Springtime in Kyoto is the perfect time for traveling, with warm sunshine and beautiful fresh greenery. And while cherry blossom season may have already come to an end, Kyoto is still abound with adorable sakura-themed sweets and delicacies perfect for enjoying on a stroll! This spring, keep the sakura-season vibe alive with some of Kyoto's tastiest delights!
Today, our LIVE JAPAN editors bring you five recommended eateries in Kyoto you'll want to visit this spring.
Why Enjoy a Spring-time Sweets Stroll in Kyoto?
Kyoto is a city steeped in Japan's traditional culture and history. It also boasts an established food culture, with Japanese delicacies unique to Kyoto, such as matcha, yuba (bean curd), and yudofu (boiled tofu).
The city, dotted with historical buildings, temples, and shrines, retains an old-fashioned Japanese atmosphere of the past.
Many restaurants and food stalls also dot the area, many of which offer unique seasonal dishes and products that vary by time of visit. And a stroll through these historic streets while indulging in delicious traditional treats is one of the best ways to enjoy Kyoto!
On top of that, Gion, Ponto-cho, Nishiki Market, and other popular food spots are just a short walk away. You just might find your next favorite restaurant on your sightseeing outing!
However, keep in mind that eating while walking is prohibited in some areas of Kyoto, including Nishiki Market. Instead, opt to dine in, or snack in a place where you won't disturb others.
1. Kyo Namafu from Gion Kyokurara: Cute, Colorful Confections!
From left to right: Dengaku White Miso, Deep-Fried Bubu Arare (crackers made from wheat gluten), Sakura An (bean paste), and Matcha An.
Gion Kyokurara is a short, five-minute walk away from Gion-Shijo Station, right before the west gate of Yasaka Shrine. Their specialty is Kyo-namafu, an ingredient used in vegetarian cooking toward the end of the Kamakura Period (1185-1333). This shop offers eye-catching, easy-to-eat arrangements of Kyo-namafu while remaining true to traditional handmade methods.
There are about 20 varieties, including sweet ones topped with bean paste, and savory ones made like isobe-age and bacon rolls!
Today we tried four kinds: the super-popular Deep-Fried Bubu Arare, Dengaku White Miso, Green Tea An, and the limited-time-only Sakura An. All are priced at 350 yen (tax included), making them the perfect snack to enjoy on the go!
Sweets so adorable, you'll want to take pics!
The fluffiness of the fu really stands out from the first bite! Its main ingredient is gluten, so its texture is not much different from mochi. The Matcha An and Sakura An are rich in flavor and sweetness, just as you'd expect of such a high-quality Japanese confectionery.
The Deep-Fried Bubu Arare is cute and colorful, coated with crispy arare that gives it a rice cracker-like taste. The Dengaku White Miso is deliciously sweet, topped with a white miso unique to Kyoto used in Japanese cuisine. And the best part about all these options? All the share-worthy photos you can take!
294 Gion-cho, Kita-gawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 605-0073
Hours: 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
2. Spring-Themed Soft Cream from Gion Tsujiri: The Perfect Pair of Sakura and Matcha (Until April 20)
Cute, photo-worthy sweets!
Gion Tsujiri is an Uji tea shop in Gion, Kyoto, and just a three-minute walk from Gion Shijo along Shijo Dori. And their adorable springtime-only sweets have captured the hearts of many a sweet-tooth, including the very author of this piece, for whom it was love at first sight!
The Shunshoku Soft Cream (680 yen) is a blend of matcha and sakura soft serve ice cream, topped with adorable sanshoku dango (three-colored dumplings) and sakura an (sweet bean paste) and decorated with sakura petal designs. These bright spring colors will surely be a photogenic hit on anyone's social media feed!
Of course, the taste is also unique to this long-established tea shop. The soft-serve ice cream is rich and fragrant, brimming with the flavors of matcha tea and springtime sakura, and elegantly accented with sanshoku dango and sakura an.
However, this limited-time-only treat was around until April 20! Although you'll be pleased to know that plenty of other items on the menu will stick until the end of the month. Be sure to try as many as you can before they're gone!
Gion Tsujiri Gion Main Branch
573-3 Gion-machi Minamigawa, Shijo-dori, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 605-0074
Weekdays: 10:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Weekends & Holidays: 10:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Closed: Open year-round
3. Matcha Parfait Ice Cream from Ito Kyuemon: A Matcha Parfait Turned Ice Cream Bar?!
Sakura (left) and Strawberry (right)
Along the way, we spot groups of girls donning kimonos eating adorable ice creams. Wasting no time, we head to Ito Kyuemon, a famous long-established teahouse in Uji, Kyoto, near Gion-Shijo Station. That's where we find the Matcha Parfait Ice Cream Bar.
The concept of this curious confection is that it's made to be a recreation of the tea house's own matcha parfait in its entirety... in the form of an ice cream bar! There are five varieties, including your standard matcha flavor. Today, being springtime, we opt for Sakura (640 yen) and Strawberry (680 yen).
The Sakura is a matcha ice cream coated with cherry blossom-flavored chocolate and topped with sakura shiratama (white rice balls), salted sakura, and cherry blossom cream. The subtle flavor of the sakura combined with the rich matcha ice cream is a match made in heaven!
The Strawberry also consists of matcha ice cream and is coated with strawberry chocolate and topped with freeze-dried strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries for a sweet-and-sour accent. Both treats are delicious parfait-style ice creams you'll want to boast about all over social media!
Ito Kyuemon Gion Shijo Tea House
586 Gion-machi Minamigawa, Shijo-dori, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 605-0074
Hours: 10:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. (Last order: 6:00 p.m.)
*May close earlier depending on turnout
Closed: Open year-round (only closed New Year's Day)
4. Fried Skewers from Kuwato: Indulge in Kyoto's Finest Seafood Ingredients
'Deep-Fried Shrimp and Yam Wrapped in Kyo-Yuba' (left) and 'Crab Roll Tempura Skewer' (right)
Next, we head to Nishiki Market, a popular area for tourists also known as the "kitchen of Kyoto." Seafood Restaurant Kuwato is particularly attention-grabbing among the numerous shops with their wide lineup of grilled and deep-fried seafood skewers. The aroma of freshly cooked seafood stops anyone in their tracks!
Today we try the Deep-Fried Shrimp and Yam Wrapped in Kyo-Yuba (650 yen) and the Crab Roll Tempura Skewer (500 yen).
The freshly-fried skewers are sprinkled generously with their own special salt, making them even tastier. Deep-Fried Shrimp and Yam consist of a plump, fluffy shrimp and yam paste, wrapped with a crunchy Kyoto-style yuba, and deep-fried to the perfect texture! Shiso leaves inside the yuba also add a lovely accent to the flavor.
The Crab Roll Tempura Skewer looks just like a giant crab leg! The tempura is kneaded with fish paste and crab and then deep-fried, with a mouthwatering flavor you'll want to finish it in one bite!
Both skewers are scrumptiously salty, making them great snacks to enjoy with a beer. However, please note that eating while walking is prohibited in Nishiki Market, so be sure to use the dine-in area.
Seafood Restaurant Kuwato
Kajiya-cho, Nishiki-koji Fuyacho Higashi-iru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 604-8052
Hours: 10:00 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. (Varies by season)
Closed: Irregular days
5. An-Butter Taiyaki from Nishiki Ichiyo & Mamemono to Taiyaki: An Indulgent Race Against the Clock!
The butter melts quickly, so if you want to take pics, better be fast!
We pass another shop in Nishiki Market with a particularly long line. At first, it appears to be just an ordinary taiyaki store.
But then a sign catches our eyes: "Best before 1 minute!" The product in question is the 'An Butter Taiyaki,' a taiyaki pastry filled with red bean paste and lots of butter!
We quickly ordered our own 'An Butter (Tsubu-an)' (390 yen), along with the 'Royal Custard' (350 yen). Baking the taiyaki takes about 10 minutes, so you'll have to wait for your number to be called. When it is, head over to the cashier. That's when a heaping mound of butter is placed into your freshly-baked taiyaki right on the spot! And if you want to enjoy it before all that butter melts, you'll have to do so in one minute or less!
If your timing is perfect, you'll be able to delight in the perfect balance of the mellow butter and refreshingly sweet bean paste. But be careful. If you take too long, all that butter will melt and drip down! However, if you eat it carefully, you'll find that even the butter-soaked pastry is delicious, with the taste and texture of a pancake. Not to mention how cute these little guys are!
Our other pick was the Royal Custard, which, while also rich, was made with a simple sweet custard cream that perfectly complements the dough. There's also a spacious eat-in area in the shop, so feel free to take a seat before taking a bite!
Nishiki Ichiyo & Mamemono to Taiyaki
185-2 Higashi Uoya-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 604-8055
Hours: 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Closed: Irregular days
Today our editors have introduced five favorite delectable delights discovered while eating their way around Kyoto. However, there are lots of other tasty treats to be found in Kyoto, so if you're in town this spring, be sure to take a stroll and seek them out for yourself!
Text by: LIVE JAPAN Editorial Department
English Translation by: Krys Suzuki
*Information in article as of April 2023. Please see official websites for the latest updates and information.