the Togetsu Bridge. From the bridge please go straight east down the bustling road and you will see Nishiri on your left side.