From the exciting street food options in Nishiki Market (grilled eel, anyone?) to the relaxing ritual of a Japanese tea ceremony, there is no better way to explore Kyoto than through its food. A historic epicenter of Japan, Kyoto thrives by blending the modern with the traditional in both architecture and taste. With the expertise of a local guide, gain deeper insight into Japanese cuisine and culture with a variety of Kyoto food tours.
Kyoto’s kitchen for more than 400 years, Nishiki Market spans 5 blocks and consists of vendors selling Japanese street food with lots of samples to try. Although it’s one of the top tourist things to do in Kyoto, Nishiki Market remains authentic, and most of the signs are all in Japanese. Going with a guide can unlock a deeper experience of Nishiki Market as you learn about the interesting variety of foods and their cultural significance. Whether you’re adventurous enough to try a tiny octopus on a stick (tako tamago) or just want to look at the vast variety of local delicacies, visiting Nishiki Market is a must when in Kyoto.
Japanese Tea Ceremony and Matcha Green Tea
One of the best places in Japan to experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony is Kyoto. While sitting on tatami mats in the machiya (wooden teahouse), learn about this time-honored artform by participating in the Zen ritual of preparing and drinking green tea. If you love matcha, then head to the town of Uji—famous for crafting the highest quality green tea in Japan since the 1100s. Enjoy various green tea-flavored snacks like matcha ice cream, explore the beautiful Byodoin Temple, and buy matcha souvenirs.
Organic and Farm-to-Table Kyoto Food Tours
Escape the city for terraced rice paddies and green hills of tea fields in Japan’s scenic countryside just outside Kyoto. Work up an appetite pounding mochi rice cakes or biking along the shores of Lake Biwa before being welcomed into the home of a local family and their organic farm. A home-cooked meal made with fresh vegetables and rice harvested on this family farm may just be one the best things you eat during your stay in Kyoto. For more rural bliss, visit the farming town of Wazuka. After an informative trek through tea fields, sample some ocha (tea), and munch on an onigiri rice ball while overlooking the landscape.
Drink Sake in Kyoto
Imbibe in Kyoto’s 400-year-old sake brewing history by savoring some delicious rice wine and touring the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum. Admire artifacts from Edo period sake production and see the fermentation process in action while visiting sake breweries in Kyoto. Thanks to the natural spring water of the area, the sake brewed in the Fushimi district ranks as some of the finest in the world. Drink several types of sake, served hot or cold with flavors ranging from dry to fruity to sweet. If you’re short on time, combine your visit to the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine with some sake samples.
Learn to Cook Ramen from Scratch
One of the surest ways to immerse yourself in Japanese food culture is with a hands-on cooking class. At the Ramen Factory, you can make your own bowl of ramen—one of Japan’s most popular dishes. From kneading the noodle dough to garnishing with green onions, the whole family can enjoy this experience. Vegans and vegetarians rejoice because you too can make a veggie-friendly bowl of this delicious soup from scratch. Once your ramen is cooked, slurp away! Don’t worry, slurping noodles in Japan is not rude, but considered evidence that you are enjoying the meal.
Izakaya Bar Hopping and Nightlife in Kyoto’s Gion District
Spend your evening in Kyoto like a local on an izakaya bar hopping tour. As you eat and drink your way through regional specialties like kobe beef, learn about Japanese food and culture from your expert guide. When moving between different standing bars, feel transported back to old Kyoto while walking through the red lantern-lit streets of Gion. You may even see a geisha, locally called geiko. At the end of your night out in Kyoto, raise your glass and toast your small group with a rowdy kanpai!