Konichiwa from Kyoto, the second last stop on my three week tour of Japan! After a couple of quick journeys on the Shinkansen from Hiroshima, we made it to our hotel in central Kyoto to drop off our bags and hunt for some eats.
The closest thing we could find that took our fancy was Gomacro and really I had no idea what to expect. We were greeted by lovely staff and presented with an all vegan menu featuring sesame! Sesame is one of my favourite things ever so as you can imagine I was pretty down with the prospect of a sesame themed meal. Unfortunately their large lunch set was sold out (get there early if you want it) but I grabbed the noodle set which included a pasta and salad (plus coffee and a mini dessert for a little extra). Before the meal arrived we were each given a little mortar and pestle filled with sesame seeds to grind and add to our lunch, C-U-T-E! The pasta was super tasty and full of fresh vegetables, the salad was simple but totally satisfying plus I washed it down with an iced sesame chai which was dope AF. Then in a moment of weakness I ordered the assorted dessert platter consisting of a nut tart, brownie and ice cream with granola. Oh. My. God. So good.
I rolled my way back to the hotel and checked in before taking some time to chill before dinner. We headed along the Nishiki Market for a highly anticipated dinner at Cafe Matsuontoko but were met by a sign saying they were booked out for the night (awesome for them, sad for us!) we made a booking for the following evening and headed around the corner to Momukuteki. With a lovely atmosphere and great staff, we were seated in the couch area and given an English menu. Much of the menu is vegan, the main offender is fish stock and dishes containing it are clearly marked. I opted for the tofu burger set. It was a little on the smaller side but after the epic lunch I had earlier it was more than enough, on a normal day I may have ordered a dessert to take me to that next level of fullness.
On our first full day in Kyoto, we expected rain so opted for one of the less outdoorsy activities and hit up Kyoto Studio Park. Many of Japan’s movies and television shows are filmed here and you can wander some of the sets as well as see some live performances and dress up as a ninja or geisha (this costs extra). It didn’t take us long to get through the park so we headed off to Kyoto Station for lunch.
We thought we’d take a gamble and check out Kyotofu Fujino atop the Isetan building in the station. This tofu-centric restaurant is a little more pricey and unfortunately most items contain fish. The staff are very friendly and can let you know what is fish-free but don’t expect too much. The sesame tofu was ok, the assorted baked tofu was much better but together unfortunately a satisfying meal they did not make. There was a miscommunication with the waiter (not his fault, I can’t speak Japanese) so I couldn’t quite establish whether or not the soy ice cream contained dairy. It came out anyway and I didn’t eat it. The most frustrating thing about it was that Kyotofu clearly state on the front of their menu that the restaurant isn’t vegan so they know what it is and it would be great if they could a) add a set meal that is vegan and/or b) denote what’s vegan on the menu to make things easier for their staff and customers.
Slightly unsatisfied we wandered around the station’s many shops for a while before heading back to our hotel to get ready for dinner at Cafe Matsuontoko. Inside there’s a lot of dark wood and large dining tables plus some additional seating upstairs. Movies are projected onto one of the walls although from where we were sitting it was kinda hard to see. The menu is quite large and diverse with a range of different meals to choose from. Making up for lunch I decided to get the avocado burger set which was served with fries and salad as well as the fried soy meat. It was all hella tasty and super fresh, albeit a tad messy but who cares right? I like that the portion sizes in Japan are modestly satisfying to prevent you from going over the edge into a food coma. I tempted fate and went for a parfait for dessert which was full of cake, mochi, matcha ice cream, soy cream, matcha jelly and some random red bean filled pastry. I didn’t hit that food coma but I came damned close thanks to that tasty little number.
The next day it was onto the Sagano Romantic Train for a cute little ride through Kyoto’s mountains and view of the Hozugawa River. I recommend sitting on the left side of the train if you’re heading from Saga-Torokko Station as you’ll get the best view! Once we hit the top we decided to shell out the extra clams for a ride on the Hozugawa River Boat, taking about 1.5 hours to reach the bottom. Our guides were hilarious even though we couldn’t understand a word they said to us and the experience was well worth the cash. We got to walk through the Bamboo Forest en route back to the station, a damn visual feast of bamboo.
After an epic day of naycha, it was back to Kyoto Station for lunch, this time trying out Cosme Kitchen Cafe, a casual setting with vegan options within Kyoto Station’s The Cube. Just ask the staff what’s vegan and they’ll sort you out, this time I had the curry lunch set which came with 2 deli options so I picked a couple of salads. It tasted way better than the photo suggests and is a great option if you’re in a hurry.
We headed straight from our late lunch to the traditional area of Gion, famous for its Geisha and other Japanese traditions. It’s hard to believe that this place is just a few minutes from the bright lights and city towers, it feels like you’ve stepped back in time as soon as you cross the bridge! We were told to hit up Gion Corner for an inexpensive taste of what Japanese culture has to offer. For about 50 bucks you can catch an hour-long show featuring a tea ceremony, Kyo-Mai dance, flower arrangement, Koto Zither, Gagaku court music, Kyogen Theatre and Bunraku puppet theatre. While it did seem a little low in production value, I get the vibe that this show is put on as an inexpensive option for tourists to experience various elements of Japanese traditions and is run by an art foundation so I assume the money is going to a worthy cause keeping these traditions alive, which I am super down with supporting.
A short 15 minute walk and we were back at Momukuteki for dinner. This time I had a rice thing (I forget what it’s called!) that came with burger patties, salads and lotus root. I also grabbed spicy fries and a chocolate shake because I’m an absolute MONSTER. If that wasn’t enough I decided to finish things off with a sweet potato pie, which came with soft serve that tasted more like froyo (I ain’t complainin). I bloody love this place and wish we had something like it in Newy so I could go every. single. day.
The following day we hit up Fushimi Inari to check out the epic pathways of torii gates. After strolling around for a little while we hopped another coupla trains to Kurama to immerse ourselves in more culcha and naycha. Luckily Yoshuji is located right outside the entrance to Mt. Kurama, meaning we were able to get a tasty feast for lunch. This joint has basic lunches starting from around 1000 yen but I went YOLO and got the full shojin-ryori experience, complete with soup, noodles, tempura, vegetables, fruit salad and a whole bunch of other bits and pieces. Boy, it was good!
That night we met up with a pal who also happened to be in Japan and decided to show her Momukuteki. After that epic lunch I wasn’t all that hungry so went for the salad and those spicy fries again (because I’m a mofo monster!) The salad was pretty simple with some veggie mince served alongside it. Definitely not the best item on the menu but great for a light option.
We were due for a bit of a chill day so decided to spend it wandering around the Shoju area where we were staying. There are so many amazing shops lining the streets and undercover malls, you can entertain yourself for hours. Oh, and Mumokuteki is there so embarrassingly we stopped in again for lunch. I had the burger again (you don’t need to see another pic). After that we did a little more browsing around before a brief pit stop at our hotel then onto Veggie Cafe for dinner! This little place is adorable and run by the sweetest Japanese man who is clearly influenced by American culture. The grub is a wholesome and healthy take on fast food and it’s super delish at a modest price. I had the felafel pita, fries and finished it off with a cinnamon bun. All delicious, all vegan, all good!
And with that, Kyoto is a wrap! The final leg of the trip is upon us as we hit Tokyo next for all the eating, doing and shopping we can muster. The next time you hear from me, I’ll probably be back in Australia, Vegemite sanga in hand. Sayonara!
67-3 Jinmei-cho, Nakagyo-ku
2F, Teramachi-dori (at near Shijo Teramachi),
Kyoto Studio Park
10 Uzumasa Higashihachiokacho, Ukyo Ward
JR Kyoto Isetan, 11th floor
538-6 Shijyo Agaru Shinkyougoku Nakanocho Nakagyoku (at Shijo)
Cosme Kitchen Café
901 Karasuma Shiokojikudaru, Higashioji, Shimogyo-ku (at JR Isetan Station)
Yasaka Hall, 570-2 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku,
68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward
Nishikiinokuma-cho 537, Nakagyoku (at Inokuma dori)