Lately Nara has been hosting more and more tourists and this means more and more dining opportunities. While the majority of Nara restaurants still focus on ultra-healthy Japanese cuisine, visitors will discover other options including Chinese, French, Israeli, and Italian food.

    Not all Nara restaurants serve outrageously expensive food. Tourists on a tight budget can enjoy good meals at many downtown venues that serve good value set lunches. In the old days, it was hard to find a non-Japanese restaurant in Nara but things have changed a lot lately as a fair number of visitors are willing to spend more time in Nara and not just treat it as a 1-day destination.


    Tousenbou Nara-Ten

    Tousenbou Nara-Ten is famous for its tofu dishes and traditional Japanese sweets. It's amazing to see how they can create so many different dishes from it. Tofu has long been an important ingredient in the Japanese diet and is one of the healthiest ones too. Check out many of Tousenbou’s set menus that allow you to sample from 6 to 10 different types of food in 1 meal.

    Location: 21-1, Konishicho, Nara, 630-8226, Japan

    Open: Daily from 11 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +81 (0)74 226 0633


    Kikusuiro Ryokan

    Classy Kikusuiro Ryokan is conveniently located next to Nara Park in a well-preserved vintage home. The 2 main restaurants here serve Japanese and western cuisine, and the Bekkan Kikusuiro (annex) Restaurant offers traditional Japanese food. If you're looking for a unique experience, they also can organize a geisha performance featuring traditional dance and music. There are only a handful of geishas in Nara, so the experience can be something very special. Advance booking is required. Major credit cards accepted and prices are not necessary cheap.

    Location: 1130 Takabatakecho, Nara, 630-8301, Japan

    Phone: +81 (0)742-23-2038


    photo by tak.wing (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified



    Harishin is famous for serving delicious kaiseki or Japanese set meals usually consisting of soup, rice, pickled vegetables and a few side dishes. For the Japanese, the presentation of the meal itself is as important as its freshness and ingredients. Though the food might be well prepared, if it is not beautifully presented the meal is considered incomplete and a dining experience at this restaurant is a good example of this belief. Harishin is one of the well-preserved traditional wooden houses and shops that line old narrow lanes in this part of Nara and it offers traditional tatami mat dining with a view of a traditional Japanese garden. Major credit cards accepted.

    Location: 15 Nakanoshinyacho, Nara 630-8333, Japan

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 11.30 am to 2.30 pm and 6 pm to 8 pm

    Phone: +81 (0)74 222 2669


    photo by 663highland (CC BY 2.5) modified


    China Dining Hiten

    Beautifully decorated with a warm wooden feel and many Chinese arts and crafts items, China Dining Hiten is a stylish and popular Chinese restaurant. Enjoy a variety of well-known dishes ranging from Canton noodles to dim sum with many choices of set lunches such as rice with chili shrimp served with soup, pickled vegetables and small salad. If you feel like only drinking, ask for the cocktail menu at the bar; it features more than 30 concoctions. China Dining Hiten has a separate seating section for smokers and non-smokers.

    Location: 26 Higashimukiminamimachi, Nara, 630-8216, Japan

    Open: Daily from 11 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +81 (0)74-226-1777


    Monsieur Pepé Café

    Monsieur Pepé Café is popular for its home cooking style. Yasuko Nishikawa, the owner and head chef, trained at a Le Cordon Bleu school, a famous French culinary institution that has branches both in France and abroad. The cafe is full of kitsch French knickknacks and has a lovely view of lush gardens.

    Don’t leave the restaurant without trying one of their tarts for dessert. You may find it hard to choose between the apple and blueberry – both are equally good. Monsieur Pepé is also open for dinner but they require 2 days booking in advance and only with a group of 5 or more people.

    Location: 58-1 Noboriojicho, Nara, 630-8213, Japan

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday lunch from 11 am to 2 pm. Dinner is from 6 pm but by advance booking only (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +81 (0)74 226 7709



    Mangyoku is an attractive neighborhood restaurant popular with the locals. If you could only eat at one restaurant in Nara, Mangyoku would be a good choice. On top of the fine cuisine, you will also have a chance to admire the simple but elegant architecture dating back to 1742. Mangyoku once was an okiya (a boarding house of geishas as well as maikos or apprentice geishas) and some of the restaurant’s furniture was actually used by those ladies back in the old days. English-language menus available and prices are reasonable.

    Location: 9 Ganriincho, Nara, Nara Prefecture 630-8221, Japan

    Open: Daily from 6 pm to 11 pm

    Phone: +81 (0)742-22-2265


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