Category Archives: Natural Food

FESTIVIN! Natural Wine Festival in Kyoto June 28th 2015

Since 2010, Festivin, Japan’s largest natural wine festival, has been held in Tokyo, but this year for the first time it comes to Kyoto!

What is Festivin?

As the name FESTIVIN suggests (the coinage of the words “festival” and “vin” – vin meaning wine in French), it is not a professional tasting session (we do not have any spittoons at the venue), but an opportunity to share delicious wines with mates. The number of attendees has increased year by year and we were happy to have around 2,000 people (over two sessions on the day), last year. You will be able to taste as many wines as you want from a selection of around 300 labels from France, Italy, Georgia, Austria, Chile, Slovenia and other countries. – From Food & Wine Diary from Tokyo.

Event details:

Date/Time: 2015.6.28 (Sunday) 12:00-16:00

Admission: ¥6,000 in advance ¥7,000 cash at the door (subject to availability) – please understand that tickets for the event may sell-out in advance of the event date and may not be available on the day. Admission includes unlimited tasting of available wines, one tasting glass and a memorial glass holder; yours to keep forever. Please note that food is not included in the admission price and is available on a “pay as you eat” basis.

Online tickets (Ticket Pia):
Ticket Pia Tel : 0570-02-9999
P-code: 629470 (using this code, aside from Ticket Pia, tickets can also be purchased at Circle K and Seven-Eleven convenience stores)

You can also buy tickets at participating restaurants and wine bars (see for details).

Venue: Miyako Messe, 9-1 Okazaki, Seishoji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 606-8343

E-mail: (English enquiries are welcome)

For more details see the official Festivin website:
For a history of Festivin see The Food & Wine Diary from Tokyo.

All New Falafel Garden

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A couple of weeks ago we went to check out the new location for Falafel Garden. A short walk north of Demachiyanagi on Kawabata, this new shop opened on April 28th. The old Falafel Garden was always a popular spot, but I think I like this new one even more. It’s bigger, more comfortable, they have a nice big garden out the back and if you are lucky you can snag a balcony seat upstairs and sit outside in the cool breeze watching those dinky little toy-like trains of the Eiden line roll by.

And the food of course is as good as ever. Mewby ordered a double sandwich set of chicken kebab and falafel (1290 yen).

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Whereas I went for a simple large falafel sandwich (1150 yen). Did we get fries with that (100 yen)? Yes, we did! It was great, but I think in retrospect, my eyes were bigger than my tummy and a medium sized sandwich would have sufficed.

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So to summarize, the new Falafel Garden is just as good as the old one, if not better, and those healthy, nutritious, golden balls of goodness are just as tasty as before. Keep this fine institution going and give them some of your custom at the location below!
Open: Everyday 11:00 am ~ 21:30 (last orders) ~ 22:00 (closes)
The 2nd floor is non-smoking.
Tel: 075-712-1856


Kamo’s All You Can Eat Veggie Buffet

Now that Obanzai’s organic buffet is closing, it is good to know that there are alternatives. Kamo serves up all organic locally grown vegetables in all kinds of tasty combinations. They take pride in the fact their vegetables are 都野菜 or “Miyako vegetables” which means they are truly local. Apparently the famed label 京野菜 – “Kyo yasai” does not always guarantee that the veggies actually come from Kyoto! Mewby and I went there a couple of weeks ago for lunch and thought it was pretty good value. Here’s Mewby’s lunch:

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Here’s mine:

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As you can see there is plenty of variety. Here are the details:
Morning light meal buffet(7:00 ~ 10:00): ¥480 (includes a soft drink)
Lunch-time buffet (11:00 ~ 16:00): ¥880 (when full they have a one hour limit)
Dinner-time buffet (17:00 ~ 23:00): ¥1,300 (when full they have an 80 minute limit)
Limitless soft drinks: ¥300
All You Can Drink with alcohol: ¥950

IMG_7933v2Location: On the south-east corner of Higashinotoin and Ayanokouji. One block east of Karasuma and one block south of Shijo. Here is a MAP.
Check out also these 360 degree panoramic views of the interior:

Obanzai Buffet Restaurant to Close at the End of March 2014

obanzaiThanks to Gary Bloom and Barbara Stein for passing on the sad news that the organic buffet restaurant Obanzai is closing at the end of this month. Though not 100% vegetarian, this buffet was very veggie heavy, all natural and good value too. The owners of the building have decided to demolish it however, and so the restaurant, unwillingly, has to go too. I wonder if they will try to set up shop elsewhere? Well Barbara has suggested people go along before the end of the month to say goodbye and show their support, and I think that’s an excellent idea. Grab one last all-you-can-eat buffet while you’re there too. They are damn tasty.
Location: 1F of Ichii Bldg., on the east side of Koromonodana, north of Oike
Tel: 075-223-6623075-223-6623
See also: My 2007 posting on Obanzai.

On Herbs, Serendipity & Fair Trade in Kyoto

Za'AtarZa’Atar is an Arabic spice mix “made from mixing dried za’atar leaves together with varying combinations of other spices such as sesame seeds, thyme, marjoram, sumac and more.” We bought a jar at the IDRO Japan charity sale last year, and then found ourselves wondering what to do with it. I can’t remember who donated it, but they suggested we mix it with olive oil and use it as a dip. We duly tried that and found ourselves unimpressed. But then Mewby hit on the idea of making savory bread with it, in one of these babies (see below)- and a new taste sensation was born!

If you don’t have one of these home bakeries – you should get one! They are awesome and so easy to use – but that’s by the by. Savory bread with Za’Atar mix was so delicious that by this weekend we had used up our jar and were wondering where we could get another. We knew some of the Fair Trade stores in Kyoto might have it but after calling a couple of the more central ones we had had no luck… Maybe we would have to order it online? Then yesterday, by pure chance when wandering up Uraderamachi, we stumbled across the Sisam Fair Trade store – and they had it! Now that’s lucky!


Now let’s make some more of that highly addictive Za’atar bread!

Useful Links

Sisam is a chain of stores committed to supporting developing countries, traditional handicrafts and the environment through the sale of fair trade products. They sell a wide range of ethnic and interior goods I have yet to explore. Uraderamachi is that oft overlooked passage between Shinkyogoku and Kawaramachi. The Sisam store is located south of Round One’s back entrance. Here is a map. They moved there from Rokkaku Street about a year ago I believe. They also have their main store on the north side of Imadegawa a short walk east of Hyakumanben. And here is a map for that.

Za’atar is produced by Sindyanna of Galilee: a non-profit organization, led by women, and promoting Palestinian fair-trade products. Their goods are distributed in Japan by Palestine Olive. Other distributors world-wide are listed here: LINK.

Matsuontoko – Vegan Burger Cafe

Though there are quite a large number of vegetarian establishments in Kyoto, most of them are located in the north of the city, and the few there are in the city center tend to sell nothing that isn’t healthy and nutritious. Good vegan junk food is pretty hard to come by. There used to be a branch of Speakeasy on Shijo that did a passable veggie burger, but that closed down back in 2010. Since then our vegan brethren have been denied the delights of fast and convenient processed treats at a convenient location and forced to endure a steady diet of tofu and wholegrain rice. No more! Vegan cafe Matsuontoko is here to save the day, slap bang in the center of town, with a fine array of vegan fake-meats!


So convincing are these fake-meats that one of Mewby’s friends was half-way through her “kara-age” before she realised it wasn’t chicken at all. And that was only because Mewby told her.

The "kara-age"

The “kara-age”

“Really,” Mewby told me. “You’ll be amazed.”
“Well, alright then.” I said. So I went. And here’s my order.


How good was it? Very good. The bread was actually really nice too. I was entirely satisfied. But I decided to pig out on onion rings anyway. They were nice sweet onions and non too greasy.


And for a mere two hundred yen extra you get a lovely little cup of tofu ice-cream, cream and vegan brownies.


In short, whether you are vegan or no, if have a hankering for fast food at a reasonable price, Matsuontoko is the place to go.

Matsuontoko is just east of Shinkyogoku, three streets up from Shijo. Here is a map. Check the website for other items on the menu. There are a lot of choices.
Open: 11:00~24:00 (Last Orders: 23:00)
Tel: 075-251-1876

Lovers of vegan burgers may also be interested in: Morpho Cafe

Vege-Cafe Kanna

Vege-Cafe Kanna is not so much a vegetarian restaurant as a restaurant that puts a big emphasis on vegetables and other healthy natural food. They do have vegetarian options though if you ask for them. I asked for the vegetarian version of the “Kanna Lunch Set”. It’s important that you specify that you are vegetarian so that they don’t use any dashi which contains fish stock.

For 950 yen you get a main dish (changes daily), organic genmai (wholegrain) rice, salad, miso soup, a drink (tea, coffee etc) and a selection of obanzai. Obanzai is a type of traditional Kyoto cuisine typified by small dishes of tofu or gluten and other rather mysterious looking concoctions. Continue reading

Kyoto Vegetarian Festival 2009

Veggie FestaIt’s that time of year again! The 7th annual Kyoto veggie-fest will be held again at Okazaki Park this Sunday (October 4th) from 10 am till 5 pm. There’ll be plenty of entertainment on stage, NPO booths and of course plenty of tasty scran from a variety of local eateries, including  Deep Kyoto favorites like Sunny Place, Falafel Garden, Mikoan and Cafe Millet. Here’s a word from the organisers:

An event for all ages, the festival gives you aplace to enjoy vegetarian food and listen to music while learning about vegetarianism, the environment, and more… Thanks to everyone’s support, this year marks our 7th year. We hope to have another a great turnout this year! The Festival Philosophy In Japan, with 1 out of 2 people becoming victims of cancer, many people are reflecting on their dietary habits. The Vegetarian Festival provides a place for people of all ages and nationalities to learn about a healthy lifestyle, while bringing attention to problems like the degrading environment and World Hunger. This festival focuses on the following themes:
★Living a healthy life, both mentally and physically
★One’s respect for life, not just of humans, but of the animals with which we cohabit the world
★How pollution and food over consumption can degrade the environment
★Introduce organic retailers throughout Kyoto…

…★In an effort to reduce garbage, please bring your own eating utensils, and bags for the items you buy.

The 2009 Vegetarian Festival held at Okazaki Park, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto
October 4th (Sunday) 10:00-17:00
Okazaki Park is just east of Kyoto Kaikan, and south of Heian Shrine.

You can find out more HERE and there are directions and a most convenient map HERE.

Cafe Millet

Ted Taylor writes…wheat

On a warm autumn afternoon, during a north Kyoto hike from Ohara over to Kurama, we came across a group of young people building a wood burning oven out of stone. Standing in front of this ishigama, we made small talk with the young couple in charge of the project. The young woman told us that the bread that this oven would bake would be a centerpiece of the cafe that had just opened here, her hand gesturing at a comfortable looking building made of wood and glass. We promised to come back again.oven

A month or so later we ran into them again in Ohara, this time as part of a larger group busy harvesting adzuki and soy, some of which would wind up that night on the table of Cafe Millet.

What at first seems like a throwback scene to the old hippie days is actually a large and growing trend in Japan. Driven by both environmental and economic concerns, many young Japanese are shunning a life in the cities for one in the soil.bread

The idea of returning to the countryside is hardly a new one. Masanobu Fukuoka’s classic work, “The One-Straw Revolution” has for over 30 years lured people back to a traditional life of farming. What is different this time is that the movement is not simply at the personal or grass roots level. In March of this year, Prime Minister Taro Aso created the Rural Labor Squad, as a way to give employment to the young while simultaneously revitalizing rural communities and their dwindling labor pool. Local farmers are for the most part grateful for the help, though some feel that the young will once again return to the city when the economy picks up. Continue reading

Caffe dell’Orso

20090306000945A few weeks ago Ted Taylor introduced me to Cafe dell’Orso a nice new Italian restaurant on Higashi Ichijo Dori. They do a good ¥1000 set lunch there; one pasta of your choosing + salad + focaccia with a home made pate and a wee slice of quiche. I decided to go back for dinner, and try some more dishes. In my pictures below you can see various appetisers and desserts but not the main dishes, as I was so intent on eating them up I forgot to photograph them! Thankfully, this popular Kyoto blogger has some good pictures on his site too, so you can check his pictures out here. I actually had the asparagus and parmesan gratin (¥700) and the tomato and clam spaghetti (¥1100), and washed them down with a cold sharp Peroni beer (¥700). They were all very good. However, the desserts were especially delicious, or as my companion Mewby put it  “yabai!” (which is Japanese for dangerously awesome). There are more pictures below and if you go to flickr you can see the prices too.

This restaurant/cafe is run by two friends, Stefano Bandini and Sasha Ashburne. I asked Stefano why the name is “Orso” which means “bear”, and he told me that his father used to have a gallery on Via dell’Orso in Milan named Galleria dell’Orso. The Caffe shares more than just the name with his father’s gallery though, as the walls here too are used to exhibit local art. At the time I visited they were decorated with the photographic work of Fumio Inoue. And as for the “cucina naturale”? Stefano explains:
“Cucina naturale” means that we are making, as far as possible, everything home made. Salad dressing, sauce, ginger ale etc. are all home made. When possible we also use organic ingredients. So far the dry pasta we have been using is organic. We have now started using fresh pasta, that we buy from a non-organic supplier. In the near future, if economically convenient, we’d like to make our own pasta. In this case we’ll try to find organic semolina…

Caffe dell’Orso, is on the north side of Higashi Ichijo Dori. Go east from Kawabata and it is just a little further past the Sakyou-ku ward office. If you get as far as Higashioji Dori you have gone too far! Here is a useful map.
Tel: 075-761-7600