Kyoto is commonly characterized by traditional Japanese architecture, Geisha customs, natural landscapes, and traditional delicacies that have existed for centuries.
For example, yuba and matcha green tea are common ingredients used at many of the traditional restaurants in Kyoto. They are often amongst the most popular items that visitors look out for when seeking the full Kyoto experience.
To many visitors from overseas, Kyoto is the perfect city to fully immerse themselves in Japanese culture. Here, they can appreciate the differences and nuances of the country and give themselves yet another chance to fall in love with it all over again.
Despite how foreign Kyoto may seem as a city, there is one language that is spoken universally, and that is the language of food.
Japan is one of the hottest countries to visit right now, and a huge part of that is because the world is waking up to how delicious and addictive Japanese cuisine is.
Kyoto is no exception in this case. It is home to some of the country’s oldest, most prominent restaurants and food stalls, and yet despite all this, it remains a humbling city that offers so much more than meets the eye.
The street food scene may be more vibrant, bustling, and in-your-face in cities like Tokyo and Osaka; however, the subtlety of Kyoto’s Street scene is a vibe.
The 6 Best Street Food Spots In Kyoto
Keen to find out where you can experience the best street food spots in Kyoto? Let’s have a read now!
- Nishiki Market
- Fushimi Inari Market
- Tenjin-san Flea Market
- Gion Festival
- Kyoto Sanjo Shopping Street
Let’s discover them one by one below.
1. Nishiki Market
Nishiki is arguably Kyoto’s busiest and most popular shopping street. Nishiki market boasts more than a century of history. It’s been around for generations of families, and many of the food stalls originally started in an open-air fish market.
As you can imagine, the Nishiki market is a place full of shopping wonders. You’ll find stalls for anything from traditional Japanese cooking ingredients such as tofu, matcha, and green tea, to hand-made souvenirs and crafts.
Of course, there are also plenty of stalls selling street food as well! One could argue that the street food stalls are the main attraction of this market.
Some of the best foods that Nishiki Market is known for include tako tamago, which are skewered baby octopus with a quail egg inside its head. Sounds crazy but give it a shot, it’s delicious!
Mochi is also widely sold and super popular at Nishiki Market You’ll find it in all shapes and forms here. Goma dango, or sesame dumplings, are a fantastic snack choice in between looking for other street foods.
After eating to your heart’s content, head over to the stall near Nishiki Shrine that sells grapefruit and asks for freshly pulped juice – served straight from the grapefruit itself!
- Address: Nishiki Market
- Directions: From Kyoto Station, take the train to Shijo Station. The market is only a few minute’s walk away.
2. Fushimi Inari Market
Fushimi Inari is one of Kyoto’s top attractions, so it stands to reason that with the number of crowds it draws in yearly, fantastic street food options would be available to appease those appetites after walking the 12,000 steps to the top!
Located in and around the famous shrines are multiple food stalls selling all the traditional Japanese street food delicacies you can imagine.
Notable mentions for the grilled pork and leek skewers, okonomiyaki, Kobe beef skewers, karaage, and all the mochi types in the world. During summer, finish your visit with chilled ice cream before heading to your next destination.
- Address: Fushimi Inari Market
- Directions: Take the train to Inari station. The shrine is located in front of Inari Station, and the food stalls will be sprinkled around.
3. Tenjin-san Flea Market (Monthly)
A favourite amongst locals and increasingly popular amongst tourists is the Tenjin-san Flea Market. This market has long been referred to as a flea market, but don’t be fooled, it’s so much more than that!
Stalls upon stalls line the streets around Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, selling everything from second-hand clothing to hand-made crafts, fabrics, kimonos, unique vintage items, and of course, delectable Japanese street food fare that will excite all your senses.
As always, topping the list of Japanese street food favourites include the piping hot takoyaki balls that will surely be commanding a line on the street. The smell of yakisoba will constantly waft through the air, whilst grilled corn, freshly fried karaage chicken, and colourful candied fruit will fight for your attention.
The Tenjin-san Flea Market operates on the 25th of every month, from 6:00 am to 4:00 pm.
- Address: Tenjin-san Flea Market
- Directions: Take the train to Kitano Hakubaicho Station. It is a 5-minute walk from the station, following the main road.
4. Gion Festival
The annual Gion Festival that takes place in July is the biggest Matsuri (Japanese festival) across Kyoto. The name is derived from the Gion neighbourhood, home to the geisha quarter in Japan.
The celebrations of this festival happen for the entire month, with processions and parades happening throughout the day and night. In the three days leading up to the massive parades, city streets are all closed off to vehicles.
Gion Festival is one of the most traditional and exhilarating festivals in Japan, and if you happen to be visiting in July, we highly recommend you make time to participate in the festival.
Not only is it an opportunity to snap some pictures of the rarely seen geishas and get up close and personal with some of the most elaborate traditional costumes you’ll ever see, but street food at the Gion Festival is top-tier.
Stalls upon stalls line the streets, selling all your favourite Japanese street foods including takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and yakitori. You’ll also be able to snack on taiyaki, mochi, traditional sweets, dango, and many other food options that will ensure you’ll be full until the following morning.
As it is in July, be aware that it will be super hot and crowded. The locals’ favourite way to cool down is to seek out a kakigori stand (Japanese shaved ice), and savour the ice-cold dessert as you take in the amazing sights of the parade floats.
Directions: The Gion Festival takes place in central Kyoto and can be easily accessed by subway, bus, taxi, or by walking. The main celebrations take place around Shijo, Kawaramachi, and Oike streets.
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is famous worldwide for its distinct towering bamboo groves that paint the perfect background for aphoto.
A favourite pastime in and around Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is hiring bikes and pedalling around the small village, taking in the beautiful scenery and breathing in the fresh air. Whilst doing so, you’ll be burning quite a bit of energy!
When start feeling a little bit peckish, stop by one of the food stalls along the streets to fuel up on some delicious Kyoto Street food.
There is quite a variety of food to go through, however, some of the top offerings at Arashiyama include korokke (fried potato and beef croquettes), gelato and ice cream, dango, and traditional Japanese sweets. Matcha-flavoured ice cream should also be at the top of your list; after all, Uji in Kyoto is the capital of matcha in Japan!
Directions: Take the train to Saga Arashiyama. From there, it is a 10-minute walk to the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. Along the way, you will find multiple food stalls.
If you want to discover all the local Arashiyama street food, we recommend a cool guided tour here: Best Food Tours In Kyoto.
6. Kyoto Sanjo Shopping Street
Nijo-jo Castle was built many centuries ago in the 1600s and was home to the Tokugawa Ieyasu, the very first shogun of the Edo era.
Niji-jo Castle is a World Heritage site in Kyoto, but to locals and international visitors, it’s so much more than that.
Today it stands as a visiting ground for those wishing to learn more about the history of Kyoto and those wanting to marvel at the unique and stunning Japanese architecture.
Exploring castles is a tiring activity, and for those who are wondering, you don’t have to leave this site feeling hungry. Nearby to the castle is the roughly 800m long Kyoto Sanjo Shopping Street, where you can cafe hop, sit down for a piping hot meal, or, as we suggest, walk the streets and taste all the street food on offer.
Kyoto Sanjo Shopping Street offers everything from taiyaki with red bean, custard, and caramel fillings, matcha soft serve ice cream, sashimi, black sesame cream crepes, and a whole heap of other tasty snacks. There are also plenty of restaurants, bakeries, souvenir shops, and craft shops to explore along the way.
- Address: Kyoto Sanjo Shopping Street
- Directions: It is less than 10 minutes away on foot from Nijo-jo Castle.
I hope you enjoyed our list of the best street food spots in Kyoto!
Kyoto is full of stunning beauty and its landscape is pretty much any photographer’s dream. Nowadays, it’s slowly becoming every foodie’s favourite destination as well!
There’s nowhere quite like Kyoto, where century-old traditional Japanese restaurants and food stalls are still family-operated today.
Normally, you’d expect all the best eateries to be in condensed major cities where options are limitless. Kyoto’s best street food spots prove that it’s not just the major cities that can offer a strong street food game.
Are you excited about your next visit to Kyoto? Remember to hit up all spots listed to get the best fix for your Japanese street food cravings!
Don’t know what to eat in these food stalls? Read our post about the 10 best Japanese street foods you should try!