Questions for seasoned Japan foodies
- My bf and I will be traveling around Japan for 3 weeks in March. Its his 40th bday, so would like to take him somewhere special in Tokyo or Kyoto. Budget is not unlimited, but it IS a special occasion.
- Are there any especially interesting cooking equipment shops I should check out in Tokyo or Kyoto?
- Restaurant recommendations on Naoshima Island?
- Restaurant recommendations in Hakone area?
- Restaurant recommendations in Kanazawa?
Take Bengoshi's advice and book a night or two in a Ryokan. This is THE Japanese experience and from my experience, the food is almost always good. There are quite a number of them and some are more "rustic" than others. A good website to check out is japaneseguesthouses.com - there are a lot of reviews and they also go over Ryokan etiquette. We stayed in the Kamogawa Ryokan - (aka Kamogawakan) in Kyoto last year and the food was very good. It was in a very convenient location also. Although staying in a Ryokan is a bit spendy, the food makes up for it- you will have a very traditional Japanese meal, won't have to worry about ordering from a kanji menu, and you can inspect and eat the food at your own pace (not having to worry about offending anyone). I've stayed at many Ryokan while traveling in Japan and have yet to be disappointed. I hope it's not too late to add one to your travel plans. I'm so envious! Have a great time!
brownonthebeach - without doubt Tokyo's foremost street / area for buying kitchen equipment and crockery is Kappabashi (a 10-minute walk from Asakusa station, which is the terminus of the Ginza subway line). Its main source of custom is the catering trade, but naturally private buyers are welcome to choose from the enormous quantities of anything and everything associated with Japanese food preparation. The selection includes such items as the ubiquitous pieces of plastic food seen in the windows of many restaurants here.
If you want Japanese cooking equipment, trust me, spare a couple of hours at least for spending in Kappabashi and you won't be disappointed...
Most agreed about 'Cool Tools' and the shopping sources there.
Aritsuga is located in the famous "Nishiki Market" in Kyoto, Kyoto's "kitchen." I have been to Japan 14 times and only went to Nishiki on my latest trip. What a mistake; the Nishiki Market is a Must See and save your Yen for Aritsuga, there are some beautiful cooking items there.
In Tokyo, go to Kapabashi and Tsukiji.
As far as Romantic splurges, consider this: Don't just go to a restaurant, go to an Onsen -- a Japanese traditional Ryokan (Hotel) -- and bathe in Volcanic waters and relax in your Tatami room, eating the very best food on earth -- all in a "Yukata" (informal Kimono). Could anything be more romantic or "foodie"?
Most definitely worth the splurge. Check out Shuzenji Onsen, there are some great Onsen there, or Hakone, less expensive, more choice, although the food is better in Shuzenji. You can also try to get into Tawaraya Ryoken in Kyoto. Its not an Onsen, but the food is phenomenal. A difficult reservation but damn worth it (I'm a very luck boy to have stayed there)
Onsen and Ryokan can seem expensive (think $500 a night for the best, less in Hakone, etc.) But remember, that comes with a multi-course Kaiseki Ryori dinner and a breakfast that is more like a five star dinner than a bagel with a smear. Its actually a bargain, considering that a Tokyo Kaseiki Ryori meal can go for just about that, without an overnight stay, bath or breakfast.
So, save your splurge Yen for an Onsen experience. Without a doubt, one of the best foodie experiences on earth.
For Kanazawa, don't miss having lunch at Miyoshian inside Kenrokuen garden. The setting is spectacular and the food is a very good introduction to Kanazawa's local Kaga cuisine. Lunch is Y1500-3000.
Closed Wednesdays; 076-221-0127 to reserve; http://rp.gnavi.co.jp/sb/3003890/ for more info (in Japanese).
Cool Tools, Cooking Utensils from the Japanese Kitchen by Kate Klippensteen (I highly recommend the book)
lists a number of cooking equipment stores in Tokyo and Kyoto. I am dying to go to Kiya in Tokyo, which according to the book has been in business since 1792. Apparently, the go-to store in Kyoto is Aritsuga, which the book says has been in business since 1560. The book is a great resource.
The Tokyu Hands department store in the Shibuya neighborhood is also not to be missed for cooking equipment and gadgets. Just plan to spend plenty of time - it's not fun at Tokyu Hands when you are rushed because there is just so much there.
I am so envious that you are going to Kanazawa. I've always wanted to go there.
Looks like I have a new destination next time I make it to Tokyo. I also recommend checking out the stalls at the Tsukiji fish market. There are lots of vendors there that focus on kitchen and cooking equipment. For the same things at lower prices, check out general stores in Kyoto on the back streets or have a peek in 100yen stores, a worthwhile endeavor no matter what you're looking for!