Arashiyama is undoubtedly the top tourist destination in Kyoto. So it is probably on your itinerary if you plan to visit the Kansai region. While the old township is filled with restaurants and shops serving mouthwatering food, the majority of them still contain animal products. But the great news is that there are a couple of vegan-friendly restaurants in Arashiyama, and Oku no Niwa (良彌 奥の庭) on the main street is one of the restaurants also offers gluten-free and Halal set menus!
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About Oku no Niwa
Compared to Tenryūji Shigetsu, the infamous Kaiseki Ryōri at Oku no Niwa is provided at a cheaper price. While you don’t get to be served in a traditional great hall with tatami mat-covered flooring, the restaurant still has a nice Japanese-style interior. And you don’t need to sit on the floor while eating!
The large complex of Oku no Niwa is divided into three sections. The main dining space doesn’t require a booking. In addition to the open area, there are also a few small half-private tatami mat rooms for smaller groups of customers.
If you are after some privacy and/or a fancier Western seating option, reserve one of the special rooms!
Oku no Niwa also has traditional-style private rooms with tatami mats and a gorgeous garden for those after a more luxurious dining experience. But note that you need at least a group of four to reserve these rooms.
The restaurant specializing in tofu and Yuba (tofu skin) cuisine not only has vegan set menus but also offers gluten-free and halal options. The restaurant even has prayer rooms for those who need to pray! Apart from the more expensive set menus, Oku no Niwa also offers cheaper options, such as tempura noodle soup. Like Tenryūji Shigetsu, reservations are not required. But if you want to be sure that what you want to order isn’t sold out by the time you get to the restaurant, fill out their Reservation Form.
Our Visit to Oku no Niwa
We arrived Oku no Niwa at around 3:30 in the afternoon. As we already ate the delicious bread from Fukukuru Woodfire Bakery on the Hozugawa River Boat, it was almost an early dinner for us rather than a late lunch!
The small alleyway leading to the restaurant wasn’t hard to find as we followed Google Maps. Because it was way past the normal lunch hours and there was no one waiting at the front door, we thought the restaurant was empty.
On the contrary, the restaurant was almost full! We surely would have needed to wait in the waiting area if we had arrived earlier!
While waiting for our orders, we explored the restaurant a bit. Living up to its name, the restaurant has a little garden at the back.
If you have more than two people in your group and want to sit close to the garden, let the staff know before you are seated. Water running down over the glass window makes you feel as if you are sitting behind a large waterfall!
We ordered the Vegan Set Menu (精進御膳). The side dishes, such as tempura vegetables, were placed in an elegant semi-round-shaped holder. The rice is covered by a layer of tofu in a nicely seasoned sauce. There is also a small hot pot filled with vegetables, tofu, and mushrooms, perfect for a cold autumn day.
One small episode during our visit was that I forgot to eat the dessert, Warabi Mochi. Because it was placed on the top shelf of the stand and the rice cake was dark in color, I completely missed it towards the end of the meal.
Apparently the mochi was soft and wasn’t too sweet, which made me regret it even more for not checking the plate properly before leaving.
Thus, advice for you is that if you plan to order the Vegan Set Menu, remember to eat the dessert!
The staff who served us were friendly and answered all the questions we had. Besides the Japanese staff, there was also a couple of foreign staff who spoke English.
Oku no Niwa’s Business Hours and Access Information
- Oku no Niwa is open from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
- The restaurant is a 5-minute walk from Randen’s Arashiyama Station (嵐山駅) or a 10-minute walk from JR Saga-Arashiyama Station (嵯峨嵐山駅).
- If you plan to take Hankyu, it is a 15-minute walk from Hankyu’s Arashiyama Station.
Note that Oku no Niwa is at the back of Yoshiya Arashiyama Honten (良彌 嵐山本店), selling Yuba Cheese.
Discover Other Vegan-Friendly Restaurants in Kyoto
Your visit to Kyoto may not just be about visiting Gion. The good news is that the prefecture has other vegan-friendly restaurants closer to spots in the rural area. While the options can be limited, there might be a restaurant close to where you want to visit that serves delicious vegan or vegetarian dishes to satisfy your cravings!
Refer to our Guide to Kyoto’s Vegan-Friendly Restaurants for more information!