As the old capital of Japan, Kyoto is known as a historic city, filled with cultural and historic sites of significance. However, Kyoto’s dining scene is just as vibrant as well. While Kyoto’s best restaurants are often centered around kaiseki dinners, it is also home to hundreds of ramen stalls, and with a wealth of Kyoto ramen shops to choose from, there certainly is no shortage of noodles for you to feast on.
While many stalls are crowd-favorites, our list focuses on just a few bowls of ramen that are acclaimed for their robustness, umami, and depth. These are some of the best ramen stalls in Kyoto that showcase the Japanese noodles in their best light, with broths and soup bases that feature Kyoto ingredients and produce.
Here are some of the top Kyoto ramen restaurants to try during your trip to Kyoto.
Kyoto is home to a plethora of ramen stalls, but hidden in the north of Kyoto is Kyoto’s best kept ramen secret - Ichijoji Ramen Street! Touted as the largest ramen district in the Kansai region, Ichijoji is home to ramen shops that sell a large variety of ramen.
Fondly known as the "battleground of ramen," upon stepping into the vicinity, you’ll be greeted by many ramen stalls lining the streets, all competing with each other in a bid to be the best and most popular ramen store! Have a peek at our list of the top 6 ramen to try from Ichijoji Ramen Street to decide which bowl of ramen to start your feast with!
Situated smack in the middle of Pontocho, this tiny ramen stall is hard to discover, but is usually found by spotting the long queues snaking out from the small alley to the main street. Famous for their extremely tasty chicken ramen and niboshi broth ramen, Janomeya also serves up seasonal bowls of ramen that are in stock for a limited period only. The next time you’re in Gion and are deciding which Kyoto ramen to eat, join the queue and wait to devour Janomeya’s delicious bowls of ramen!
Sitting on the northwest periphery of Kyoto is Ramen Touhichi, a small ramen stall that has been firmly etched into the Japan's Michelin Guide under the Bib Gourmand category for many years. With chicken sourced from Tanda and Kochin, Nagoya, Ramen Touhichi ensures that each bowl of ramen is made only with high quality local produce. Their silky smooth noodles are also made from organic Hokkaido wheat flour.
Ramen Touhichi’s most famous ramen is their tsukesoba. In contrast to normal tsukemen thick curly noodles, Ramen Touhichi’s tsukesoba uses the same silky noodles as it does in its other bowls of ramen. What’s unique about the tsukesoba is how the dry noodles are served in a bowl of kansui (the alkaline lye water that's essential for making ramen noodles), lending an almost viscous feel to the noodles as you pick them up with your chopsticks!
You’ll also find many diners ordering bowls of their tori shoyu ramen and toripaitan as well, both of which are extremely flavorful. Ramen Touhichi’s karaage fried chicken is also a must order if you’re here! These morsels of chicken are crunchy and peppered with a dash of cumin to spice them up.
Hidden away in a narrow alley, uncovering the entrance to Gion Duck Noodles truly requires an observant eye and a bit of undercover work. Tucked away in a small corner along the alley, Gion Duck Noodles is only advertised by a small sign hanging above its entrance, with a duck and ramen emojis. If you don’t speak or read Japanese, fret not, for the menu is made up of emojis too.
Gion Duck Noodles only has a selection of duck tsukemen and duck shoyu ramen on its menu, and you can select either the thigh or breast meat. We were told that duck thigh meat is juicier and with a nicer bite, while the duck breast meat pieces are more flavorful.
The friendly owner also used to train as a French chef, and innovatively uses German rye wheat to ensure that the noodles are denser in nature to complement the flavorful duck meat. The ramen chef also siphons his dashi. This is one Kyoto ramen that is sure to wow your tastebuds with its flavors!
While shoyu ramen, a conventional Kyoto-style ramen, can be found aplenty around Kyoto, it’s hard to find a stall that manages to extract the flavors of shoyu as well as this Ichijoji Ramen Street shop. Menya Yukou’s broth is made from a special house-blend of shoyu, and they offer three different bowls of ramen - Hachiku, Madake and Kurochiku - all priced at 800 yen. Their most popular bowl is the Hachiku, with a base made from an assortment of clams and shoyu; and Madake is a kombu and tonkotsu shoyu base, which is perfectly balanced in flavor and texture.
The star of Menya Yukou, however, is Kurochiku, which features a strong blend of shoyu. A taste of the dark, almost blackish broth brings forth the nuances that constitute the best of the shoyu blend Menya Yukou painstakingly creates in-house. It is bitter, sweet, tangy and salty all at once, but the flavors work so harmoniously together to give you that delicious and robust umami taste.
If hearty bowls of ramen are your favorite, Ginjo Ramen Kubota serves a heavy-bodied tonkotsu ramen that will be right up your alley! They are famous for their Ginjo Tsukemen Miso, a thick and rich tsukemen broth made of seafood. The salty and sweet dipping broth is complemented by thick curly wheat noodles that are perfectly textured, allowing the dipping broth to completely coat each strand, with each dunk you take.
While once only popular among locals, Ginjo Ramen Kubota is fast gaining popularity these days amongst tourists as well, despite being situated quite a distance from Kyoto Station. As the small stall can only seat 10 diners at a time, queues can start to snake pretty quickly, so go early to ensure you get a spot!
Mensho Ichiryu Manbai is located in downtown Kyoto, but is patronized mostly only by locals, as it sits on one of the quieter lanes in the bustling vicinity of Kawaramachi. The stall offers a selection of shoyu, shio and miso ramen, ensuring that there is something for everyone. But Ichiryu Manbai is not merely a jack of all trades, and in fact, is a master of all its bowls of ramen. In terms of flavor, every single bowl of ramen served is a perfect exhibition of balance, complemented by thin straight noodles, cooked al dente. Each serving also comes with a leaner yet flavorful piece of chicken breast meat, alongside a richer piece of chashu.
Ramen Tsuru Manbai also opens till 5 in the morning, perfect for those late-night suppers if you feel peckish!
Have fun exploring some of the suggested hidden finds included in this list, but if you’re truly a ramen-fanatic, take time to explore hidden alleys and pathways - you might just stumble upon your next favorite bowl of Kyoto ramen!