Yeah, there are over 1,600 temples and shrines in Kyoto, but did you know there are over 200 ramen shops?! While many tourists make the pilgrimage to Japan’s cultural capital of Kyoto for the temples and shrines, the city’s culinary culture should not be overlooked.
There’s no shortage of lists compiling the “best ramen restaurants in Kyoto,” but one commonality of these is that they merely list the most popular spots. In other words, they’re crowd-sourced, pulling the places with the most positive reviews on TripAdvisor or Google, and adding them to the list. The problem with that is the person writing the list may have never stepped foot into Japan, and also that popularity can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
However, in our tireless commitment to bring you the best resources for visiting Kyoto, we’ve selflessly dined at over 50 ramen restaurants in Kyoto. All in the name of very important research, and not at all because we’re addicted to ramen or anything. (At least that’s what we told our doctors when they said we need to eat healthier.)
With that said, here’s a list of our favorite ramen spots in Kyoto, plus one insanely popular restaurant that we hated. Note that maybe “best” is a misnomer here–after all, we haven’t dined at every ramen shop in Kyoto (yet). But we’re working on it!
Ginjo Ramen Kubota – Located within walking distance of Kyoto Station in between the two Honganji Temples, Ginjo Ramen Kubota is my new favorite ramen spot in the city. It’s an intimate location with only about 10 seats, and despite its proximity to Kyoto Station, it’s far enough away that the converted machiya location mostly draws locals.
If you’ve never had tsukemen (ramen with with noodles and soup served in separate bowls), this is the place to try it. Ginjo Ramen Kubota is famous for its tsukemen featuring a thick seafood broth. The flavor is incredibly rich and robust, and clings to the thick noodles really well.
Touhichi Ramen – One of three Michelin Bib Gourmand ramen shops in Kyoto, Touhichi Ramen is most certainly deserving of that distinction. The downside to Touhichi Ramen is that it’s really on the northwestern side of the city, with a suburban vibe to the area. You might think this would lead to shorter lines, but that’s not the case. If you’re going to eat here, we’d recommend doing it before or after stopping at the Golden Pavilion and/or Daitokuji Temple, both of which are within a 30 minute walk (the best you’re going to get).
As for the ramen here, it’s excellent. Specializing in chicken shoyu, the broth at Touhichi Ramen has a rich, umami taste without being overly heavy. While I love the noodles here, I found them to be really slippery. Even though Touhichi Ramen is renowned for that chicken broth, I thought the fried chicken karaage stole the show. It’s an exceptional side and a must-order!
Kyoto Takabashi Honke Daiichiasahi – Despite being open daily from 5 a.m. until 2 a.m. (!!!), this ramen shop just 5 minutes from Kyoto Station has a perpetual line and must be one of the city’s busiest restaurants. Even at 2 p.m. on a cold off-season weekday, we ended up waiting 20 minutes…and that was a short line.
The pork-bone broth base is flavored with soy sauce, and is clear yet rich. While we both like the flavor a lot, we also thought it was a bit too salty. That’s the lone complaint. The noodles are cooked to the perfect consistency with excellent chewiness and thickness. Great taste, and a great value.
Ramen Hiwamatanboru – This hole-in-the-wall ramen spot is roughly 5 minutes from Fushimi Inari, but it’s enough off the main tourist drag that it draws mostly locals. We’ve dined here more than any other restaurant on this list, as it was right around the corner from where we spent a month in Kyoto, and we came to know this restaurant as “Sleepy Time Ramen” for its heavy tonkotsu ramen that’ll put you in a ramen coma for sure.
That’s not a knock–this is ramen as comfort food at its finest. The broth here is made of pork and chicken bone, and the end result is something heavy, rich and oh-so-delicious. My go-to dish is the large tonkotsu with extra noodles, and a side of fried chicken. (The fried chicken is excellent and an incredibly cheap add-on.) Pure ramen bliss.
Ramen Sen No Kaze – I hesitate to include Ramen Sen No Kaze since it’s really touristy (the same could be said for other Kyoto ramen highlights Ippudo and Ichiran; since those are covered at length elsewhere, we’re skipping them here), but it’s also really good. Part of the reason it’s so popular is location: Nishiki Market is on one side, and across the Kamo River on the other side is Gion.
The menu at Ramen Sen No Kaze is one of the largest at any ramen shop I’ve ever visited. There must been over a dozen variations, which is really something considering that many restaurants do 4 or so. The Kyoto style pork salt broth ramen is the highlight, and it has a well-rounded flavor and is topped with delicious chashu pork slices. (This might be the best chashu I’ve ever had.)
Ramen Muraji Kyoto Gion – This is the trendiest place to get ramen in Kyoto. Ramen Muraji Kyoto Gion’s entrance is located down a quiet side street in Gion and appears nondescript from the outside. Inside, you’ll find beautifully-crafted communal tables, chic light fixtures, and elegant decor.
The menu’s highlights are modern and inventive takes on ramen, with Ramen Muraji’s specialty being chicken broth ramen. I found my bowl of black ramen to be deep and nuanced–a great bowl of ramen. Sarah had the lemon ramen, which was surprisingly good and not gimmicky. Be sure to order the combo special, which includes delicious fried chicken and amazing green tea ice cream.
Menya Inoichi – This Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant is among the best ramen shops in Kyoto. It’s hardly a secret among locals, as Inoichi has long lines no matter when you visit this downtown Kyoto location. Even with a long line on a rainy night when we first dined here, the time passed quickly as staff from Inoichi checked on the line regularly, and offered friendly conversation.
The unique broth here doesn’t use any animal ingredients, and is a clear stock. You have a choice of white or dark soy sauce bases, with the latter being a bit richer. Fortunately, this does not result in a less robust flavor. To the contrary, the broth is balanced and has a nuanced flavor. It can be further customized with a variety of seasonings and condiments at the counter. The wagyu ramen is a good option if you want something fancier, but the regular pork ramen is also perfect. It’s worth the wait.
Kyoto Ramen Street (Kyoto Ramen Koji) – This corridor of ramen shops on the 10th floor of Kyoto Station, south of the “Daikaidan” Grand Stairway deserves inclusion here not because any individual restaurant is among the city’s best (although I think a case can be made for a couple of them), but because it’s a convenient, unique, and fun experience with a solid concentration of ramen shops specializing in regional variations of the popular dish.
Our favorites are Shirakaba Sansou (Sapporo) and Bannai Shokudo (Fukushima). The latter offers a generous amount of tasty chashu, whereas the former’s highlight is its broth blend of shirokoji miso and white miso, mixed with sesame oil, oyster sauce, garlic, and other seasonings. There are a few “meh” ramen shops at Kyoto Ramen Koji, but it’s an interesting experience.
Dishonorable Mention: Men Baka Ichidai – We read rave reviews about this, which has been dubbed “the most dangerous ramen restaurant in the world” thanks to the way the bowls of ramen are served on fire. (Think a Flaming Moe’s, but with ramen.) After waiting over an hour in the cold–the longest we’ve waited for any restaurant in Kyoto–we were finally seated.
As entertaining as this is as an experience, the ramen here is garbage. If ever you’ve wondered why other ramen restaurants don’t imitate this gimmick, it’s because the fire throws off the flavor profile (leeks are added to the dish for the express purpose of being burnt off) and adds a funky char/oil flavor to the top of the dish.
On crowd-sourced sites, you’re likely to see this rank as one of the top restaurants in all of Kyoto. I would theorize that the English-speaking reviewers on those sites are predicating their 5-star reviews on the show component (which is admittedly a ton of fun) and not the food. As for those who do rave about the food…is this their first bowl of ramen ever?
If you’re planning a trip to the Japan that includes Kyoto, we recommend starting by consulting our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan to plan all aspects of our vacation. You should also check out our other posts about Japan for ideas on other places to visit!
Have you eaten ramen in Kyoto? Which spots are your favorites? If you haven’t tried ramen in Kyoto yet, is it a dish you’re looking forward to when you visit Japan? Any thoughts or tips of your own to add? Questions? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!