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.