You don’t have to be vegetarian to enjoy shojin ryori, or Zen temple vegetarian cuisine. These multi-course plant-based meals are an essential culinary experience when visiting Kyoto. Check out our list of shojin ryori restaurants in Kyoto below!
Shojin ryori in Kyoto: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com
Well before kaiseki, there was shojin-ryori – Zen temple vegetarian cuisine. Think of an elaborate, seasonal, multi-course, 100% plant-based meal and you won’t be far off the mark. It is the kind of food that reveals the extent of all the possibilities inherent in plant ingredients – especially the soybean. It is substantial but will not leave you bloated. You don’t have to be vegetarian to love this; it might even inspire you to eat more greens in the long run.
Because of its monastic origins, the majority of shojin-ryori restaurants in Kyoto are found inside temples. This must be one of the best parts about shojin-ryori dining – you get to visit a lovely temple at the same time and kill two birds with one stone!
In general, shojin ryori meals fall within the mid-range price category. They’re great for special occasions, too. Here are some of our favourite places for shojin ryori in Kyoto.
- Shigetsu (Arashiyama; mid-range)
Inside the grounds of Tenryu-ji Temple, Shigetsu is a great place to try traditional Japanese Buddhist cuisines, also known as shojin-ryori.
- Izusen Daiji-in (Central Kyoto; mid-range)
Looking for a vegan meal in beautiful surroundings? Try a shojin-ryori lunch at Izusen Daiji-in in Daitoku-ji Temple. Their gorgeous and elaborate meals are sure to be a highlight of your visit to Kyoto.
- Ajiro Honten (Central Kyoto; mid-range to expensive)
Whether you’re vegan or not, gourmands should head to Ajiro Honten near Myoshin-ji Temple to enjoy gorgeously cooked, multi-course Buddhist temple vegan meals. One of their claims to fame: they’re the longest running vegan restaurant in the city to keep their Michelin star.
- Daitokuji Ikkyu (Central Kyoto; expensive)
For great shojin ryori, look no further than Daitoku-ji Ikkyu. This Zen temple vegetarian restaurant is the oldest existing one of its kind in Kyoto – it’s over 500 years old!
- Yoshuji (Kurama; mid-range)
Yoshuji is the nicest place to eat in Kurama, full stop. You can choose from sets of Buddhist vegetarian cuisine or simpler bowls of noodles.
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Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com - usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too.
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router.
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass - here's my explanation of why it's worth it
- A prepaid Icoca card makes travelling around Kyoto easy - here's how.
- Get travel insurance for Japan - we recommend World Nomads (and here's why)