Izusen-Shojin Cuisine 泉仙 精進料理 is one of Kyoto’s finest Shojin ryori restaurants. Being situated in Daitokuji, the heartland of tea and Zen, you feel the tranquility, peace and harmony wash over you. Once inside, you are welcomed by a beautifully presented course meal with lacquer bowls you can stack one inside the other, much like the Matroshka or stacking dolls.
In the 5 Buddhist precepts, killing humans or animals was considered forbidden. As a result no animal products-dairy, meat or fish were used, rather only plant-based ingredients such as soybeans, sesame, nuts, vegetable oils and rapeseed, making it a completely vegetarian based style of cooking. Shojin Ryori 精進 料理 literally translates into: devotion, pursuit and cuisine. However, in this context, it refers to a devotion to a practice in pursuit of a pure state of mind and body.
The signature dish of Izusen is gomadofu or tofu made out of sesame. It has a uniquely sticky consistency somewhat like mochi (pounded rice) but with a creamier taste. I’m quite confident the texture is unlike any other tofu you’ve encountered. Actually, gomadofu is made by soaking sesame seeds, grinding them, and finally hardening it by adding kudzu or arrow root.
Where did it come from?
It seems to have entered Japan along with Chan Buddhism (precursor to Japanese Zen Buddhism) from China in the 6-7th centuries.
Who brought it over to Japan?
Recognized as part of their practice, Japanese monks studying Chan Buddhism in Xian, China, brought back this type of cuisine along with Chan Buddhism.
How has it changed from traditional styles to modern?
Although it was forbidden to eat animal based foods when Buddhism first entered Japan, certain Japanese Buddhist schools (Zen, Nichiren, Jodo) believed the Buddha actually ate meat, and they allowed followers to decide whether to eat meat or be strictly vegetarians. Depending on the restaurant or temple, contemporary Shojin Ryori might break away from its original vegan origins. Courses tend to incorporate dashi or fish stock. I recommend asking if it’s used or not. Here’s a phrase in Japanese, dashi ga haitemasuka だしが入っていますか？
Also, the process for making gomadofu is quite an arduous process. Depending on the place they may use a paste.
Lunch From 3,500 Yen
Credit Cards Accepted
Hours of Operation
Open Year Round
Phone 075-491-6665 (Japanese country code +81)
Address Kyoto-shi, Kita-ku, Shibano, Daitokuji-cho, Daiji-in-nai
Note: Enter [京都市北区紫野大徳寺町大慈院内] into Google map