Hiranoyu tea house, Arashiyama, Kyoto

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Culinary Travel
Food can be both a reason to travel and a common subject of interest to discuss with the locals once you get to your destination. Even in a small country such as Japan, crossing a river or mountain pass can bring you into another world; one with a different culinary culture, where being an outsider differs little, whether you are from London or Tokyo.

At times, a review of a treasured restaurant or an article on a regional specialty fails to describe the subject fully, especially when its discovery is made during the magical act of travel, for its sense of place is integral to its understanding. During travel, we are open to possibilities, and therefore invite the unexpected. It is during travel that we discover that an onsen bath before dinner enhances the enjoyment of a meal, that a simple purchase can lead to a lecture on kombu, and a conversation about Rimpa art at a gallery can lead to an invitation to dinner at the owner’s favorite hidden ryotei (traditional restaurant). When these chance encounters and locations add so much to the overall experience, I feel that they are best written as travel articles. This section includes memories – some recent, some from the past – of such treasured encounters.

This section also includes recommended restaurants and ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) as well as background information on regional cooking. It is by no means as comprehensive as we would like it to be, and some sections (such as Kyoto) are more complete due to the length of time spent there. The listings are based on one, and in some cases, multiple visits. They are not intended as reviews or critiques, and only include establishments we would recommend to friends. All are a good value and feature great food and a unique (in most cases, traditional) atmosphere. There are some other favorites we would love to list, but they have a loyal local clientele and limited seating and do not want publicity.

Top: Twilight at Hirano-ya tea house, Arashiyama, Kyoto; Above: Torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto.




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