1. A Casual Tofu Restaurant Nearby Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

A Casual Tofu Restaurant Nearby Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

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Yuko Kuriyama

Being a native Kyotoite is not easy; can't get anywhere without weaving through the World Heritage sites, expected to talk like a maiko, and too many old and new restaurants to choose from...and I am loving it! Happy to show you the city I live and love.

Japanese Comfort Food in Kyoto Style


A 120 years old tofu shop called Toyoukeya Yamamoto opened Toyouke Chaya in 1992 after asked by tourists if they could have tofu at the shop. Located right across the street of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine main gate, this tofu restaurant is one of the most favored lunch places in the area among domestic tourists and locals. Despite the popularity and good location, foreign tourists are hardly seen here. This is an unexplored place among foreign tourists, I suppose. A long line formed in front of the shop is a familiar sight. Guaranteed tasty! If you are looking for a delicious, reasonably priced tofu dishes in a relaxed atmosphere, definitely this is the place!
 Customers are purchesing tofu or soy bean products sold at storefront. To the right is a door to the restaurant

Maiko and Geiko

Aside from the shrine, Kamishichiken is another nearby historical place to visit. It is the oldest of five kagai (hanamachi, or geisha district) in Kyoto where maiko and geiko culture thrived with 50 ochaya tea houses. Maiko and geiko entertained patrons with traditional singing, dancing and fun games there until WWII. After the war, number of ochaya increased from the drop due to war overtime and now there are 10 of them in business and approximately 30 maiko and geiko are working. Sometimes these ladies come to Toyouke Chaya for a meal or to buy tofu or other soy bean products sold at storefront. If you are lucky, you may encounter actual maiko or geiko. They are in casual kimono wearing natural makeup outside work instead of that fabulous elaborate kimono and distinctive white makeup but still, they look beautiful. Hope you spot one!
Taken at Enraku, an ochaya in Gion, another geisha district in Kyoto. Just showing you how beautiful a maiko is!
Kyo-maru-uchiwa fans with a name of maiko/geiko on it are put up on the staircase wall inside Toyouke. Maiko or geiko brought them as a customery summser greetings
Nestled near the revered Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, this casual tofu restaurant offers a dive into Kyoto’s culinary traditions, with tofu dishes that whisper tales of Japan’s rich cultural tapestry. Amidst this celebration of heritage, the “Hochoshiki Knife ceremony” stands as a testament to the artistry and skill inherent in Japanese knife-making, offering an immersive experience into the meticulous world of culinary craftsmanship. This ceremony not only complements the culinary journey at the restaurant but also enriches the cultural exploration in Kyoto. 
A sacred place for Japanese food, a treasure house of ingredients, Minami-Boso Takaya Shrine Kitchen knife ceremony "Ryumon-no-Koi" long story: edited by Minamiboso City Tourism Association Channel

Tofu and Other Soy Bean Product

Althogh there are different stories about the origin of tofu, it is said to be brought to Japan over 1,000 years ago in Heian period from China. It became a staple of Japanese diet in Edo period until now. Tofu and other soy bean product now have gained a solid place in culinary world over the years outside Japan. It is rich in protein, low in calorie and low in saturated fat among many other nurients. Its mild flavor makes it versatile and easy to use in many different variety of recipes. If you go to a supermarket while you are in Kyoto, you will find dozens of variety of soy bean products in a tofu section and some store carries products of Toyouke Chaya.

■ Comfort Food

| Signature Nama-yuba Bowl

I went to Toyouke the other day with a friend expecting to wait in line to be seated, however miraculously, there was no line formed except for a few people waiting before us. June is sort of a low season in Kyoto, maybe that’s why. So we were already in a good mood and the wait staffs were very friendly and nice. This is 
definitly a plus because those things are kind of important to me when choosing a restaurant. Anyway, I ordered Nama-yuba Bowl (¥860+tax), my favorite at Toyouke. It became a signature dish at Toyouke after it was introduced in a TV show right after its debut in 1999 and five-star reviews keep coming on food websites since. 
 A small tofu appetizer came with our order. A delicate, creamy, and nutty tofu with a dollop of Toyouke soy sauce
Yuba or tofu skin is made by cooking soy milk and protein and fats rise to the top forming a film on the surface. It is like a sheet of concentrated soy milk and the majority of them are sold dried and requires rehydration when cooking with it. On the other hand, Nama-yuba is a fresh yuba with a soft, chewy texture with a mild nutty flavor similar to dried ones, but Nama-yuba can be eaten raw on its own as sashimi-yuba. It is a great alternative for vegetarians. Nama-yuba has gained popularity in recent years for its delicate fresh texture and taste.
Nama-yuba simmered in dashi broth flavored with sugary seasonings and a bit of saltiness from soy sauce with a hint of ginger. Served warm.
This is simply delicious and comforting.

| Summery Delish

A bowl of cold udon topped with aburaage, or fried tofu, sliverd fried egg and cucumber 
 How about a dessert? Cinnamon Tofu (¥260+tax) is not overwhelmingly cinnamonny. It gets better with kuromitsu, a molasses like sugar syrup that come with this dessert
Tonyu (soy milk) Yogurt with fruit sauce(¥350+tax)
Tofu is not boring at all, isn’t it?  It is a comfort food for Japanese in many different forms. Toyouke Chaya offers many more great menus on their list. Please see the website below for pics of menu and pricing. According to a staff, “a small number of tourists from Asia are coming to the restaurant these days however, the menus are only in Japanese and there is no English speaking staffs for the time being. Customers can order by pointing to the picture and gestureing, it works just fine”.

■ Information

Toyouke Chaya とようけ茶屋 http://www.toyoukeya.co.jp/menu2.htm

Hours: 11:00-15:00 (restaurant)
           10:00-18:30 (purchase at storefront)
Phone: 075-462-3662
Closed: Thursdays (open on 25th + irregular close day once a month)
Capacity: 1F/8, 2F/16, 3F/20
Enraku 燕楽 http://www.zuzu.jp/yasaka/
Make an online reservation to have a precious time with Geisha!