3. Shingetsu vegetarian restaurant @ Tenryū-ji – reservation is mustand walk-ins will receive a firm “NO”!
Note: if you forget to make a reservation for Shingetsu you can go to any of the tofu restaurants on the main street leading to the train station
5. Lunch at Tenryū-ji or any of the other restaurants on the way to the train station
We know eventually one gets “templed-out” in Kyoto; so we recommend to head to Tenryū-ji earlier in your stay. It has many subtle and beautiful elements that may suffer in appreciation after such over the top builds such as the Golden Temple at Kinkaku-ji or the sheer scale of Kyomizu Dera!
Sort of an easy one in Kyoto, the magestic residence of Japan’s Imperial Family until 1868, it immediately went through a Meiji Restoration in 1869. From the impressive gates of cypress-wood, throughout the entire complex you will be awed as you are in most of Kyoto.
Ninna-ji was originally built in the year 886-888 by Emperors Kōkō and Uda as the head temple of the Omuro School of the Shingon sect of Buddhism. However, none of the buildings from the temple’s foundation in the 9th century still survive. The oldest buildings date back to the beginning of the Edo Period in the early 1600s. The Kannon Hall, the Niomon front gate, the Chumon inner gate and the five storied pagoda are standouts among the temples..
Worth note is the Goten. The former residence of the head priest, in the southwestern corner of the temple complex. Here sliding doors (fusuma) provide a broad open view to the beautiful stones and pond.
If you are in season, look for the grove of locally Omuro Cherries!
There are no words to fully describe the beauty and magic of the Takefue Ryokan. It is by far the most amazing place we have slept. It is located up an isolated mountain, in Kyushu, just outside the amazing town of Kurokawa Onsen, deep in a bamboo forest.
The hospitality is beyond anything expected – even in Japan. A member of the staff is allocated as your sole contact throughout your stay. They gently guide you, from choosing a yukata and coat, to designing and scheduling menus, to assisting your reservation of baths. Without out going into overt detail; it is beyond anything we’ve experienced -anywhere in the world. The combination of service and planning creates the feeling that you are the only guest at the hotel.
Each room has a private onsen (hot spring bath). There are several other larger baths that one can reserve. Each of the magnificent shared baths have a changing room complete with hot and cold drinks (including sake and beer) as well as an oven with warm towels. As one wanders the grounds, keep an eye out for random snacks, free of charge, placed throughout the hotel paths: sodas, water, tea, even freezer with the most delicious ice-cream pops !
When it is time to eat, be prepared for a most exquisite and elaborate meals. The cuisine is similar to other ryokan; with a large breakfast and a lovely Kaiseki dinner included. Here it is the overall quality in preparation, presentation and flavour.
We have 3 small pieces of advice for booking:
1. Try to stay at least 2 nights – with the check in/out times, there is really not enough time to really feel the entirety of Takefue Ryokan otherwise.
2. Have Takefue be your last Onsen stay while in Kyushu.
3. If you are in Japan and traveling – GO to Kyushu – it is pure Japan!
Close to Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, one finds Washoku Nada, a gem of a neighborhood restaurant. Yoko Araki opened Washoku Nada in 2009 after training at the Honke-Owariya soba restaurant in Kyoto, along with her brother, chef Tetsuya Araki (who also trained in Kyoto).
Washoku is the term for traditional Japanese Food and is recognized by UNESCO as an “intangible way of life” that helps define the island population. The 4 key elements present are:
1. Ingredients: rice, vegetables, mushrooms, fish, sea dwellers and seaweed
2. Culinary approach: raw, steaming, boiling or stewing
3. Nutritional content: balanced nutrients seen in the many dishes being offered
4. Hospitality: in the full sense of the experience and how it effects your life
The Hospitality above is a much more total concept then what may come to a typical western thought on the subject. One should include Yoko Araki’s background, as it is present in every detail. From the artfully displayed dishes to the carefully paired ceramics and cloths that accompany each dish. Each dish that is made lovingly and with a wholesome deliciousness that you feel in your soul.