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Goin’ Japanesque!

5 Local Sushi to Try in the Stylish City of Kyoto

Japanese sushi is widely popular within or outside the country. We commonly encounter sushi or sushi rolls, but to tell the truth, there is a wide variety of sushi, not only in the ingredients but also in the flavors.

Kyoto is of course a famous tourist destination, and it preserves ancient Japanese culture in the city to date. And Kyoto is well known for its outstanding cuisine. We would like to introduce “Kyo-Zushi” this time, which is not only tasty but also highly regarded for its beautiful presentation. Photo:


Characteristics of “Kyo-Zushi”

Beautiful Presentation


An exquisite balance of flavors in addition to the highly detailed attention given to the color combination – these are some characteristics of Kyo-Zushi. For example, “futo-maki”(meaning “big roll”) with several ingredients rolled and wrapped, appeals to our eyes with a beautiful combination of yellow color of the egg, green of the trefoil and light brown of kanpyo (dried gourd strips). Aesthetics is important as a tantalizing element to fire up our desire to eat, but it makes the dining scene joyous more than anything would.

It Stays Fresh Long

Kyo-zushi uses more sugar to prepare sushi rice than Edo-mae-zushi (meaning “Tokyo style sushi”), common in the Kanto area. This is to help the sushi stay fresh for longer. In addition there is attention to detail such as how the sushi rice must be completely cooled down first before further cooking so that the taste won’t change over time.

The following will introduce representative Kyo-zushi with such unique characteristics.


1. Saba-Zushi (Mackerel)



In the old days it was rather difficult to obtain fresh fish in Kyoto, as the city was far from the sea. So the salted mackerel was a near equivalent to raw fish and Kyoto people loved it as a feast. Treating this salted mackerel with vinegar and mixing it with sushi rice is said to be the origin of today’s saba-zushi.

People of Kyoto have a tradition to eat saba-zushi at festivals or various celebrations even today.


2. Chirashi-Zushi (Sprinkled Sushi)



Gorgeous to the eyes, “Chirashi-zushi” is often consumed at celebratory occasions, and this sushi is popular to both children and adults alike. The ingredients topped on the rice have a wide variety, depending on the locality and families.  People avoid raw material in Kyoto and use cooked ingredients or others treated with vinegar so that sushi stays good over time.


3. Maki-Zushi (Sushi Roll)



When you order a set of sushi, it often contains sushi roll, such as “Kanpyo-maki” (sweet gourd roll) or “Kappa-maki” (cucumber roll). These rolls are usually small in diameter. In the Kansai Region including Kyoto, sushi rolls are usually much thicker. Moreover, in Osaka there are square rolls, and in Kanto, the shape might come as semi-cylindrical. The shapes change subtly from place to place.

In Kyoto, sushi roll is round, and it contains kanpyo, Japanese omelet, and mitsuba (Japanese parsley).
Related: Ehou-makis: Rule-bound sushi eating


4. Hako-Zushi (Box Sushi)



This sushi is a local specialty in the Kansai area, and it uses a wooden box to shape the sushi rice and ingredients. The origin is said to be Osaka.

In Osaka, people generally use sea eels for this sushi, but in Kyoto, they use mashed pike conger. A different box sushi topped with eggs, shrimps, and fish, is called “Kera-bako”.


5. Temari-Zushi (Hand Ball Sushi)



Sushi rice and topping is wrapped in a small quantity like a pretty ball. It is said to have been created so Maiko Girls can eat them without opening their mouth wide (properly according to the Japanese etiquette).
More Info: Temari Sushi: Sushi Made for Geiko and Maiko of Kyoto


Kyoto is a top tourist destination filled with attractions that preserve how Japan appeared in the old days, but its cuisine also boasts a long history and sophistication. Kyo-zushi we introduced this time is subtly different from restaurant to restaurant, so we recommend that you to try them in several establishments and compare their tastes and presentations!

Look at the Amazing Variety! 10 Regional Sushi Across Japan

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About the author

I'm interested in general in all things related to culture and fine arts with a focus on movies, art, and design. I hope to introduce to many people all the different sides to Japan in regards to Japanese culture.

View all articles by KAWATA