Okonomiyaki, Yakiniku and Ramen in Kyoto

April 16, 2005

by Akiko Kagawa; Fumiaki Kai

Do you like eating? What do you want to do when you visit other countries? You may answer that you want to visit famous places or enjoy shopping. I think that many of you would also say you want to try that country’s cuisine. So please imagine you’ve come to Japan. When you walk along streets in Kyoto, you will find many kinds of restaurants, especially okonomiyaki, yakiniku and ramen restaurants. Of course, Kyoto has many healthy Japanese restaurants serving yuba and tofu, but okonomiyaki, yakiniku and ramen are also part of Japanese food culture now. Maybe you will be surprised by the number of these restaurants. First of all, I would like to talk about Kyoto-style okonomiyaki.

Do you know okonomiyaki? The owner serves you okonomiyaki which made with flour which is dissolved with water and mix with vegetables and meat or fish and sellfish. The shape is circular like pizza. In Japan, there are different kinds of okonomiyaki, for example, Hiroshimayaki in Hiroshima, and Monjayaki in Tokyo. Both are quite famous, and similarly, Kyoto also has its own style of okonomiyaki. Each has its own specialty. Ingredients include cabbage, yam, and flour, and, usually, they also contain pork or squid. Japanese might think when they hear the word “okonomiyaki,” that Osaka is the most famous city for okonomiyaki. However, there is also Kyoto-style okonomiyaki. Kyoto-style okonomiyaki cannot be easily defined. We cannot tell exactly what it is because it depends on each restaurant. For example, a restaurant might use agi (beef cheek) or soy sauce or Kyoto scallions. However, Kyoto-style okonomiyaki is based on the city’s culture and history.

Next, yakiniku means broiled meat, vegetables, fish and shellfish, and so on. There we can enjoy an easy and simple meal so a yakiniku restaurant is often used after work for a drinking party. The cost depends on each restaurant, but probably you can eat as much as you like for about 2500 to 5000 yen. This all-you-can-eat style is very popular, and recently yakiniku is popular. It also means there are many nice restaurants designed by famous designers. For example, last week we went to Nandaimon which is located near Hankyu Kawaramachi Station. The restaurant has a really good atmosphere because of its lighting and situation, so it was a comfortable place for us. At other yakiniku restaurants we can also enjoy natural scenery as we eat, looking, for example, at the Kamo River or at a row of traditional Kyoto houses. Famous yakiniku restaurants are Gyukaku, Tendan, Shabuzen and Fufutei. Most of them are restaurant chains. Especially, we recommend Shabuzen which is located near Yasaka Shrine. There are many sightseeing spots such as Kiyomizu Temple, Koudai Temple, Maruyama Park nearby, so after you enjoy sightseeing why not you go there? You will spend a nice time.

Lastly, I would like to talk about ramen (a type of Chinese noodle). Ramen came from China in 1665, and we can see Chinese designs in the bowls used. However, the ramen that we eat now is very different from the original. Japanese have changed it to fit our taste. The famous ramen shops in Kyoto are Tonryu, Muttepou, Marutake, and Takayasu. Especially at Muttepou, people who are waiting to enter form a long line. It is so famous that sometimes reporters from TV, magazines, and newspapers come here. Ramen is cheap and is served quickly, so perhaps that why it is liked by so many people.

When you are looking for restaurants it is convenient to use a magazine named LEAF. It is a traditional magazine in Kyoto. If you use it, you can enjoy searching for a place you might like to go to. The magazine is very colorful, and the explanations in Japanese are easy to understand. If you want to go to a restaurant cheaply, you should use HOT PEPPER or MILKUL or GOBAAN. However, be careful that you pick up a copy early because all these magazines are popular among Japanese students. The publication day is at the end of the month. These magazines are free, and you can find them anywhere in Kyoto, especially at bookstores or convenience stores. In the magazine there are many kinds of coupons, so you can go to restaurants cheaply. Those are only in Japanese, but it will be useful if you have Japanese friends or acquaintances or you can find them and go there by yourself. You should better to know these coupons anyway. You can probably find restaurants which are in your guide book that you want to go to. We recommend that you check them before you go to a restaurant.

Could you understand our explanations about food? Did you enjoy them? You may imagine that Kyoto cuisine is only yuba and tofu, but there are more types of food in Kyoto, we think. If you come to Kyoto, please visit the restaurants we have introduced, if you have time.

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