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Chojuan – Eating Soba Noodles in Style

Soba noodles, which are made of buckwheat, have been a favorite fast-food meal of busy Tokyoites ever since the early days of the bustling capital, in the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was still known as Edo. Today, time-pressed diners in Tokyo can still duck into one of many soba stands found all over the city, slurp their noodles at the counter and be gone within minutes. But those who prefer to eat their soba in a more relaxed… Read more »

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Ginza Honokawa

Just a few blocks behind Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel is a cluster of eateries by the train tracks and highway in a thoroughfare known, fittingly, as Korido-gai, or Corridor Road. The pizza, seafood, grilled chicken and countless other joints crammed together along Korido-gai are mostly cheap and cheerful watering holes where salarymen take refuge after a day’s work. One notable exception is Honokawa, a Japanese restaurant with its roots in Osaka serving Kansai-style Japanese cuisine, which is generally lighter and more subtle in… Read more »

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The Slow-Paced Charm of Nara

Nara, the ancient capital of Japan, is the Yin to Kyoto’s Yang. While Kyoto abounds with grand temples and flamboyant shrines aimed originally at flaunting the wealth and power of the lords and monks that ruled the day, Nara is a quieter, more relaxed and down-to-earth city, perfect for weaving your way through back alleys on a rented bike or taking a leisurely stroll through the old part of town, known as Naramachi. Nara certainly has its share of tourists,… Read more »

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A Long Weekend in Japan’s Snow Country

Best known as a ski resort, Echigo-Yuzawa in Niigata is also a good starting point for exploring Japan’s snow country. Each winter, heavy snowfall transforms the scenery and shrouds the area in tranquility. Soak in an outside rotenburo bath and watch the snow blanket the surrounding landscape. Then, head to dinner for a taste of Niigata’s famous Uonuma rice and local sake.  

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Kodaiji Wakuden

It takes some nerve to start a restaurant business in Kyoto, particularly if you are an outsider. As home to Japan’s imperial court and nobility for over 1,200 years, Kyoto is also the birthplace of Kyo-kaiseki, an elaborate, multi-course meal widely considered the pinnacle of Japanese haute cuisine. What’s more, the people of Kyoto who see themselves as the ultimate arbiters of culinary sophistication, are notoriously dismissive of those who hail from anywhere else. So, it must have been a… Read more »

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Kafuka – Innovative Japanese Cuisine

  Tokyo has no shortage of high quality Japanese restaurants but rather inconveniently, most of them only offer full-course menus, complete with dessert. The problem with set courses, though, is not just that some of us, myself included, end up eating much more than we would like to. Because portions tend to be of identical size in any professional restaurant, regardless of whether the guest is a big or small eater, this practically guarantees that some food will be wasted…. Read more »

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Kyoaji – a Taste of Kyoto Kaiseki in Central Tokyo

It is regularly voted the best Japanese restaurant in Tokyo. The proprietor is a legendary chef, who inspires adulation among his loyal fans. As one of an exclusive community of “ichigen-san okotowari” (or “introduction required”) restaurants, foodies, both foreign and Japanese, agonize over how to secure a seat there. But there is nothing grand about Kyoaji, even though it is arguably one of Tokyo’s most highly regarded kaiseki restaurants and, undeniably, one of the most difficult to get into. In… Read more »

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Kitera

There are a number of theories about the invention of soy sauce but at least one legend has it that tamari soy sauce was invented in Wakayama, the prefecture at the tip of the Kii peninsula, south of Kyoto. Tamari, which is a specifically Japanese soy sauce, is made almost entirely from soy bean. The story goes that Kakushin, a Zen Buddhist priest who had traveled to the Kinzanji, or the Temple of the Golden Mountain, in China, returned not… Read more »