Tenryuji Shigetsu

  • Vegan Vegan
    ( 15 reviews )

68 SuzukinoBaba-cho, Saga Tenryuji, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan

Vegetarian food (Shojin Ryori) located inside Sogen Garden of the Tenryu-ji temple, Arashiyama. Garden admission fee is 500 Yen. Address in Japanese: 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨天龍寺芒ノ馬場68. Note: kitchen may stop serving 30-60 minutes prior to closing, check ahead. Open Mon-Sun 11:00am-2:00pm.

Categories: Vegan

15 Reviews

First Review by backpasher

First pilgrimage - Edit

Shigetsu, the Zen vegetarian restaurant owned by Tenryu-ji – a temple listed on the UNESCO world heritage list. Shigetsu has an English homepage subtitularly notifying the potential visitors that it was a “Bib Gourmand…a restaurant serving exceptionally good food at moderate prices” and little flyers of explanations for the uninitiated foreigners. Its “snow” course consisted of one soup, one rice and five dishes, in lacquered bowls and served on pedestals in the traditional style of honzen ryori.[21] The difference between a kaiseki ryori and a honzen ryori is, quite roughly speaking, the focus: the former is a series of dishes to be served with sake (and that is why the rice comes at the end), while the latter is a meal in that the dishes are to be eaten with rice and soup.

Shigetsu’s dining room was stifling with the steam rising from the hot pots. Lined up on two strips of red synthetic carpets on tatami were the diners – Italians, Americans, Chinese and Japanese – slurping soup, scratching behinds, spitting and shouting and snapping selfies. A simulacrum of what a mess in a Buddhist monastery must have been like – one of the few international places, well, maybe merely intercontinental, with the visiting Chinese and Korean teachers.

The soy milk hot pot came first. Pieces of wheat gluten (a.k.a., seitan), bean curd skins, and a tiny brown ball made of lotus root floated in the milky bath. However, the marvelous sight of the “pot,” made out of folded paper, boiling above a burning blue flame captivated the attention longer than the stale flavor, as ponzu dipping sauce – soy sauce with citrus juice – was all there was for the entire pot. A goma-dofu – sesame tofu – is a typical delicacy of shojin ryori – made by churning a mixture of ground sesame seeds and kuzu (a root prized for its medicinal benefits) over and over clockwise on a low fire (so it is said, for over half an hour, depending on who is talking). Shigetsu’s sesame tofu was unguent but not too heavy, like a good panna cotta, and when warmed by the palate, it released a satisfying savory scent and filled the mouth with its full-bodied nutty creaminess. So far so good, until the simulated wasabi ultimately spoiled the dish. The stew was a large piece of round gluten in dashi, which had a uniquely smooth sweetness, emanating from none other than the humble toasted soy beans. Aha! Finally, there appeared a glimmer of hope on the horizon of this bonito-congested dashi haze.

Pros: Delicious sesame tofu

Cons: Crowded and noisy atmosphere, Utilitarian service, Touristy

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Shojin Ryori at its finest! - Edit

First of all, this is a traditional Zen Buddhist meal served in the beautiful grounds of Tenryu-ji temple, founded in the 1300s and a UNESCO World Heritage Site -- it doesn't get much cooler than that!

We reserved online and when we arrived, after touring the temple and garden that morning, we were sat right away. There are individual traditional low tables and pillows on tatami mats. There were also chairs available for those interested.

Our meals were served very quickly with tea. My favorites were the goma-dofu (sesame tofu with a rich gravy, topped with wasabi), miso soup, tsukemono (pickled vegetables), and the nasu dengaku (eggplant with a caramelized, almost sweet, miso topping)

I look forward to coming back our next time in Kyoto. I highly recommend Shigetsu!

Pro tip: Tour the garden and temple beforehand.

Pros: Excellent shojin ryori!, traditional meal, beautiful atmosphere

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Pretty gooey, pretty good! - Edit

Texture is something different in Japan!
You will try a lot of new chewy, gooey textures while visiting this place.
But relax, the food is awesome!

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Best meal I've had - Edit

This place serves buddhist cuisine usually served for special occasions/celabration. The cost varies between 3000 and 7000 yens, depending on the number of dishes. We chose the 5000 yens meal (rice, soup and 6 sides dishes).

This meal was, by far, the best meal I've had. And I mean the best meal, not just in Japan.

The flavours are well-balanced and the side dishes allow for a sampling of different foods. Everything was delicious and the setting (you eat in a tatami room) is lovely. I couldn't finish everything because there was so much food.

Pros: Delicious!, Beautiful setting

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Delicious! - Edit

This place was great! We didn't have a reservation but were seated right away. The food was imaginative and very well prepared. One of the best meals of our trip for sure and worth the 3000 yen for the set lunch menu.

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so satisfying! - Edit

The lunch set was ~3000¥ with lots of delicious little dishes. Buddhist Zen-style temple food, we got lots of little things on our plates. We felt happily satisfied the meal, but not overstuffed. Beautiful setting, but be warned that you'll be seating on tatami floor the whole time.

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Great experience! - Edit

At this place you get a set meal of zen buddhist cuisine! The taste of most dishes is quite strange, and there's tofu and soy products in all consistencies but with little taste. To be honest, there were some dishes that I didn't like much...
But: you have to try it once and experience it yourself!
The price is quite steep but you get plenty of food for it. You are placed in big rooms on tatami mats, and then they bring your tray, a tea pot, and again and again other small bowls with unique dishes!
When you visit Tenryu-ji-Temple and Arashiyama(which is definitely worth it), make sure to visit their restaurant!

Pros: unique dishes, overall experience is great

Cons: some dishes taste strange, expensive

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A must try at least once! - Edit

You must not miss to experience the true buddhist vegan food at a temple! A bit pricey but worth a try at least once!
The grilled eggplant was amazing. Most of the foods may be a bit weird if you are not a fan of japanese food and tofu, like my mother, but I loved it

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Most special meal in Japan! - Edit

Located in the stunning Tenryuji temple grounds (500yuan entry fee, works out though if you spend some time wandering in the stunning gardens). Very worth the trip, if you have the time, as need to catch train out to Arashiyama which took us less than 15 min (and about 10 min walk from station). Very nice setting, we sit in big rooms on red-carpet lined floor and perfect trays are brought with numerous red lacquer bowls holding all kinds of lovely tofus, rice, small delicate hotpot with burner underneath, pickles, so many tiny yummies!!! Book in advance, order 3000/5000/7000 set meal. It was a very special meal so we thought the cost was totally justifiable. The 3000 set meal absolutely delighted us.
If you can come for the whole afternoon and spend time after meal wandering gardens and see lovely ponds and trails of trees and mosses.

***** Oh, and this may be slightly uncomfortable for people who have difficulty sitting cross-legged for extended periods of time. My partner and I are yogis so we had no issue, though I would certainly bear this in mind if I was bringing my parents. We saw a room full of business men who all sat on tiny stools with their food up on stools too (presumably to keep their suits smartish), but I don't know if that's available to everyone.
To that end, also try and dress appropriately! A mini-skirt definitely be hard to pull off here and keep dignity!

Pros: Stunning presentation, Delicate and delicious, Once in a lifetime experience

Cons: Travel time may take around an hour , Difficult for unstretchy people, Don't wear a short skirt?

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Delicious food, in Sogen Garden , Tenryu-ji temple - Edit

Location: inside the Sogen Garden of the Tenryyu temple complex in Arashiyama. Admission fee : 500 Yen. The cashier at the garden entrance can point out the restaurant location on the visitor's map. The restaurant entrance has a split curtain (noren ) and if the front desk is not staffed, guests should open the sliding front door, and press the buzzer at the cashier's window to call the receptionist .

Menu and atmosphere : Lunch only, with three choices of vegan set meals, starting at 3000 Yen per person. Delicate flavors of grilled miso-topped eggplant , sesame tofu , miso soup, yams,potato , mushrooms, spinach, yuba, pickled daikon, tea.

The restaurant windows overlook a koi pond with views of the garden. Since this is a popular temple for tourists, large groups may show up for lunch , so arrive early. no reservations needed. The serving is functional and no nonsense . For a shojin ryori meal at a similar price but with incredible presentation and ambiance, try Nikko restaurant Gyoshintei instead.

Servers were friendly, spoke some English, and offered low chairs /tables for customers who had trouble with tatami seating. Wine and other drinks are available .

Pros: Delicious small plates, Vegan , Garden view

Cons: Assembly' line service , Popular with tour groups

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Delightful zen experience... but it does vary - Edit

We've eaten here 3 times and after each time our perspective has changed.

The first time we visited we were seated in a back room overlooking nothing at all. There were Chinese tourists wandering around and making unpleasant noise. Service was rushed and against this context the food felt a bit overpriced, although it did taste delicious. We went away feeling slightly disappointed.

The second time we were lucky.. it was a quiet day and we seemed to be the only people there. We were ushered into presumably the best room, which to our delight overlooked a magnificent zen garden complete with koi fish and floating lotuses. Amazing the power of a space - in this serene and meditatively beautiful place the food felt exquisite and we gladly paid the price tag. We couldn't wait to go back.

Last week we tried our luck for a third time and to our dismay were seated in the same back room as the first time. The experience again felt so-so and the value for money did not feel to be there.

Not sure if they accept seat requests but if you're feeling a bit daring it may be worth asking when you reserve.
Updated from previous review on Saturday September 20, 2014

Pros: food looks and tastes wonderful, that zen garden - wow!, visit the bamboo forest afterwards

Cons: Back rooms are boring, Price is not cheap vs quantity of food

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Outstaning and totally recommended - Edit

Visiting this restaurant is a whole experience that can be felt by many sences. You get to sit in 'tatami room', drink traditional tea and what's most important eat weird but v. tasty food.
We ordered the cheapiest set (3000 yen) but it was composed of maany small dishes leaving us satifsfied for long. I discovered so many flavours there and without the help of our Japaneese friends we wouldn't be able to say what we were eating.
I totally recommend it! :) As well as the whole Arashiyama part of Kyoto.
Updated from previous review on Sunday August 24, 2014

Pros: food!!!, atmosphere

Cons: closing at 2 p.m.- only lunch

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An amazing vegan experience in a beautiful setting - Edit

The lunch that I had here was absolutely amazing. All of my dining companions agreed that it was the best food that we had during our stay in Japan and one of our favorite all time meals. It is inside the grounds of a temple and only serves food between 11am and 2pm.
We had read about the restaurant and sought it out while we were in the area. We paid for admission to the Tenryu-ji temple and explored the lovely grounds. The restaurant itself is hard to identify. When we found the building, we didn't see or hear anyone inside. We considered leaving because we didn't see staff and had read that you need a reservation for parties of 3 or more. However, we found a button by the cashier's window with instructions to push for service and someone literally came running. We were seated right away, but it was a quiet weekday during the off-peak season. So, reservations may be advised during busier times.
They have set menus. At the time that we visited, only the cheapest was available at 3000 yen per person, plus a charge for drinks if we wanted anything other than hot tea. We were seated in a communal open floor dining room where another group was already eating. They have low chairs and tables available to bring in, if sitting on the floor is difficult.
The food was amazing and delightful. There were a variety of small dishes and I could not identify most of the food. It was all light, flavorful and healthy. The best surprise was unwrapping a small leaf bundle to find tiny delicious mochi inside. The setting of the meal made it even more special. The building is open air with the temple garden surrounding it on both sides.

Pros: Wonderful food, Amazing setting, Great service

Cons: limited hours - 11am-2pm, Inside temple grounds with admission fee

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Wow - Edit

We dropped in (for two people or less you don't need a reservation) and got the yuki set. We sat in a beautiful temple room which overlooked the gardens on both sides with a hint of thatched roof showing in one direction. The yuki set consisted of 10 small dishes. Particularly delicious were the goma (sesame) tofu, the melt in your mouth eggplant with sweet miso sauce, the sesame dressed salad, the mochi and bean paste dessert etc. Okay it was all delicious. Perfectly cooked with beautiful flavours and a real joy to sit in that beautiful temple and eat it.

Pros: Temple setting, Delicious Food, Views

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Beautiful food in a beautiful setting - Edit

This is actually located within Tenryuji temple in Arashiyama, Kyoto.

Between 2 of us, we shared a 3000yen lunch-set and that was plenty of food. The food was interesting, flavoursome and filling. It was visually arresting food and incredibly tasty.

The tofu was delicious, as were the eggplant and lotus roots.

We enjoyed a peaceful meal within the temple grounds.

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