Does anyone have recommendations for a woman dining alone in Kyoto? I'm going to be there for a few weeks and am looking for some good ideas. I speak fluent Japanese, and I've lived in Japan and been to Kyoto many times, but I never know where to eat. Oddly, I have no trouble in Tokyo, but the restaurant culture there is very different.
I'm looking for cheap, mid-priced and expensive places -- anything but the conbini!
Nothing specific, but anywhere that's located in a hotel, department store or shopping mall should be comfortable, and that includes many nice mid- and upper-level restaurants in places like Isetan. Other than that, most restaurants with a counter are set up for solo diners.
I lived in Kyoto for two years and after moving elsewhere in Japan, visited often. The only places I wouldn't consider dining alone were izakayas, yakiniku restaurants, and similar places where dishes were meant to be shared (Spoon, for example). I think maybe some kaiseki places are probably less solo-diner friendly (and perhaps some high-end European places), but I ate at places like Ten-you, Yoshikawa, O-men, Katsukura, various French, Italian, Indian, Thai places, etc. etc.
I'm also female, btw, and if I ever felt a tiny bit ill-at-ease at a restaurant, it wasn't because of my gender.
Do you usually go there solo? To me Okariba is the kind of place better experienced with a dining partner (even better with a large group), but ymmv and all that. (kind of like dim sum--you could certainly go alone, but you wouldn't be able to get very many dishes, and it wouldn't be as much fun).
I like sitting at the counter if I'm alone.
Last time I was solo in Kyoto, I ate at the counter at "Kashin."
There's a lot of Kyoto specialties, like tofu and kyo-yasai (done as "teppai" [nuta] and as takiawase), to jidori and hamo.
It's a family affair, with a father doing the sashimi and the grill, a daughter doing the vegetables and a mother pouring the sake. The daughter, Keiko-san, speaks English, but your Japanese ability will go a long way in conversing with the other solo diners at the counter.
Check out some photos here: http://gaishokujin.wordpress.com/kashin/
12 Higashikujo Nishisannocho, Minami-ku, Kyoto-shi
(One block south of Avanti, below Kyoto Station