Vegetarian (and vegan) food in Kyoto

A couple of weeks ago we were in Kyoto for a few days. As you all know, i'm not vegetarian, but H is, and we have a lot of vegan friends, so we're always on the look out for Vegan and vegetarian friendly places to eat when we're travelling.

While we were in Kyoto we actually stumbled across a few gems, completely by accident!

All these vegetarian/vegan friendly places in Kyoto were in the Teramachi shopping arcade area, so great stops when you're in the central city shopping area. I've put links to their location on Google maps below

Sen no Kaze Ramen

This ramen restaurant looks deceiving. We actually walked past it a couple of times and didn't consider it because all the pictures on the menu out the front were meat-based. After doing a google search for vegan and vegetarian ramen in Kyoto, this place was mentioned! We headed back there and asked the staff (who spoke great English) and she advised they do have vegetarian and vegan ramen. The vegetarian ramen is in a soy-based broth, and they will make a special vegan ramen on request.

If you're looking for a warm bowl of ramen on a cold day and a drink to wash it down, this is the place for you! It's small and popular, so I recommend getting there when it opens, although when we arrived we only waited about 15 minutes and the turnover seemed to be fairly quick. This is also a great option if you are travelling with a meat-eater.


Sen no Kaze Ramen in Kyoto will make both vegan and vegetarian ramen. This cute restaurant is in the Teramachi shopping area in the city centre.
Sen no Kaze Ramen

Sen no Kaze Ramen in Kyoto will make both vegan and vegetarian ramen. This cute restaurant is in the Teramachi shopping area in the city centre.
The Vegetarian ramen (soy milk broth)

The meat version


Matsuontoko

Matsuontoko is a completely vegan restaurant just around the corner from the ramen place above. We happened to spot to sign outside when we were walking past and went straight in!

The menu includes burgers as well as soup and vegan lunch plate sets, organic beer and wine.

There is plenty of seating inside, and the burgers were tasty!

You can find their location here


Matsuontoko is a vegan restaurant serving burgers and other vegan food in the city centre of Kyoto.
Matsuontoko (vegan restaurant)

Matsuontoko is a vegan restaurant serving burgers and other vegan food in the city centre of Kyoto.
Avocado burger

Miso cutlet burger


Floresta Donuts (Vegetarian)

So these aren't actually vegan, but they are a great dessert treat if you are vegetarian. These donuts are fantastic because they are not super sweet like Mr Donut or Krispy Creme and the company is trying to make a healthier donut using local and organic ingredients. Also, their animal donuts are so cute and Instagrammable!

You can find their location here

Floresta Donuts in Kyoto are delicious AND super cute!
Floresta donuts

cuties
Other vegetarian options in Kyoto:

I noticed quite a few Indian restaurants in the main shopping area with vegetarian menus, which is also easy if you are looking for something tasty to eat.

Have you been to Kyoto? Are there any other vegan and vegetarian places you recommend?

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Vegetarian food in Kyoto is relatively easy to find. Check out my post for where to get delicious meals when in Kyoto!


Nijo Castle - Kyoto

Entrance to Ninomaru Palace

On our first full day in Kyoto, we were up early and headed to Nijo Castle. Have you ever read Lian Hearn's Across the Nightingale Floor? Well it's a great book, but more importantly, Ninomaru Palace at Nijo Castle has the famous Nightingale floors. These floors were built to make a chirping or squesking sound when walked across to alert the inhabitants of any intruders. Anyway, this was our main reason for wanting to check out Nijo Castle, however we were pleasantly surprised by how awesomely beautiful the grounds surrounding this place were.

After doing the walk through Ninomaru Palace with what felt like a million other people and horribly behaved children, we left the palace to walk through the gardens. This was the best part. It was a FREEZING cold day compared to Okinawa, so we were getting colder by the minute when a little teahouse appeared on the path in the Seiryu-en gardens. I saw that the coffee was overpriced, but we were cold and a hot drink was in order. We walked in just wanting a rest, but what we got was yummy snacks and the most beautiful view of a Japanese garden we could have imagined! The overpriced coffee, all of a sudden became totally worth it!

The coffee was lovely, and little G got one of the most decadent and delicious hot cocoas i'd ever tried. The matcha chiffon cake was also delicious, and I don't even like matcha. We opted to sit outside and look at the garden while we had our drinks, and at that moment the sun came out and started warming our freezing legs. It was all incredibly perfect and just what we needed.

After dragging ourselves away from the lovely teahouse, we continued through the gardens to a row of amazingly yellow ginko trees. The leaves were falling off in the wind, and it was so lovely. It was like being rained on by golden leaves!

Nijo Castle was a lovely place to visit, both for the history and the beautiful autumn colours. Apparently there are many cherry trees to see in the Spring as well, so is worth checking out at other times of the year. Don't miss the lovely tea house in the Seiryu-en garden part of the complex!

Nijo Castle in Kyoto is one of the few places you can experience chirping nightingale floors and it is surrounded by gorgeous gardens, worth a visit in any season!
Ninomaru Palace


Gloomy Ninomaru Gardens



Nijo Castle in Kyoto is one of the few places you can experience chirping nightingale floors and it is surrounded by gorgeous gardens, worth a visit in any season!
Honmaru

Honmaru garden

Japanese Maple
Ginko tree


Nijo Castle in Kyoto is one of the few places you can experience chirping nightingale floors and it is surrounded by gorgeous gardens, worth a visit in any season!
Moat

Little teahouse on the grounds of Nijo Castle in Kyoto is a great stop for a warming cup of coffee or some Japanese sweets while looking out at a beautiful garden
Teahouse

Nijo Castle in Kyoto is one of the few places you can experience chirping nightingale floors and it is surrounded by gorgeous gardens, worth a visit in any season!
This view - does it get any more beautiful?

Coffee and Matcha Chiffon cake

Hot cocoa

Little teahouse on the grounds of Nijo Castle in Kyoto is a great stop for a warming cup of coffee or some Japanese sweets while looking out at a beautiful garden
Menu

Nijo Castle in Kyoto is one of the few places you can experience chirping nightingale floors and it is surrounded by gorgeous gardens, worth a visit in any season!


Can't stop looking at those maple leaves

Raining ginko
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Nijo Castle in Kyoto is one of the few places you can experience chirping nightingale floors and it is surrounded by gorgeous gardens, worth a visit in any season!

Nanzenji Temple - Kyoto

Sanmon Gate

Last week, we finally took a holiday we had been planning for a year. In March last year we were lucky enough to get to Kyoto for the peak cherry blossom season, and we wanted to do the same for the autumn leaves. I was so happy we got to make this trip happen!

After our temple stay in Koyasan, we made our way to Kyoto for 3 nights. We checked into our Airbnb, which I had chosen because of it's proximity to some of the most beautiful temples in Kyoto. I first visited Nanzenji temple during my first trip to Japan around 12 years ago and fell in love straight away! Because it was only around 10 minutes walk from our apartment, we headed over there to have a look before sunset. 

As soon as little G spotted people up the top of the Sanmon Gate, we decided to go up to check out the view. It was incredible! I think it was particularly crowded with people up there trying to get sunset photos, but I just wanted to get an overview of the complex, filled with gorgeous autumn colours!

After making our way back down, I was a bit disappointed to see the garden already closed (which luckily I have seen in the past!), but we looked at the main temple and G had fun playing under the arches of the aqueduct. The grounds of Nanzenji are absolutely gorgeous, especially during the autumn season. There's a reason this place is so popular (and busy!).

Beware the photo overload below:

This here is what I came for!



Nanzenji temple, in Kyoto Japan is one of the best places to see the gorgeous fall colours in Kyoto.



Taking in the beautiful view





Nanzenji temple, in Kyoto Japan is one of the best places to see the gorgeous fall colours in Kyoto.



Nanzenji temple, in Kyoto Japan is one of the best places to see the gorgeous fall colours in Kyoto.


Sunset


Nanzenji temple, in Kyoto Japan is one of the best places to see the gorgeous fall colours in Kyoto.
<3



Nanzenji temple, in Kyoto Japan is one of the best places to see the gorgeous fall colours in Kyoto.

Streams everywhere!



Nanzenji can be easily accessed by Kyoto bus or a short walk from Keage station on the Tozai subway.

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Nanzenji temple, in Kyoto Japan is one of the best places to see the gorgeous fall colours in Kyoto.


Temple Stay at Koyasan

Last week I got to cross something off my long-time Japan bucket-list. A temple stay at Koyasan. Koyasan is the center of the Shingon sect of buddhism introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi. Kobo Daishi's mausoleum is in the Okunoin cemetery. I have seen countless photos of the amazing Okunoin cemetery and heard about the delicious Shojin Ryori (Buddhist vegetarian cuisine) served at the temples. Seeing as little G is now older and actually really into temples, we thought we could attempt it. 

The train ride to Koyasan is gorgeous when you eventually get out of Osaka, winding up the mountain, looking at the fall leaves and many many persimmon trees. Once we arrived at Gokurakubashi station, we transferred to the cable car for the steep ascent to the top, then hopped on a bus to take us in to town. Although it seems like a lot of transferring, the cable car and buses are all timed to meet each other, so it was fairy straight forward. 

Once we arrived at our temple, we wandered around until we found where to check in, and even though we were there at 1pm, they checked us straight into our room, which was great. We dumped our luggage, then headed out to find some lunch.

This guy - LOVES riding the trains
Our temple, with the name right out the front

View from our temple room

Our room at Shojoshin-in temple in Koyasan. It overlooked a gorgeous Japanese garden with a pond and koi.
Our room

Entrance to the temple



Fall is an amazing time of year to Visit Koyasan. It is cold enough to enjoy your sento and there are red leaves everywhere!
So excited for all the maple leaves

Fall leaves in Koyasan, Japan


Stopped for some matcha - which I don't even like!
Unfortunately, there is actually not too much happening in the town, and finding somewhere that served vegetarian food was difficult. The one place recommended online had a huge wait, so we ended up in a tiny cafe with cheese toast and matcha tea. It was ok, except the matcha was incredibly bitter (and I don't really like matcha) and later we walked past a cafe that was super cute with what seemed to have plenty of vegetarian options! Oh well! We stopped in there for afternoon tea later.

As we were walking through town we checked out a couple of temples, then headed to the Okunoin cemetary, which was next to our temple stay and the main drawcard for me. It was super cold (MUCH more than Okinawa), so we didn't walk the whole way (2kms), and headed back to our room to warm up with a family bath before dinner.






For dinner we were placed in our own separate room downstairs which was already laid out with trays full of different dishes. Someone brought in the hot portions after we sat down and we dug in. The food was really delicious, even though I wasn't sure what some of it was. There was a LOT of food, but it was the kind of food that I knew would leave me starving again in a few hours. There was one especially delicious boiled daikon radish dish.

Dinner time!
After an early night, we had to get up and be at the morning ceremony (prayers) at 6:30am sharp. The room was gorgeous (no photos allowed), filled with gold and we basically sat silently for 45 minutes while the two monks were praying.

Staying in a temple with a 5 year old, we were a little worried about his ability to keep quiet (the walls were paper thin), and last through the morning ceremony, but he did amazingly! Actually other guests were louder than G.

After the ceremony we went straight to breakfast in the same room as the night before, and I think it was even more delicious. The dishes were all different than dinner, including an amazing ginger tofu that I could eat forever.

The morning fog after the ceremony
After breakfast we headed out to explore Okunoin cemetary in the fog. It added such a mystical, eerie quality to the experience, and this was probably my favourite part of the stay. After the morning walk, we packed up and left because we had a long commute to Kyoto for the following 3 nights.

Seriously this fog was intense.


The morning fog in Okunoin Cemetary, Koyasan was mystical and eerie and made for an amazing photography opportunity
Okunoin Cemetary
Morning fog in Okunoin Cemetary, Koyasan
Moss <3


Morning fog in Okunoin Cemetary, Koyasan. There are over 200,000 graves in this old cemetary

Morning fog in Okunoin Cemetary, Koyasan



The temple we chose to stay at was Shojoshin-in. There is a lot of choice, and it can be a bit overwhelming. We made our decision based on the recommendation of a friend, online reviews and the fact that it was located next to the entrance of the cemetery. I think it was a good choice. The garden was gorgeous, the food was tasty and they don't have a curfew as i've heard some of the other temples have.

Dinner is served at 5:30 exactly, and you need to be at the temple by this time. Guests are also required to attend the morning ceremony. If you are a bit picky with your food, you should note that there are no convenience stores in the town (that I could find!), so it might be an idea to stock up on some snacks before you leave Osaka in case you end up hungry.

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A temple stay at Koyasan in Japan is a must-do for a traditional Japanese experience. The journey up the mountain is gorgeous, and staying in a temple is an experience you won't get anywhere else!