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Apr 27, 2008 08:21 PM

Looking for place with good chow between Tokyo and Kyoto

Hi. NYC Hound here. We'll be travelling to Japan (our first time) in July and have about 10-12 days. We'll be flying into Tokyo and taking the bullet train to Kyoto. Is there any town along the way that's worth stopping for a day or so with great food and nice cultural attractions? I would love to know if there are some regional specialties and any recs for restaurants. Or perhaps a town with a nice ryokan for some R&R (with delicious food, of course)?


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  1. The short answer is no. There's a reason they built high speed rail service between those two cities...BUT, Nagoya, which is about halfway between the two on the Shinkansen, has its' own regional cuisine and I suppose some cultural attraction in that it does not resemble New York City. Do a search on the board as E.Eto covered some of Nagoya's chow scene. There are about 4-5 places around Tokyo, not necessarily between there and Kyoto, that are much better culinary/cultural options. You might want to investigate Hakone, which is an hour south of Tokyo, and although it can be a bit touristy, is generally well-regarded, has nice places to stay and eat, and has hot springs. It's not on the Shinkansen line, but it is a short ride from Odawara, which is. On a 12-day trip it's worth a stop more than Nagoya is.

    16 Replies
    1. re: Silverjay

      Thanks for your input. Upon doing some more research I'm leaning towards Takayama, even though it's a bit out of the way. My second choice would be Hakone. Although as I do more research and find out that there's a Hello Kitty Land and ramen museum, I hope I can fit a town in my itinerary aside from Tokyo and Kyoto.

      1. re: Miss Needle

        I'll also mention that Kobe is a charming little town, only about 45 minutes past Kyoto on the Shinkansen, so it's probably easier to get to than some city that's in between but not on the Shinkansen. It has a few special dishes, and there's an interesting sake museum.

        1. re: Robb S

          It's also home to my favourite okonomiyaki place (I still haven't found any in Osaka that suit my tastebuds, though I'm sure there's one out there somewhere), and the home of Nadaban, Hal Yamashita's (head of Slow Food Kansai) first restaurant.

          1. re: prasantrin

            prasantrin, do you live in Kansai? The best okonomiyaki and takoyaki in Osaka IMNSHO (besides the one our family makes at home) is in the Mikuni Shotengai at Hankyu Mikuni. There are so many okonomiyaki and takoyaki vendors in the shotengai and it's VERY competitive. It's a take out place with a very small eating area in the back. They also have great kaitenyaki, as good as, if not better than, "Gozasoro". I never leave Osaka without eating their okonomiyaki, takoyaki and kaitenyaki at least twice :-)

            1. re: kuidaore

              Hey kuidaore,

              Thanks for the info. :) Do you have an address for your favorite Takoyaki vendor?

              1. re: exilekiss

                No, but it's across from supermarket "Maido". 2-3 middle-aged women (obasan) are cooking unlike most other places where young people are cooking.

                If you don't live in the area, you probably don't want to make a special trip to Hankyu Mikuni (or 30 min walk from Shin-Osaka).

                My associate in Tokyo, who is from Nara and familiar with Osakan Takoyaki, says there's a VERY good takoyaki place in Akihabara. I'll get you info about this place.

              2. re: kuidaore

                Kuidaore, I've heard that Osaka is the best place okonomiyaki and taokoyaki (not the biggest fan of kaitenyaki, or Asian desserts in general). Any recs for the second-best ones either in Tokyo or Kyoto?

                1. re: Miss Needle

                  For takoyaki, this is my associate's recommendation.

                  Kyotako DonQuixote Akihabara (on the first level of Don Quixote)--Kyotako is a franchise chain.

                  I'll try to see if anyone can recommend okonomiyaki in Tokyo. (I personally do not dare to eat okonomiyaki or takoyaki in Tokyo.)

                2. re: kuidaore

                  I live in Nishinomiya, coincidentally along a Hankyu line, just not the one Mikuni is on! It's not that far from me, though, so I'll have to make the trek one of these days. Is there a particular vendor you recommend? One of the reasons I like the place in Kobe is because they don't put gari in the oknomiyaki. I hate gari! (except the freshly-made kind)

                  I make pretty good okonomiyaki, too, and I prefer my own to almost all others I've tried. If only I weren't so lazy!

                  1. re: prasantrin

                    Are you talking about "benishoga"? Okonomiyaki without benishoga isn't Okonomiyaki for me! I (and my family) put so much that the dough is pink :-)

              3. re: Robb S

                Thanks. btw, I just want to say how much I loved going through your site. Didn't discover it until last night. But quite a treasure.

              4. re: Miss Needle

                If you're still in the plannng stages, I recommend looking into a day trip from Tokyo down to Kamakura. I've taken every single guest who has ever visited me and it never disappoints. And I hear the chow scene is improving as well.

                1. re: Silverjay

                  Hey Silverjay,

                  What are some things you'd recommend to do in Kamakura? Some good Restaurants or more location-based stuff? Thanks~ :)

                  1. re: Silverjay

                    Thanks. Yeah, I'm still in the planning stages, changing my mind all the time because everything looks so good. I wish I had more time.

                    Silverjay, as I see from your profile that you also spend considerable time in NYC, would you think it's worth it for an American tongue to try Japanese pizza (the mayo-corn-cheese thing, not the okonomiyaki)? I want to make every meal count, and I've always been curious. But I generally don't like Eastern interpretations of Western items (excluding croquettes, tempura). For example, I think that nouveau Chinese dish of shrimp, walnuts and condensed milk is vile.

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      You and EK can email me for itinerary ideas. I used to live in Kamakura, before I lived in Tokyo....As a member of the Distinguished League of Extraordinary Mayonnaise Haters, I recommend avoiding the goofy Japanese takes on pizza. There's nothing really compelling about even most of the non-mayo options except as a novelty. Though, there are many fine renditions of the Italian versions around. For good culinary takes on Western cuisine through a Japanese prism, I recommend exploring "youshoku" options. Below I've posted a recent NYT piece on it. One of the higher end places that have been covered on this board would make a great lunch option.


              5. There are places you can stop between Tokyo and Kyoto for some interesting eats. Given your summer timeframe, it's likely going to be in the dog-days of summer. And the first thing that came to mind as a summer eating item is unagi. And Hamamatsu might be considered the unagi capital of Japan (at least an important unagi area). You should find out when "doyou no ushi no hi" falls this year, since you'll likely be in Japan during the eel eating day. Hamamatsu also boasts another "meibutsu" (regional specialty) called an unagi-pie, which is a butter cookie with some pulverized unagi in it. You can't actually taste the unagi, but it's one of those items that people from Hamamatsu insist you try and bring home to others. This is my mother's hometown, so I have relatives around here who get these whenever they visit or when I visit them. Hamamatsu is a stop on the shinkansen, so there is fairly easy access. That area around Hamamatsu is also known for the sakura ebi (baby shrimp) and shirasu (baby anchovies). Actually, most of that coastal area of Shizuoka prefecture is known for those, from Numazu down to Hamamatsu, I believe.

                Shizuoka prefecture is a very underrated area, and is a great place to enjoy local fish and seafood. I would highly recommend taking some time to stop around the Izu peninsula. From Atami station, there's a local train (and a sightseeing train) that goes down the scenic east coast. The towns around the peninsula are known for their onsens (hot springs), but that probably won't be on the agenda in July. But there's great seafood from Atami down to Shimoda. I've only been to the area a little below Ito, and I found it to be quite beautiful. I'm not sure if you'll find many foreign travelers around this area, and there's not much in the way of cultural activities.
                Here's a view from a ryokan I stayed at on the Izu coast:

                Numazu is also known for their seafood. It's a short ride on a local train from Mishima station on the shinkansen. I've never been, but it seems to be an important fishing port in that region. I've never been to Shizuoka city, but I have some foodie cousins from Tokyo telling me that next time I come around, they would take me to Shizuoka for really great seafood. One of my favorite English language bloggers in Japan is from Shizuoka and I'm convinced by reading these posts that Shizuoka might be worth the pit stop. There's a lot of good information here:

                I didn't get to stop in Nagoya as I was planning a couple years back, and it's still one of my top places to visit for the food. This was my exploratory post from a while back:

                Here's a link for a calendar of July happenings in Japan:

                If you have any non-chow related travel questions, feel free to email me at the address on my user page.

                6 Replies
                1. re: E Eto

                  I was also going to suggest Atami, which is only 1 hour from Tokyo by Shinkansen.

                  Atami is VERY touristy (and yes, there are overseas tourists there), but if you go even one station beyond Atami, it's not touristy at all and pretty rural.

                  This is the ryokan we stayed at just a month ago. It's near Izutaga Station, two stations south from Atami.

                  This one is at Ajiro, the station after Izutaga.

                  In the Atami area, you find many stores that sell "himono" (dried fish). Many ryokans serve himono for breakfast and it's quite good.

                  On our way from Atami to Kyoto, we got on Shinkansen at Mishima. There were a bunch of Western and Chinese tourists at Mishima Station (on their way back from Mt. Fuji?


                  But Takayama is beautiful and a friend in Osaka was raving about food there.

                  1. re: kuidaore

                    Oh, you guys are making it so difficult for me to choose! : )

                    But I appreciate the wealth of knowledge that all of you are sharing with me.

                  2. re: E Eto

                    Thanks Eric. I'll definitely be shooting you an email later.

                    1. re: E Eto

                      Just got some unagi pie as a gift from a friend coming back from Shizuoka. Thought I'd share some visuals:

                      I was alarmed to hear that they are reducing production of unagi pie and after July, possibly stopping production altogether because of the butter shortage in Japan.

                      1. re: E Eto

                        Hi E Eto,

                        Omoshiroi! (O_O) How does it taste? :)

                        1. re: exilekiss

                          It tastes like a good butter cookie.