Just as Tokyo with its soaring skyscrapers and thrumming sprawl represents modern Japan, Kyoto is a peek into the country’s past. Kyoto was the capital city from 794 to 1869, and evidence abounds of its thousand-plus years at the center of Japanese culture—from the hundreds of Shinto shrines to the still-functioning Minamiza Kabuki Theatre and Geisha tea houses to the beautifully landscaped grounds of the Imperial Palace.
Food is crucial to Japanese culture and here, too, Kyoto continues to shine—the city boasts over 100 Michelin-starred restaurants. Best of all, the insanely high caliber of cooking takes many forms and price points. The best way to take advantage of Kyoto’s food scene is to sample this variety. A day out might include breakfast at one of the inexpensive food stalls scattered throughout the bustling Nishiki Market, a vegan lunch served at a Buddhist temple, a bowl of thick, Kyoto-style ramen or an elaborate, multi-course kaiseki dinner.
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Downtown Kyoto is about as picturesque as they come, especially Kiyamachi Street, a kilometer-long pedestrian road that runs alongside the Takasegawa Canal. The softly gurgling stream is punctuated by short bridges and lined with machiya, Japan’s traditional long, low wooden townhouses. The charm of this area isn’t lost on tourists, or the restaurants which serve them, so it can be difficult to find a good meal while also enjoying the beautiful view. Luckily there is Menbou Miyoshi, which has been serving homemade udon noodles since 1926. The simpler soups are best, so take a seat by the window and order a bowl of kitsune udon. Chewy, slippery noodles arrive floating in large bowl a savory broth, accented by a few ribbons of sweet fried tofu skin and slices of scallion. 195 Shimokorikichō, Nakagyō-ku