Monday 25 September 2023

Kyoto's Best Vegan Restaurants in 2023

Updated September 2023 

Welcome to Kyoto

Kyoto is the vegan capital of Asia. It has over a dozen purely vegan restaurants, and, unlike Tokyo, most of these are within walking distance of the common visitor attractions. And while shojin ryori (Buddhist temple cuisine) is a must-eat at least once in Japan -- and Kyoto the best place to do it -- many other vegan restaurants are surprisingly inexpensive. A simple, healthy set meal often costs as little as a thousand Yen -- less than a comparable meal would be in most of the world's historic cities.

This summary of vegan restaurants in Kyoto, which I originally wrote several years ago, is now regularly updated with information from my Vegan Travel Guide to Japan.

Kyoto's Best Meals at a Glance

Links stay in this page.  

Best meal out in Kyoto  Little Heaven
Best Western/Fusion Food Veg Out
Best MacrobioticPadma
Best-value Simple, Healthy Meals  Kitten Company
Work/Study/Hangout Space Cafe Choice



Prices include a drink and dessert if it would be normal to have one at such a meal. $ = inexpensive (<¥1,500)
$$ = mid-range (¥1,500-$2,000) $$$ = expensive (>¥5,000)

Veg Status

For practical reasons I categorise restaurants by the ‘worst’ ingredients used.

🌱 = fully vegan restaurant.
🍯 = uses honey but not dairy, egg or meat.
🥛 = uses dairy and may use honey, but not egg or meat.
🥚 = uses egg and may use dairy and/or honey, but does not serve meat.
🐖 = serves meat, and/or dairy, and/or eggs and/or honey

Kyoto Districts

Like for my page on Vegan Restaurants in Tokyo, this page follows the same outings as in my Vegan Travel Guide to Japan. In it I divide Kyoto up into four sections: the Kyoto Station Area, Northern Kyoto, Higashiyama and Arashiyama. These sections are selected to be useful for tourists, but they are not formal city districts. I recommend spending two days in Higashiyama (one day in Northern Higashimaya and one day in Southern Higashiyama, although these can be combined into one long summer's day) and one day in Arashiyama. There are several attractions and restaurants within a few kilometres of Kyoto Station in all directions, which can be easily reached from Kyoto Station, so I call this area the "Kyoto Station Area". That leaves an area dense in historical sites and some good vegan restaurants to the north of Kyoto Station, which I simply call "Northern Kyoto" (see map below). 

Most travellers to Kyoto choose to visit only a few tourist attractions and vegan restaurants in the Kyoto Station Area and Northern Kyoto, but everyone should at least visit Gion (and the nearby Shirakawa Minami Dori Street) and Kinkakuji (the famous Golden Pavilion). For visitors with only three days in Kyoto, I recommend fitting attractions in Northern Kyoto and the Kyoto Station Area around the other itineraries. If you have four or more days in Kyoto, then the Northern Kyoto attractions can be comfortably visited together in one day. For travellers who stay in Kyoto while visiting nearby cities (eg Osaka, Nara) I recommend visiting the Kyoto Station Area attractions in the morning before leaving Kyoto.

Kyoto Station Area

Organic House Salute ($$, Macrobiotic, Vegan, Take-out, オーガニックハウス サルーテ, 🌱)

Fri-Mon: 11:30-14:30, 17:00-19:30; closed Tue-Thu.

Four minutes’ walk northwest of Kyoto Station (Central Exit).

600-8216 京都府京都市下京区東塩小路町600-31
Shimogyo Ward, Higashishiokojicho 600-8216

Google Maps, Facebook, website (Japanese only)


Inexpensive bentos (lunchboxes) from beside Kyoto Station, perfect for train rides.
Very unreliable hours; currently only take-out.

Update this restaurant.

One of the oldest vegetarian restaurants in Kyoto, this Salute now only sells take-out bentos (lunchboxes) for around ¥1,200. It used to be open for dine-in customers but with very irregular hours, and then it became a ‘member-only’ place during the border closures. It’s nothing to write home about, but I’m keeping it listed because a take-out vegan bento could be perfect for long train rides, and it’s only a few minutes’ walk from Kyoto Station.    

Veg Out ($$, Western, 🌱)

Wed, Thu, Fri, Sun: 9:00-10:30, 11:30-17:30; closed Mon, Tue, Sat. 
Please check its Facebook page for irregular opening hours.

Veg Out is on the west side of the Shichijo Bridge over the Kamogawa River, on the north side of the road.
Ten minutes’ walk northeast of Kyoto Station, on the way to Southern Higashiyama.
Several buses cover some of the route from Kyoto Station (please use the directions link below) but it’s usually faster and easier to walk the whole way or take a taxi.
Two minutes’ walk west (straight across the bridge) from Shichijō Station on the Keihan Line (which connects with several restaurants and attractions in this itinerary, and with Osaka, but not with Kyoto Station). 
Six minutes’ walk west of Sanjusan Gendo and the Kyoto National Museum.

600-8133 京都府京都市下京区 七条通加茂川筋西入ル稲荷町448 鴨川ビル.
600-8133 Kyoto, Shimogyo Ward, Shichijō, Naricho 448, Kamogawa Building.

Google Maps, website, Facebook, HappyCow


Good food; open for breakfast; on the way to southern Higashiyama; beautiful view over the Kamogawa river.
Moderately expensive, but good value for the location.

Update this restaurant.

This sister café of Tamisa Yoga Café has two great things going for it: it’s open from 9:30 (it used to be 8:00 before the border closures, and hopefully will be again by the time you read this), and it has a prime location right on the Kamo River, beside the picturesque old bridge, between Kyoto Station and Southern Higashiyama. Much like the nearby cafe Choice (which is also usually open early) Veg Out can be a lifesaver when you need it. Prices are slightly higher than at comparable restaurants in Kyoto, with simple lunches costing around ¥1,700, but this is very reasonable given the location. 

Northern Kyoto

This area includes many vegan restaurants and popular tourist attractions north of the Kyoto Station Area (see above) and west of the Kamogawa River (east of that is Higashiyama - see below). Most tourists visit some of these attractions and dine at some of the restaurants after a day in Higashiyama or on other evenings, but I don't recommend making a whole day out of these attractions unless you have at least four days in Kyoto.

Kitten Company ($$, Fusion,  キトゥン カンパニー, 🌱)

Mon-Wed, Fri, Sat: 11:00-19:00; closed Thu, Sun.

One minutes’ walk west from Gojō Station, Exit 4, on the Karasuma (subway) Line, one stop north of Kyoto Station. Continue as you walk out the exit and a small lane will go off to the left. Kitten Company is in the first building after that lane, on the ground floor.
Fifteen minutes’ walk directly north of Kyoto Station.
Thirteen minutes’ walk west of Kiyomizu-Gojō Station on the Keihan Line.
Six minutes’ walk north of Higashi-Honganji Temple and Shouseien Garden.

600-8170 京都府京都市下京区五条烏丸西入る上諏訪町294-1
600-8170 Kyoto, Shimogyo-kyu, Kamisuwa-Cho 294-1

Google Maps, website , HappyCow


Charming, inexpensive and very accessible little vegan café.  

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This humble café serves simple, healthy meals at remarkably low prices, especially given its location on the first floor near a busy street corner, within easy walking distance of many of the city’s prime tourist attractions. It has a somewhat alternative vibe (but not to the extent of Natural Food Village) and it’s clear that the family who run it are passionate about promoting veganism, sustainability and other good causes.
The menu changes regularly, but it always includes the typical (but very good) Japanese/fusion/macrobiotic dishes like curries and salads. Their meal sets are excellent value, starting at around ¥1,000, and their cakes and other desserts are also very good. Come expecting a good meal, but not the company of kittens.

Whitely Cafe, ($$, Western, Fusion, 🌱)


On the third floor of the Daimaru Department Store, beside Karasuma Station on the Karasuma (subway) Line (which runs north-south, connecting Kyoto Station, the Imperial Palace, and the Botanical Gardens) and the Hankyu Kyoto Line (which runs to Osaka).

Google Maps, Instagram, HappyCow


Reliable opening hours (it’s inside a shopping mall).
Good food at reasonable prices.

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This new vegan restaurant serves good macrobiotic vegan fare which is likely to appeal to foreign tourists. The main dishes are mostly burgers and pasta, which cost between ¥1,200 and ¥1,500. For a few hundred more Yen dishes can be upgraded to include combinations and permutations of a salad, a drink and a small dessert. I was particularly impressed by the coffee. Whitely probably won’t serve your favourite meal in Japan, but the dining experience is very pleasant (despite being in a shopping mall), it’s conveniently located by the subway station, and, most importantly, being inside a shopping mall means that it keeps regular opening hours, making it the place to come when everything else around it is closed unexpectedly, which happens an awful lot in Kyoto. 

Smoothie etc @ Tamisa Yoga Café ($$, Western, Baked Goods, 🌱,)

Sat, Sun: 10:00-17:00.

Seven minutes’ walk west of Sanjo Station on the Keihan Line.
Three minutes’ walk south of Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Station on the Tozai Line, which is of little use for any of the itineraries in this guidebook.

About fifteen minutes’ ride north of Kyoto Station by Bus 市営205, 市営急行104, or 市営4 from outside Kyoto Station (¥230).

604-8082 京都府京都市中京区天性寺前町532-2 北原ビル
604-8082 Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, Tenshojimaecho, 532-2, Kitahara Building

Google Maps, website, HappyCow, Facebook



Nice interior above a yoga studio.  
Small portions.

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Nice interior above a yoga studio.  
Small portions.

Update this restaurant

This little café, which is attached to the Tamisa Yoga Studio (which offers classes in English) serves light meals, including quiches, noodles and salads, as well as muffins and other baked treats. It has recently, however, stopped serving its namesake smoothies.

Ain Soph Journey ($$, Fusion, 🌱)

Wed, Fri, Sat: 11:30-15:00; Sun: 11:30-16:00, 18:00-18:45; closed Mon, Tue, Thu.

Two minutes’ walk north of Kawaramachi Station (Exit 9) on the (private) Hankyu Kyoto Line.
Fifteen minutes’ walk west of Yasaka Shrine.

通四条上ル中之町, 新京極, 538-6 中之町 中京区 京都市 京都府 604-8042
Shijo Street,
上ルNakanocho, Shinkyoko Street, 538-6 Nakanocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8042

Google Maps, HappyCow, website (Japanese only), Facebook (shared page for all branches)


Fast, healthy, inexpensive food.  
You’ll probably try the same food at least once in another branch in Tokyo.

Update this restaurant.

When I heard the tragic news that Matsuontoko, one of Kyoto’s earliest vegan restaurants, had closed permanently, I had to edit this book in dismay, removing about a dozen references to this famous restaurant. Fortunately, Ain Soph, one of Tokyo’s earliest vegan institutions, has opened a Kyoto branch in the same place. While Matsuontoko started out as a pub and evolved into more of a restaurant, Ain Soph has more of a café-like atmosphere. But what’s most important is that this spot lives on as the go-to place for food in this cultural heart of Kyoto. True to its reputation from the capital, this branch also serves healthy, satisfying meals, at a surprisingly low prices for this location, at around ¥1,000 for a small meal. 

Stardust ($$, Fusion, スターダスト, 🌱)

Fri-Tue: 11:00-18:00, by reservation only. Closed Wed, Thu.

Twenty minutes by Bus Shiei 4 from Demachiyanagi Station.
A long ride (around half an hour) on Bus Shiei 9 from Kyoto Station.

41紫竹下竹殿町 北区 京都市 京都府 603-8412
41 Shichiku Shimotakedonocho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8412

Google Maps, website, HappyCow

Email for reservations (English is okay).


Incredible meal and dining environment for the price.
Restaurant is a long way from attractions and requires a reservation a few days in advance.

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Good writing is about adjectives, a friend once advised me, and I know I use the adjective ‘beautiful’ too often, but it’s difficult not to when writing about Japan. But nowhere deserves it more than Stardust, a fitting name for this café and sustainable fashion store which takes its name from the fact that many of the minerals in our body were created in exploding stars (called supernovae). Material from these supernovae coalesced to form the Earth over billions of years, and then some of these atoms came together and formed the complicated molecules necessary for conscious life. So our bodies are literally the dust of stars of the past – or, as I used to put it to my middle school science students, stars’ nuclear waste, although that description is much less fitting for this beautiful café. “You are a star brought down to Earth. Until the time when your light returns back to the universe, you carry that same brightness inside of you” (from the café’s website).

I rarely recommend cafes this far from a city’s main attractions and transport hubs, and this is the only one I recommend which requires an advanced reservation except for shojin ryori restaurants, which always require reservations. But I chose to recommend Stardust because the whole experience here is just so perfect, including the food, the service, and the setting. In some ways, making a reservation and having a meal waiting for you at Stardust offers much of the shojin ryori experience for only ¥1,500, although of course the meal is simpler, and you dine in a rustic old machiya (traditional teahouse) or its beautiful garden, not a Buddhist temple, but I wouldn’t say either is any better than the other. I came away feeling very elated from my experience here, and if you have the time to get here and can make a reservation in advance, I highly recommend it. 

Gomacro Salon ($$, Sesame, ゴマクロサロン, 🍯)

Tue-Sun: 11:30-17:00; closed Mon. 

Two minutes’ walk west of Karasume Oike Station on the Karasuma (subway) Line (which runs north-south, connecting Kyoto Station, the Imperial Palace, and the Botanical Gardens) and the Subway Tozai Line, which connects with the southern part of the Northern Higashiyama Station, including Keage Station (beside the Keage Incline).

Google Maps, Facebook, HappyCow, website (limited English)


Unique focus on sesame.
A sole vegan branch of a non-vegan business.  

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Sesame has long been important in Japanese cuisine. This restaurant is owned by a company which produces sesame products, and it uses this restaurant (and its other non-veg ones) to showcase its products. The menu consists of typical (but good) macrobiotic food, with the usual salads, brown rice and fried soymeat, but there’s sesame in or on virtually everything. Set meals start from about ¥1,300. Gomacro also sells bentos (takeout lunchboxes) and some of the company’s sesame sauces and oils as grocery items. 
I generally prioritise restaurants which are owned and run by vegans or vegetarians over vegan or vegetarian branches of non-veg chains, because I find the food to be invariably better (as non-vegan branches tend to just remove the animal products from their regular menus, instead of developing their own vegan cuisine), because the food is more likely to be truly vegan, and also because I think it’s better to support ethical businesses which don’t use their money to promote meat elsewhere. But I recommend Gomacro because of its unique focus on sesame, its reliable opening hours, and the overall quality of the food and dining experience it provides. 

Higashiyama (東山)

entrance to Kiyomizu Dera, one of Kyoto's most famous temples,  on a rare snow day

Higashiyama has the highest density of famous temples and other tourist attractions in Kyoto, if not in all of Japan. As I explain in my Vegan Travel Guide to Japan, I strongly recommend visiting Higashiyama on a weekday which is not a national holiday. This is especially important during the sakura (cherry blossom) season around April, the koyo (falling leaves) seasons around November, and the new year period (Japanese follow the Gregorian/Western calendar, not the Chinese lunar calendar).

In my guidebook I recommend, if possible, spending one day each in Southern Higashiyama and Northern Higashiyama. They can also be combined in one very long summer's day (when there are longer hours of daylight). Maruyama Park makes a good place to finish one and start the other, although it is somewhat arbitrarily chosen; this is how I divide them up here.

There are virtually no vegan or even vegan-friendly restaurants in the Higashiyama temple route (except for Starbucks), so I suggest eating well first (see details below) and then again after exploring this historic area. If you finish Southern Higashiyama around Maruyama Koen Park, then there are several restaurants within walking distance or a short subway ride away. After Northern Higashiyama (or after the whole of Higashiyama if you do both itineraries in one day) there are several good opens for dinner between Ginkakuji (the final temple on the Northern Higashiyama itinerary) and Demachiyanagi Station, which is on the way back to Gion or Kyoto Station.

Southern Higashiyama Restaurants

This itinerary includes several of Japan’s most famous temples, and the busiest streets in Japan. I recommend starting out as early as possible. In my guidebook I recommend starting at Kiyomizu Dera Temple if you see all of Higashiyama in a day, or else the Kyoto National Museum and adjacent Sanjusangendo Temple if you spend the whole day in Southern Higashiyama.

Besides a Starbucks along the temple route, the only vegan restaurant is Zirael, which is run by a Russian chef and has a focus on healthy salads. The most convenient place for breakfast is Veg Out, which is on the way from Kyoto Station to the beginning of the Southern Higashiyama itinerary. It opens at 9:00 and keeps fairly reliable opening hours. I recommend bringing some snack food (or baked items from Apelila), and then having a late lunch or early dinner in Northern Kyoto or the Kyoto Station Area afterwards. This leaves the late afternoon and evening to explore Gion, and perhaps fit in an attraction from Northern Kyoto. The Manga (Comic Book) Museum is the closest attraction, but it closes at 18:00 and is closed every Wednesday (see Northern Higashiyama Map below).

Zirael ($$, Salads, 🌱, ジラエル ビーガン レストラン) 

Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sun: 12:00-19:00; closed Tue, Sat.

Three minutes’ walk north of Yasaka Shrine.
walk east of Gion-Shijo Station on the Keihan Line. 
Eleven minutes’ walk east of Kyoto-Kawaramachi Station on the Hankyu Kyoto Line.
Twenty minutes by Bus
市営206 fom Kyoto Station.

605-0073 京都府京都市東山区祇園町北側313−7
313-7 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0073

Google Maps, HappyCow, website


Conveniently located near Yasaka Shrine, along the Higashiyama temple-hopping route.
Delicious, healthy meals.
Only 8 seats.  

Update this restaurant.

Finally, a vegan restaurant has opened along the temple-hopping route in Higashiyama –something I’ve been waiting many years for, although I haven’t had a chance to visit it myself yet. Zirael serves colourful meals with generous servings of local, seasonal vegetables, cooked by a friendly Russian chef. Gluten-free options are available. Meals mostly cost from ¥1,500 to ¥2,000. These prices are a little higher than equivalent meals would be elsewhere in Japan but are very reasonable considering the location.

Zirael is the obvious place to come after finishing the Southern Higashiyama route, especially if continuing on to Northern Higashiyama. There are only eight seats though, so you may need to wait, or else see immediately below for other options. 

Ninen Zaka, Higashiyama at dawn, the only time it's free of crowds. 

Northern Higashiyama Overview

Northern Higashiyama is one of my favourite districts in Kyoto and in all of Japan. Its most famous part is the Path of Philosophy, which leads to the famous Ginkakuji (Silver Pavillion).  There are several vegan restaurants at the beginning and end of this itinerary.

Northern Higashiyama Restaurants, Part I: Breakfast or Lunch

These are the most convenient restaurants to start this itinerary with. There’s a problem, however, that they all serve small, moderately expensive portions. It’s possible to double-back to Padma, which serves large, delicious, inexpensive meals (see below), for lunch, but I would recommend just eating as well as possible at Choice or Veg Out and carrying snack food with you to tide you over until dinner. If you have snacks from Apelila then bring them, because you can get more after this itinerary.

1. Walk to Veg Out (Northern Kyoto, open from 9:00). After breakfast walk across the bridge and take the Keihan Line from Shichijo Station to Gion-Shijo Station, right beside Yasaka Shrine and Maruyama Park at the start of this itinerary. But if you’ll only go to Veg Out once, then it’s better to go before the Southern Higashiyama itinerary, since there are more food options for this itinerary.

2. Choice (see below) has something for everyone except a hungry person on a budget. It’s one stop north of Maruyama Koen Park (also on the Keihan Line) beside Sanjo Station, so it requires doubling back one stop on the train, or a fifteen-minute walk, to start this itinerary.

3. Meal sets at Hobodo Café (see below) are better value, but it has very limited opening hours.

4. Smoothie etc at the Tamisa Yoga Café is an eight-minute walk west of Sanjo Station. But it’s somewhere to come to relax over a smoothie – or do yoga – not for a filling meal.

Choice ($$, International, Gluten Free, 🌱) 

Mon-Fri: 9:30-15:00, 17:00-20:00; Sat, Sun: 9:30-20:00; closed Mon, Tue.

Check website for irregular closing hours (the calendar on the right shows closing days in orange circles).

Two minutes’ walk east of Sanjo Station, Exit 9, on the Keihan Line. Turn left, walk past the Family Mart, and Choice is one building before the first intersection.

Fifteen minutes’ walk northwest of Maruyama Park (beside Yasaka Shrine), a common start or end point for exploring Northern and Southern Higashiyama.

605-0009 京都府京都市東山区 大橋町89 鈴木形成外科ビル
Higashiyama-ku, Ohashi-cho 89-1, Kyoto 605-0009

Google Maps, Facebook, HappyCow, website (mostly Japanese)


100% gluten free; large dining area; workspace; reliable opening hours; convenient location for Higashiyama; very close to Sanjo Station.
Small, sometimes bland portions.

Update this restaurant.

Besides being gluten free, there’s nothing very special about this pasta, and at ¥1,400 it’s not nearly as good value as comparable meals at other restaurants.  Go here when you have a special reason to, and there are plenty of those reasons.

Choice, like T’s Tantan in Tokyo, is somewhere that most visitors end up sooner or later. It boasts what’s probably the largest interior of any vegan restaurant in Kyoto (if not in all of Japan), and its extensive menu is not just healthy but also completely gluten free. And best of all: it’s open for breakfast (currently from 9:30), from which it’s an easy walk to Higashiyama (either the northern or southern itinerary). It’s the best place in Kyoto to get a coffee and get some work done, or just chill out, and it’s large enough that it shouldn’t be a problem to stay for a long time.

Compared with many other restaurants which are clearly run by social and environmental activists (such as Village Natural Food and Kitten Company), and Buddhist temples, Choice has a somewhat commercial feel, and it has clearly seen massive investment to open in such large premises. That needn’t put you off charging up on some gluten-free pancakes before walking the Path of Philosophy, but I don’t suggest going out of your way for this restaurant if you don’t have a specific reason to. 

A Place to Get Work Done? 
As a large restaurant with a range of table arrangements, they're unlikely to be full, so while I'd recommend not staying longer than it takes to eat your meal if customers are waiting for tables, they advertise themselves as an "eat and study space" and offer free wifi, so if you need to hang out or get some work done, Cafe Choice makes a good alternative to Starbucks. Restaurants like this generally expect customers to order a drink if staying a long time, even after eating a meal.
No tables? The nearby Hobodo Café also has a small bar table for individuals to read or go online.

Order a coffee and get some work done, using the free wifi. There are also plenty of individual tables in the large restaurant.
My suggestion: Go to Choice for a variety of reasons: it has reliable hours, is open for breakfast, is gluten free and has a large space for both dining and café-style seats for reading or doing study/work. But don't come without any of these reasons if there are other options around, as food is better value elsewhere, and you'll probably end up here soon enough anyway.

Padma ($$, Macrobiotic, Vegan, 平和的ごはんパドマ, 🥚)

Tue, Wed, Fri-Sun: 12:00-19:00; closed Mon, Thu.

Lunch: 12:00-15:00.
Café & bar: 15:00-19:00.

Beside Jingū-Marutamachi Station, Exit 2, on the Keihan Line.

606-8396 京都府京都市左京区下堤町82 恵美須ビル 2
606-8396 Kyoto, Sakyo Ward, Shimotsutsumicho, 82 Yebisu Building, 2nd Floor

Google Maps, HappyCow, website (Japanese only)


075-708-7707 (owner speaks English)

Best macrobiotic food in Japan.  
You might be sick of macrobiotic food, no matter how good it is.

Update this restaurant.

Despite being not being all vegan anymore, Padma is popular among vegan travellers and residents for its large set lunches, which are good value at around ¥1,500-¥2,000. They are also more traditional than meals at many other restaurants in Kyoto, most of which focus on the tourist market. If you’ve been travelling throughout Japan and have had your lifetime’s ration of macrobiotic food then you might want to get your burger fix at Ain Soph, but if you’re wanting Japanese food in Kyoto then Padma is a very good option, especially if you need a large meal to see you through the Northern Higashiyama itinerary.

The bilingual owner and chef of Padma is friendly and welcoming and enjoys chatting with her customers; this business relationship is common for small restaurants like this in Japan. This friendly environment, however, makes it not somewhere for a quick meal: expect to wait up to half an hour for your meal and allow at least an hour for your whole dining experience. I ate the entire meal shown in the photo above in about five minutes, and still almost missed my plane out of Osaka a few hours later. And, going by her HappyCow reviews, I’m not the only one to have had this problem. This is, however, just a part of the experience at this type of café in Japan and is certainly nothing to complain about; just please don’t come here in a rush as I did.  

Hobodo Café ($, Macrobiotic, 喫茶ホーボー堂, 🌱)

Fri, Sat: 11:30-17:00; closed Sun-Thu.

Last order: 16:00.
These are reduced hours; hopefully they will have been increased by the time you read this.

Six minutes’ walk northeast of Sanjo Station (Exit 11) on the Keihan Line.
Twelve minutes’ walk southwest of Heian Shrine.

606-8353 京都府京都市左京区 東大路西入 正往寺町452 仁王門アパート1F
606-8353 Kyoto, Sakyo Ward, Higashioj, Nishioji,  452 Masatoujicho,  Niomon Apartment, 1st Floor.

Google Maps, Instagram, HappyCow


Funky café with good meal sets; good place to relax.  

Update this restaurant.

This little gem offers inexpensive food and moderately priced drinks (including Taiwanese tea) in a homely setting with recycled furniture and décor. Their main meal of the day (¥1,000, shown above) is small but good value, and they have a narrow table along a wall where guests can read (old Japanese-language books are available) or work on computers without taking up one of the café’s two tables. It’s difficult to know how to recommend Hobodo Café, because it opens too late to start this long Northern Higashiyama itinerary with, and it’s probably not worth making a special trip back here from elsewhere in Kyoto. But if you’re hungry, thirsty, hot or cold, or just need a break from the temples in Northern Higashiyama, then it can be worth the detour here for a drink or a small meal to tide you over until dinner. If you make the detour to visit Heian Shrine (see below) then it’s only an extra ten-minute walk to get here.

Northern Higashiyama Restaurants, Part II: Dinner

After walking through the temples, most travellers end up at Ginkakuji (see photo immediately below). There are then several options for a good large meal which most people need by then.  

Ginkakuji, the Silver(less) Pavilion, Northern Higashiyama

Cacao Magic ($$$, Raw Chocolate, 🌱)

Official  hours: Mon, Sat, Sun: 12:00-16:00.

In my experience, it rarely keeps these hours.

One minute’s walk from the northern end of the Path of Philosophy.
Three minutes’ walk west of Ginkakuji (the Silver Pavilion).

606-8406 京都府京都市左京区浄土寺石橋町41-1
41-1 Jodoji Ishibashicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8406

07-5757-8914 (Staff speak English; please call before making a special trip.)

Google Maps, website, Facebook, HappyCow


Best chocolate of your life.  
Most expensive chocolate of your life.

Update this restaurant.

This boutique raw chocolatier churns out the bite-sized delicacies it sells online; however, during less-busy times it also functions as a small café, where it serves up delectable raw vegan desserts. Its owner discovered raw food while living in the USA, and after various attempts to bring the diet back to Japan, she found that chocolate was the most effective way to reach the masses with the raw message. The café sits at the end of the Path of Philosophy, where visitors might be so elated from the beauty of the path (and thus so detached from their bank balance) – or so ravenous from walking it – that they might be willing to part with over ¥2,000 for a small box of raw, organic, vegan chocolates such as the one shown in the photo above.

Village Natural Food ($$, Fusion, 🌱)

Tue-Sat: 12:00-15:00; 18:30-22:00; Sun: 12:00-15:00; closed Mon.

Hours are irregular – please check Facebook or call before going (see below).

This is the only restaurant in this section which isn’t on the route between Ginkakuji and Demachiyanagi Station.

Fifteen minutes by bus from Ginkakuji (several bus routes – please use directions below).
Twenty-five minutes’ walk (two kilometres) north of Ginkakuji.
Ten minutes’ walk northeast of Chayama Station on the Eizan Main Line, two stops northeast of Demachiyanagi Station on the Keihan Line. 

606-8175左京区一乗寺築田町95 第一メゾン白川202
95 Ichijōji Tsukidachō, Sakyō-ku, Kyoto, 606-8175

Google Maps, Facebook, HappyCow, website (Japanese only, not much here)


Good vegan food; open reasonably late; chill vibe.
A bit far from central Kyoto, but close to Ginkakuji, and worth visiting for a late meal.

Update this restaurant.

The most authentic Pad Thai I have had outside of Thailand. 

Reportedly the oldest vegetarian (now vegan) restaurant in Kyoto besides the temple kitchens, Village has the vibe to match its age. The talented owner plays the roles of chef, barman, waiter and dishwasher, but he has such a chill, zen vibe about him that you wouldn’t know it. Limitations in space and time still apply, however, so orders can sometimes take a while to arrive. Dishes tend to be small (but still excellent value) so if you go for dinner then it’s usually best to order a few and the first dish should arrive quite quickly. The menu features a range of Japanese, Indian, and Western dishes, mostly from ¥1,000-¥1,500. A satisfying dinner for two hungry Higashiyama explorers is likely to come to around ¥3,000-¥4,000.

Alternatively, if you go to Village for lunch, I recommend the Daily Plate, which is a bargain at ¥1,200.

In Japan at bars like this there is an expectation that customers order at least one drink. While the owner alludes to it with a gentle request in the menu, he is ‘too Japanese’ (too polite) to say so directly, especially to his customers’ faces. This expectation is built into the menu’s pricing system, however, as profit is made – and rent paid – on the drinks more than the food. The natural Cola is delicious, but (like most colas) it contains caffeine.

The owner usually posts updates on Facebook (that his restaurant is open), but in April 2023 a Happycow reviewer reported being turned away an hour before closing, as the restaurant had apparently sold out of food. This seems like an exception which could happen to almost any eatery (I’ve never had it happen at Village, nor heard of it happening to anyone else), but considering this, it might be worth calling first, especially considering that it requires a bus ride out of the central city.

If you are coming by bus, please follow your location carefully and get off if necessary; I have had buses veer off course from the route promised by Google Maps because some buses use the same number but take different routes out of the city, and Google doesn’t know which are which because buses in Kyoto don’t run to strict schedules. After the last stop follow the signs to the restaurant on the second floor. It might be easier to take a taxi.


Gorey Cafe ($, Italian, 🥚)

Tue-Sun 11:00-20:00; closed Mon.

Hours can be irregular; please check Facebook for updates.

Ten minutes’ walk (700 metres) west of Ginkakuji.
Ten minutes’ walk (800 metres) northeast of Yoshida Shrine.

82-1 Jodoji Nishidacho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8417

Google Maps, websiteFacebook, HappyCow


07-5203-6296 (staff speak English).

Large, satisfying meals at low prices.
Simple food, befitting the price.

Update this restaurant.

If there is such a thing as a vegan tourist trap, this is it. But even tourist traps are sometimes welcome, especially vegan ones. Gorey serves generously sized portions of pasta just up the road from Ginkakuji for around ¥1,000, and they can be ‘supersized’ for a few hundred more yen. During the period of border closures, Gorey introduced Japanese style daily set meals, which are made from locally grown vegetables and are posted on their Facebook page.

The Japanese sets are similar to macrobiotic fare found across Japan but are excellent value. The average chef could probably make most of the Western menu themselves at home – and would probably be more generous with the sauce – but what’s not to like about a large, inexpensive bowl of vegan pasta after a long day of walking? The décor is simple and homely, and they sometimes host music and dance nights.


Vegetarian Cafe Ren Ginkakuji ($$, Taiwanese, 🌱 , 素食カフェ Ren 銀閣寺店)

Mon-Sat: 11:30-21:00; closed Sun.

Twelve minutes’ walk (900 metres) west of Ginkakuji.

606-8417 京都府京都市左京区浄土寺西田町11515
15 Jodoji Nishidacho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8417

Google Maps, website, Happycow


080-6119-4815 (staff speak Japanese and Chinese).

Serves healthy, inexpensive Taiwanese meals.
Serves oriental vegan food (without the five pungents such as onion and garlic).
Relatively simple meals, befitting the price.

Update this restaurant.

Located just past Gorey Cafe, Ren also offers hearty inexpensive meals to hungry travellers starting from around ¥1,000. It serves a fusion of Taiwanese and Japanese foods; their ramen bowls are particularly popular. Ren is actually part of a small chain, and, while this is the only branch I currently recommend due to its proximity to Ginkakuji, if you come across another one (probably on HappyCow) you should get a healthy and reasonably priced meal there too. Ren is particularly popular with Taiwanese Buddhists and followers of other Eastern spiritual traditions (such as I Kuan Tao) who don't consume the five pungents (onion, garlic, etc).

As with Gorey Cafe, a meal at Ren probably won't be your most memorable in Japan, but if you're hungry after exploring Higashiyama you really can't go wrong here, especially considering their prices.

Apelila ($$, bakery, アペリラ, 🌱)

Thu-Sat: 11:00-16:00; closed Sun-Wed.

Seven minutes’ walk northeast along the Takano River from Demachiyanagai Station, Exit 9.

606-8101 京都府京都市左京区高野蓼原町 高野蓼原町36-3
606-8101 Kyoto, Sakyo Ward, Takanotadeharachō, Takano Kashihara-Cho 36-3

Google Maps, HappyCow, Facebook (currently not being updated)


Best bakery in Japan; also serves dine-in lunch.
Sometimes sells out of bread early.

Update this restaurant.

This all-vegan bakery seems too good to be true. The "yeast-magician" owner cooks a wide range of delicious, vegan breads and sweet treats to perfection, on site. Apelila also has a small café attached, where visitors can enjoy fresh coffees and other soy-based drinks, with the aroma of the baking wafting into the dining room. This is by far the best place in Japan to stock up on fresh food for travels. Many of the simpler breads should last for a few days, especially during the cooler months. Unfortunately, if you’ve been following this itinerary then it’ll probably be closed by now, in which case it may be worth coming back another time. I suggest making a special trip to Apelila to stock up before you leave Kyoto, and then eating the items you purchase in order of perishability. They will be especially useful for Kōyasan. It’s best to arrive as early as possible, as many of the best creations usually sell out first, although I have never come away empty handed. 

Falafel Garden ($$, Israeli, 🐖, ファラフェルガーデン)

Thu--Tue: 11:30-21:00 (last order: 20:30); closed Wed.    

Beside the river, one minute’s walk northeast of Demachiyanagi Station, Exit 9. 

606-8205 京都府京都市左京区田中上柳町15-2
15-2 Tanaka Kamiyanagicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8205

Google Maps, website, Facebook, HappyCow

07-5712-1856 (Staff speak English, Japanese and Hebrew.)


Reliable opening hours; great falafel.  
Falafel are cooked in the same deep fryer as meat.

Update this restaurant.

Falafel Garden has been looking after vegans in Kyoto for over a decade, throughout which time several fully vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the area have come and unfortunately gone. If you have been following this itinerary and are on your way back from the Path of Philosophy then I would suggest having dinner in Gion or at any one of the many other vegan or vegetarian restaurants in Northern Kyoto, but Falafel Garden has reliable opening hours and is always happy to serve hearty, inexpensive meals to hungry vegans. 


Arashiyama is Higashiyama’s quieter cousin. It doesn’t have its fame or its big-ticket temples like Kiyomizu Dera, but being so much less crowded, in many ways it better resembles the Kyoto of old, and thus in my opinion it offers a richer Kyoto experience overall. Arashiyama is home to Tenryu-ji, one of Kyoto’s top Zen temples, which is conveniently attached to the Bamboo Grove and hosts Tenruji Shigetsu, the least expensive place to try real shojin ryori (Buddhist temple cuisine) in Japan. Also nearby is Little Heaven, which is probably Japan’s top ‘non-shojin ryori’ vegan restaurant. Little Heaven offers a similar cuisine and standard of service to shojin ryori, but in a Western-style restaurant.

The focal point of Arashiyama is the beautiful Togetsukyo Bridge across the Katsura river, which is especially popular during the cherry blossom season. Equally famous and iconic is the Bamboo Grove. As simple as its name sounds, wandering this ancient road through the bamboo forest can be quite surreal, especially at dawn and dusk, when the effects of the sun shining through the bamboo are the most pronounced.  It’s much more peaceful early in the morning.

Several smaller temples dot the mountainside to the northwest. I highly recommend the three-kilometre walk between them, although few tourists venture this far. The historic Daikaku-ji, one of the highest-ranked Shingon Temples (founded by Kōbō-Daishi, of Koyasan) lies a kilometre east of the mountains and is a good place to finish a walking tour. The Sagano Romantic Train is the key drawcard for children (of all ages) and young couples (of all ages).

Most Shojin Ryori restaurants are in Arashiyama, so this is the place to reserve ahead and (if it's part of your plan and budget) spend up on dining.  

Arashiyama Restaurants

Tenryugi Shigetsu ($$, Shojin Ryori, 🌱)

11:00-14:00; reservations are usually required three days in advance.

In the Sogen Garden, inside the grounds of Tenryuji Temple.

616-8385 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨天龍寺芒ノ馬場町68
68 Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8385

website (Reservations in English), HappyCow


Lowest priced shojin ryori meal in Kyoto.  
Not the same experience as at more upmarket shojin ryori establishments.

Update this restaurant.

Shojin Ryori (from Tenryuji Shigetsu, 3300 Yen + 500 Yen temple admission)

Tenryuji Shigetsu is the kitchen and restaurant of the Tenryuji Temple (beside the Bamboo Grove) and is located within its grounds. While the most economical way to enjoy shojin is at Kōyasan, where you can stay and dine at the same temple, Tenryuji Shigetsu offers the least-expensive shojin ryori meal in Kyoto, with lunches starting from ¥3,300. Shojin ryori is defined as food free of animal products (and onion and garlic), but on hearing the word most people envisage a very upmarket dining experience. Here at Tenryuji, compromises are made in the mass production of its meals, and in how diners eat in one large tatami room, with other guests coming and going, instead of in their own private dining room like at the more expensive temples, although larger parties may be allocated their own private dining room. This is perhaps not to be taken too lightly, as the only complaints I can find about Tenryuji Shigetsu are about fellow diners being loud and rude. But the food here is certainly ‘real’ shojin ryori because it’s authentic, vegan, Buddhist food served inside a temple, and a famous one at that. 

Whether it counts as your main shojin ryori experience or not, Tenryuji Shigetsu is a great stop for a delicious, healthy lunch. Walk-in customers are sometimes accepted outside of the peak sakura and koyo seasons, but they can only order the simplest meal set (shown in the photo above). I recommend making a reservation if you know when you’ll be going to Arashiyama. 

Little Heaven ($$, Japanese, Fine Dining, リトルヘヴン, 🌱)

Opening hours are posted on Facebook to help with planning, but meals strictly by reservation only.  

Meal set: ¥8,000.

Two minutes’ walk from Katabiranotsuji Station on the Keifuku (tram), which is useful when coming from central Arashiyama.
Seven minutes’ walk from Uzumasu Station on the JR San’in Main Line, which connects with Kyoto Station, JR Saga-Arashiyama Station, and Umahori Station at the end of the Sagano Romantic Train.
As these routes require crossing railways lines, I recommend using Google Maps to find directions from your location (see link below).  

616-8313 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨野開町8-29
8-29 Saganohirakicho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8313

website, (Reservations in English) Facebook, HappyCow


Incredible fine dining meal.
Expensive (but good value).

This upmarket restaurant blends Western-style fine dining and shojin ryori. Like shojin, it requires a reservation at least three days in advance because local vegetables are sourced and prepared according to the number of diners. And, also like shojin, meals are presented as a series of exquisite, mouth-watering servings. But, unlike for most shojin, guests dine at tables in a Western-style restaurant, not in private rooms. Multi-course feasts start from around ¥7,000.

Little Heaven is run by a talented and passionate chef who previously ran what was one of my favourite restaurants in Tokyo. The owner grew his own vegetables south of Tokyo, which meant that the food was always fresh and delicious, but, unfortunately, the restaurant was often closed when he was at the farm. He opened here in Kyoto in 2014. 

The owner and his assistant are clearly passionate about healthy, locally grown food, and they went out of their way to explain to me the different types of daikon (radishes), which were the focus of that day's meal. They even brought out four differently coloured ones to show me and explained where (in Kyoto Prefecture) they were grown and how they were used in the meal. The various courses were also explained on a sheet (in English) which was at the table before I arrived.
If you’ll have just one expensive meal in Kyoto, then shojin ryori offers a more unique cultural experience, but if you’re just after the meal of a lifetime (at a slightly lower cost) then Little Heaven is a very good alternative. 

Aside: If Possible, Try Shojin Ryori While in Kyoto 

While expensive, if possible I recommend trying shojin ryori (Buddhist temple cuisine) at least once in Japan, preferably in Kyoto. This cuisine has been developed over centuries (after Buddhism was imported from China) and is vegan without onion or garlic. Unfortunately, however, an increasing number of shojin outlets are adding dairy and egg products, or even fish sauces. This is against the Buddhist rules and traditions; however, since unfortunately most Buddhist monks and their patrons eat meat, it isn't seen as serious except by vegan tourists.

Fake Shojin?

Unfortunately, the high price of shojin ryori makes it prone to abuse, and there are many 'fake' shojin ryori restaurants (mostly outside of Kyoto) which serve similar food but not with nearly the same quality ingredients or careful preparation; while a foreign tourist may not notice a significant difference it would be a waste of this quintessential Japanese vegan experience (and a lot of money) to try an imitation. It's best to eat at restaurants in or directly attached to temples, also always read reviews first, and NEVER eat "shojin ryori" from a restaurant which also serves non-vegetarian food: it's fake shojin ryori and may well contain fish derivatives.

Staying at a temple at Koyasan is a great way to experience a temple and try shojin ryori. At 10,000 Yen it's much more economic than dining in Kyoto, This meal is at Eko-in.

Temples at Koyasan (Mt Koya) offer excellent deals combining shojin ryori for breakfast and dinner with accommodation (starting at around ¥13,000, a good overnight trip from Kyoto or Osaka.

Reserve Shojin Ryori and Other Meals in Advance

It's important to reserve shojin-ryori means in advance. The only exception is for single-person visitors to Tenryigi Shigetsu, during the off-season (see above). Little Heaven (the city's best non-shojin meal) and Stardust (see above for both) also both require reservations at least three days in advance. 
It's not only meals: if you'll take the Romance Train in Arashiyama this must also be booked ahead. It's also possible to reserve English-language tours of the Kyoto Imperial Palace, though I don't recommend this to most visitors.

Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion)

Vegan Accommodation: Vegan Minshuku Sanbiki Neko B&B

While in Kyoto I highly recommend staying at Vegan Minshuku Sanbiki Neko, an Australian-run B&B in a newly built, traditional-style Japanese home. It offers the benefits of a Japanese homestay without language or food barriers. I usually stay in fairly budget accommodation, but while in Kyoto I splash for a night or two here. For a private ensuite room and a hearty vegan breakfast prices are very reasonable, for everyone but especially a solo traveller.

For more information, please see my separate page on Vegan Minshuku Sanbiki Neko.


  1. Oh God, this blog has saved me \o/ I can't thank you enough!

    I'm travelling to Japan on July and I was deeply concerned about finding vegan restaurants / meals in Japan. I'm relieved to know I won't need to feed on deep fried potatos during the whole trip!

  2. Thank you Michele! I'm happy if I could help.
    I should say that in much of Japan being vegan is still difficult, but it's getting easier, especially in Tokyo and Kyoto. I'm living back in Taiwan now, but feel free to email me if I can help with anything. Otherwise have a good, safe trip! It's an amazing country!

  3. Great article with a lot information. Thank you so much. I am heading to Kyoto this weekend, and I will definitely go to these vegan places for my meal. Remember last time I went to Kyoto, the only vegan place I can find is Cafe Proverbs. Glad there are so many options now.

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