Kyoto Food and Culture Tour
Pinpoint Traveler’s Kyoto Night Food Tour
The fascinating city of Kyoto requires no introduction, but what do you know about the city’s food scene? On our Kyoto night food tour, we share a wealth of insights into the culinary past and present in Kyoto, while also enjoying a stroll around the popular Gion neighborhood and beyond.
With Pinpoint Traveler, you get a foodie tour with a difference. Our tours are all-inclusive, with no last-minute add-on surprises. We also focus on the wider culture beyond the plate in front of you — we think you can better understand a place if you learn about how and why the locals eat as they do.
Ready to dive deep into the Kyoto foodie scene? Then come join us! We only take small group tours (maximum 6 guests) so we can walk the streets of the spectacle that is the Gion, sharing interesting stories and insights along the way. We also enjoy two restaurant stops where you can try around ten different dishes, so you’ll surely finish the tour with a full belly and a much greater appreciation of this city and its unique culture.
If you’re spending a few days in the city, check out our other Kyoto tours and we definitely recommend an Osaka tour from Kyoto as well. The cities are so close to each other yet incredibly different. Come see for yourself!
Check out our night tour with Shizuka Anderson!
Why choose this Kyoto night tour?
We get it: There are tons of walking tours in Kyoto that you can choose to join. Our small-group tours are geared toward the culturally-curious travelers…those who want to learn about history and culture while also feeling like a local wherever they go. We want you to truly experience Kyoto, with its rich history and its rich culinary scene.
We also promise your guide will be fluent in English and in Japanese, and will be able to share interesting insights as a local. From the history of Shintoism to the evolution of the neighborhood streets where we walk, we love to share it all with those who are interested in diving deeper into Kyoto culture and history.
As for the food, we focus on regional specialties during our Kyoto food tour. We do not serve “challenge foods” for the thrill of it (though please feel free to try raw chicken on your own time). We also never serve endangered species. We are happy to cater to dietary restrictions if you just let us know in advance. That includes vegetarians and vegans.
Come join us for three hours of well-paced eating and strolling on our Kyoto night foodie tour. It’s sure to be an evening you won’t forget!
If you have any questions at all, feel free to contact us. We’re always happy to help!
Our Kyoto Food Tour Overview
There is so much to see and do in Kyoto, but you cannot leave the city without truly experiencing the Gion district. We meet at Gion Shijo Station at 6:30pm and start our Kyoto night tour with an “edutaining” walk through the justifiably famous Gion district, located on the east side of the Kamogawa River.
Learn about the geiko (and why we don’t call them “geisha” in Kyoto), as well as the places that make this district so special. You’ll also be regaled with insight and information about how the art of evening entertainment has evolved into the hostess clubs of today. (Rest assured this tour is suitable for teenagers and higher.)
Putting the “Food” in the Kyoto Foodie Tour
After about an hour or so of anthropological adventure, you’ll be ready for some food and drink! And we know just the places. You’ll get to try a few different regionally-representative dishes and a beer — or perhaps you’d like a whiskey soda “hi-ball”, shochu, or some sake (Japanese rice wine) instead?
For the vittles, the selection varies by season but, between this stop and our second restaurant, there will be at least ten varieties, so you’re sure to find things that suit your taste. Being a Kyoto food tour, we’re also sure to include regional specialties. We let the other guys trot out the generic dishes.
The restaurants we go to are known as “tachinomi”, which can be loosely translated as “standing bar” in English. These are not, however, bars in just the drinking alcohol sense. While they do serve alcohol, it’s really more about the food, with full kitchens preparing made-to-order dishes.
Less so than the format, what tachinomi are about is small plates (think: tapas) and a convivial, Happy Hour-type atmosphere. You’ll notice some customers coming as co-workers, others with friends, and some just stopping by alone, which is quite comfortable due to the inherently social vibe.
Incidentally, the restaurants we frequent often have tables to sit at, but sometimes we stand, just like the locals. Also, just like the locals, we generally only spend around half an hour or so at a given restaurant. Time will fly during this truly local experience.
Continuing on our Kyoto Night Walking Tour
Between restaurant visits, we take a short stroll through what are both youthful and classic restaurant and entertainment districts on the west side of the Kamogawa River, including Ponto-cho, Kiyamachi, and the Kawaramachi area. The old narrow streets along Ponto-cho embrace the traditional Kyoto style, while the younger areas just a street or two away show you how eager Kyoto people are to also firmly live in the present.
Learn More About Kyoto Food History
For those looking to delve even deeper into Kyoto’s foodie background, we offer an optional 1.5-hour pre-tour deep dive into the markets of Kyoto. We’ll walk you through a local supermarket and explain the basics of a Japanese home kitchen and, in turn, the basics of Japanese food. Then, we do a detailed dissection across an abundance of Japanese delicacies as we stroll down the famous Nishiki Market’s main promenade.
If you want to join us for this, just let us know after you book your Kyoto food tour. The extension is priced at 4,000 yen/person with a minimum of two persons. Note that we welcome solo travelers on the main tour.
A short walk down Shijo-dori (loosely translated to “4th Avenue”) brings us to Yasaka Jinja, a grand beacon up a gentle slope at the top of the street. It can only be fortuitous to begin an evening with a brief stop by a shrine. Enjoy a breezy but interesting review of Shintoism in Japan – it’s all the better under the stars, with dramatic lighting and far fewer people. We’ll spend around 15 minutes here.
Almost directly across the street from Yasaka Jinja, the Gion starts. Our meandering and storytelling will take about 45 minutes.
With our initial cultural endeavors behind us, it’s time for a drink and some food. Depending on the night, the restaurants we go to vary, but you can be sure there will be a variety of small plates to choose from. We’ll also explain the sights and sounds of the typical “tachinomi”, or standing bar-restaurant. We spend 30-45 minutes here at this first restaurant (closer to 45 if we sit down, which we almost always do).
The old, riverside district of Ponto-cho (street) gives us a great opportunity to discuss Kyoto food away from the Gion nightlife scene. Most restaurants specialize in a certain type of Japanese cuisine, and we just love explaining them to our guests! We’ll also swing through the Kiyamachi and Kawaramachi areas before heading to our next restaurant. This walk will take around 30 minutes.
No Kyoto foodie night tour would be complete with just one restaurant stop, so we’ll visit yet another of our favorite Kyoto restaurants. There will be more tasty dishes for your culinary consideration and, of course, another (included) drink in accompaniment. Plan for about 30 minutes here.
By the end of our time together, it is our sincere hope that you will have learned a bit about the past, felt like a local, and had a fantastic night of it all.
Quick Tips for Our Kyoto Food Tour
There are a few things we’d like you to take note of before joining us.
- The legal drinking age in Japan is 20
- Please come wearing comfortable shoes, and dress for some time both indoors and outdoors
- Unfortunately, we cannot wait for late-comers, so do plan on arriving a bit early
- A dinner’s worth of food across two different restaurants
- Up to two alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks (one at each stop)
- Drinks beyond those provided (you can purchase more directly from the restaurant if you wish)
- Although the tour provides plenty of food to make a full meal of, for those wishing to dabble in some Kobe (or nearby sourced) “Wagyu” Beef, we offer a 100g add-on option at checkout. It’s pretty divine.
- Pre-tour, as described above at the bottom of the “Tour Overview” section. For those looking for the penultimate Kyoto night foodie tour, nothing beats learning about markets and cooking before heading out.