(Photos taken at Shigetsu in Tenryu-ji)

Experience Vegetarian Shojin Ryori in Kyoto


2018.05.26

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

  • Originating from the 13th century, shojin ryori is a type of vegetarian cuisine eaten by Zen Buddhist monks made from lightly seasoned soy and seasonal vegetables. To clear their spirits, monks would abstain from animal products, onion and garlic as it was believed they would fog up the spirit. Shojin ryori is a very healthy dish, good for both the body and the environment. The belief in cooking shojin ryori is to not waste any food and to feed the human body with five types of colors and natural, subtle flavors. While monks originally ate in this style to achieve the highest levels of meditation, mere mortals can also indulge in this cuisine for lunch or dinner.

    Experience Vegetarian Shojin Ryori in Kyoto

    Experience Vegetarian Shojin Ryori in Kyoto

    Shojin ryori is always made from seasonal foods with root vegetables in winter and fresh vegetables in spring. The cuisine is created to have humans fall in tune with nature, thus integrating only fresh ingredients reflecting what is being grown in the earth. Meals change from winter to summer but soybeans are a consistent throughout the year. Soybean products, such as tofu, offer high protein without any animal products. Tofu is reused and refurbished in each dish, creating a surprising variety of textures and flavors, far from the humble block of silken tofu found in supermarkets.

    Experience Vegetarian Shojin Ryori in Kyoto

    Experience Vegetarian Shojin Ryori in Kyoto

    Despite lacking animal products and rich creams, shojin ryori is quite flavorful. The “Five Tastes” are used when crafting and cooking the meal. To have an authentic shojin ryori meal each set should follow the rule of five: five flavors (sweet, sour, spicy, bitter and savory) five cooking styles (steamed, boiled, roasted, stewed and raw) and five colors (white, black, red, green and yellow). Some of the most popular dishes are nasu dengaku, purple grilled eggplant with miso sauce, gomadofu, a white soft tofu made out of sesame seeds and green Japanese pickles.

    Experience Vegetarian Shojin Ryori in Kyoto

    Experience Vegetarian Shojin Ryori in Kyoto

    Kyoto, known for its shrines and temples, is one of the most popular places to try shojin ryori. Shigetsu is a popular shojin ryori kaiseki restaurant in the UNESCO World Heritage gardens of Tenryu-ji. Diners sit on tatami and can order meal sets ranging from 3,000 yen to 7,000 yen. Each meal comes with rice and miso soup and a variety of side dishes reflecting the seasonal garden colors of Tenryu-ji. Shigetsu is open everyday of the year for lunch from 11AM - 2PM. Reservations are required in advance.

    Experience Vegetarian Shojin Ryori in Kyoto

    Experience Vegetarian Shojin Ryori in Kyoto

    Experience Vegetarian Shojin Ryori in Kyoto

    Experience Vegetarian Shojin Ryori in Kyoto

    Shigetsu is one of the best and most popular temples to indulge in a kaiseki shojin ryori but restaurants throughout the city center of Kyoto also offer options for a non temple experience. The restaurants vary in ambiance and price and can be found from the city center near Kyoto station in Western style restaurants or near Arashiyama in temples where diners sit on tatami. Shojin ryori can even be enjoyed in a Michelin starred restaurant such as Hyotei or Ajiro. While restaurants do offer a gourmet atmosphere, nothing beats enjoying the seasonal tastes of nature
    right where it was grown.

    Experience Vegetarian Shojin Ryori in Kyoto

    Experience Vegetarian Shojin Ryori in Kyoto

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