Izuju Kyoto Style Sushi

Izuju Kyoto Style Sushi

Sushi in Kyoto is not quite what we know sushi as. The stark difference is one that you must experience to remember Kyoto. Very unlike the regular sushi in the market that is commonly known by the world, the traditional Kyoto sushi has a rich history and is a culinary fixture that had us developing a new level of appreciation for the Inarizushi (inari sushi).

We found the legendary Izuju – one of the oldest traditional Kyoto sushi restaurant in the heart of Gion, just across the Yasaka Shrine. It is known to serve the best Kyoto style sushi in Kyoto, if not Japan.

Stepping in was like going back to the old Kyoto, with an intriguing interior and displays, every bit speaking of a certain history from their younger days. Even the paper talisman from the Atago Shrine has a story to tell.

Izuju Sushi

It looked like nothing has changed; well actually, nothing has changed – the method of preparation and quality of ingredients used, the humility of Kitamura-san (the owner), and the unbeatable fragrance and freshness of a Inarizushi that has every inari pocket traditionally simmered in a hearth. No one else in Kyoto uses wood to cook, except Kitamura-san, and this clearly explains why his Inarizushi is the best we have ever had in our entire life. If you can’t already tell, yes, we really love our traditional Kyoto Inarizushi.

First-timers may step in feeling lost like us, because nothing on the menu would look familiar. The origins of each item are separate stories to tell, and chefs spend years to master the preparation of traditional Kyoto sushi. But for a start, here is an overview of the classic ones that you cannot leave without trying:

Kyoto Sushi

Inarizushi – Sushi rice in pockets of sweet beancurd skin simmered in a traditional hearth. Sweet, fresh, and an irresistible comfort that one can never get sick of. If this is not the essence of simplicity, we don’t know what is!

Sabazushi – Pickled mackerel with sushi rice. Unless the nigiri sushi that we are all used to, Sabazushi is really a whole slab of deboned mackerel that is used as a wrap for sushi rice.

Hakozushi – Box sushi. ‘Hako’ means ‘box’ in Japanese, and this is a significant representative of traditional Kyoto sushi. It is usually rice wrapped with summer grill hamo pike eel, or winter sawara Spanish mackerel – both in box shapes.

Mushizushi – Steamed sushi that is widely eaten during winter. A simple dish of steamed rice with a copious amount of dashi (Japanese soup stock). Every bit Japanese, indeed.

Sasamaki – Unlike the usual bite-sized maki, this is a relatively big version that is wrapped in bamboo leaf. Wrapped with sea bream, the fishiness is too strong for our liking, but we realized it is a hit among the local diners.


For budget eaters, Izuju is an ideal eatery for a modest traditional meal, and you can fill your tummy under S$10.

However for a more gastronomical experience, we highly recommend the sampling set that comprises all the specialty sushi. With an extra serving of Inarizushi, please.

Izuju Kyoto Sushi Restaurant
292 Gionmachi Kitagawa
Kyoto Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto
Tel: +81 75 561 0019