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Jul 26, 2014 12:24 AM

My plan for the sidetrip to Kyoto is finished

I plan to sleep late and get out of bed in time for lunch every day. So I'm skipping breakfast and the extra stomach fill that normally would be. In between lunch hour and dinner hour I plan to snack every day at some unknown local shop I pass while I stroll downtown Kyoto on my sightseeing. I am open to tips on local specialities I should try and also where I should try it in Kyoto. The time between lunch and dinner is also when I will be doing all my tourist sightseeings of temples and the local culture in Kyoto. Then I have the lunch and dinner reservations for each day before I plan to snack at the seafood restaurant/bar/Izakaya Yamashita after dinner every day. I am not entierly sure about Yamashita and if it is the kind of place which is suitable for that kind of plan. Is it a place where you can just drop in or do you need a reservation? I am going just to snack and have a few drinks after dinner. I do not have the capacity for any menus or full cources there after both lunch, mid day snacking and dinner. I want my regular hangout spot in Kyoto for this late snacking to be a seafood place with focus on shellfish and crustaceans over fish. You know oyster (preferably bellon), sea urchin, scallop, prawn, razor clam, percebes, abalone, sea snail, different type of crab, different type of lobster, langoustine, crawfish, sea cucumber, all types of shells and clams etc. and of course a nice selection of sake or wine. I would appriciate feedback if Yamashita is a place suitable for this or if someone maybe have alternatives or other suggestions if Yamashita is not suitable.

From what I understand this is Yamashita:

I would be interested in the current seafood ranking in Kyoto on Tabelog if someone could help me to a link showing that. I don't know how to do it myself. Sorry.

Then we have the lunch and dinner reservations I hope to make. I don't know how hard these restaurants are to reserve. I will only find out when I start trying. So eventually this list might have to change once I start, but this is at least the preliminary list I initially want to try to do. As usual I am very interested in feedback on the listed restaurants and their quality, on your thoughts on them and possible alterntives. I know there is some great knowledge among you out there, so any feedback would be highly appriciated.

As you can see there are no sushi restauarnts listed for Kyoto. It seems to me that the quality of the sushi restaurants are better in Tokyo and Osaka and that it might be better to focus on sushi there and instead spend most of my time on kaiseki here in Kyoto.

The top priority restaurants I want to go to in Kyoto are Kitcho Arashiyama Honten, Kikunoi Honten, Kichisen, Mizai, Gion Suetomo and Gion Sasaki. All are kaiseki restaurants. I hope to make all dinner reservations. These were all highly recomended by Shinji Nohara as his favourite restaurants in Kyoto. They are all listed in the Michelin guide with three stars except Gion Suetomo which has two stars and Gion Sasaki which has one stars. The entire trip to Kyoto was originally based on the fact that I had the Tokyo branches of the restaurants Kitcho and Kikunoi on my restaurant list for Tokyo and Shinji suggested that it would be better to visit the main restaurants in Kyoto since Kyoto was just a short ride with the Shinkansen away from Tokyo. Additionally Shinji describes Gion Suetomo as his top favourite restaurant in Kyoto. Gion Sasaki he describes as super conservative yet very inventive and Mizai as also very inventive. Both Shinji and I like inventive and contemporary cuisine. Kitcho of course is extremely expensive and some might find it is not much of value in dining there. I am not going to argue about that, but will just add that I am going to try to reserve it to experience it once in my lifetime. The cost doesn't really matter that much for a once in a lifetime experience.

Other than that I also would like to dine at kaiseki seafood restaurant Ogata for dinner where I am hoping to special order the Taiza crab if its not on the regular menu at the time I will be there and hope that will be possible.

Additionally I will try to reserve Hyo-tei, Nakamura, Chihana (all Michelin three star restauarnts), Yonemura (one Michelin star main office of a restaurant I also want to visit in Tokyo), Sojiki Nakahigashi (two Michelin stars) and Akazaki Tsuruya (two Michelin stars but used to have three) as lunch reservations. All of these are also kaiseki restauarnts. When I write kaiseki restaurants here it doesn't mean that they all are traditional ryori kaiseki restauarnts. Some of these are very inventive and serve kappo kaiseki meals. It will be a mix. Akazaki Tsuruya used to be an inn inn for members of the Houses of Lords and Representatives on the occasion of the enthronement of Emperor Showa, held at the Kyoto Imperial Palace.

Additionally I want to mix it up with a dinner meal at the french restaurant Misogigawa (not listed in the Michelin guide but seems highly regarded on, lunch at the Italian restauarnt Il Ghiottone (not listed in the Michelin guide but highly regarded on the web and on Tabelog) and a lunch meal at the suppon specialist restaurant Daiichi. Suppon is one of the specialities of Japan I would like to sample while I am there. Daiichi in Kyoto was chosen as the best option I have found on my research in all three cities I will visit (Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo). If you have options in Kyoto or the other two cities which you consider better I would very much appriciate that input.

From this list there is one lunch spot and one dinner spot too many for the number of days I will stay in Kyoto. So I will need to remove two restaurants from the mentioned list. Any suggestions to which I should remove?

The research tools I have used to identify where I want to dine have been this very fine forum, the website Tabelog, the Michelin guide, the outstanding website Bento (thanks Robbie), the advice of The Tokyofixer Shinji Nohara and a lot of googling on blogs and articles on the web. My knowledge are certain to be full of holes though and I might have missed some very significant restaurants that I definetly should have added to achieve my goal of dining at the best and most significant restaurants in Kyoto. So I am hoping for your contributions by passing along recomendations, corrections, replacement advice and general information about my choices or other alernatives that you might think of as helpful.

If anyone should be in Kyoto and wants to meet, the most easy spot to find me would be to go to Yamashita late evenings or just send me an e-mail to I will stay at either the Ritz Carlton, the Grand Hyatt or the Mume. I have not decided yet. I also plan to stay one or two nights at a high end Kyoto ryokan. I have not given any thought to which ryokan yet. I will not dine at the ryokan while I stay there because my dining schedule is already full.

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  1. You must weigh 400 pounds and have the corpulence and food intake strength of a large bull if you think you can consume that quantity of food in such a short period of time without getting physically ill.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Uncle Yabai

      I have planned similar type of trips many times before for me as as a solo traveller well as for me with my family or with my friends throughout cities of the world. Similar reactions although maybe not as outspoken and sarcastic are normal for people just oberving the plan from outside. It might seem much if you don't take into account that we are only talking about two meals every day which is lunch and dinner. I am going for 7 days and there will be seven lunches and seven dinners. Don't you eat at least lunch and dinner with some in between snacks every day? When you are on vacation I also assume that you do the same and that food intake would be at restaurants? It is quite normal to eat both lunch and dinner every day. Most people also add in a breakfast. Secondly it is quite normal to have in between meal snacks at least a couple of times every day for everyone. That is also all there is to this. Nothing more and nothing less.

      I do have a healthy apetite. I will admit to that, but there is nothing on this schedule out of the ordinary for most normal people. It is just that everything is planned ahead instead of going with the flow. That makes it seem like a lot when it is listed like that.

      I also assume that these restaurants are quite hard to reserve and that I will most likely not be able to make all of them. When I can't make a reservation it will give a space in the schedule where I don't dine according to plan. It might be a suitable time for a break.

      I have cancer and certainly don't weigh 400 pounds. Actually my weight is just right for my height.

      To show it more graphicly it might be easier to understand:

      Lunch - time = 11:30
      Mid day - time = 15:00
      Dinner - time = 18:30
      Evening - time = 22:00

      Monday: lunch - Nakamura
      Monday: mid day - Small snack somewhere
      Monday: dinner - Kikunoi Honten
      Monday: evening - Nothing because Yamashita is closed

      Tuesday: lunch - Akazai Tsuruya
      Tuesday: mid day - Small snack somewhere
      Tuesday: dinner - Gion Sasaki
      Tuesday: evening - Small snack at Yamashita

      Wednesday: lunch - Il Ghiottone
      Wednesday: mid day - Small snack somewhere
      Wednesday: dinner - Gion Suetomo
      Wednesday: evening - Small snack at Yamashita

      Thursday: lunch - Sojiki Nakahigashi
      Thursday: mid day - Small snack somewhere
      Thursday: dinner - Kitcho Arashiyama Honten
      Thursday: evening - Small snack at Yamashita

      Friday: lunch - Yonemura
      Friday: mid day - Small snack somewhere
      Friday: dinner - Kichisen
      Friday: evening - Small snack at Yamashita

      Saturday: lunch - Chihana
      Saturday: mid day - Small snack somewhere
      Saturday: dinner - Mizai
      Saturday: evening - Small snack at Yamashita

      Sunday: lunch - Hyo-tei
      Sunday: mid day - Small snack somewhere
      Sunday: dinner - Ogata
      Sunday: evening - Small snack at Yamashita

      Remember now that what is mentioned as snacks are very small bites of something. Like six oysters, a couple of pieces of Takoyaki, a very small Okonomiyaki (certainly not a whole full size), a botan ebi, a small bowl of vegetable tempura etc. This is also absolutely everything I will eat during the entire week. There is nothing else going into my stomach during the entire week except drinks. There is also of course some adjustment possibilities here should I feel very full. Every snack listing can easily be dropped since there is no reservations involved for them.

      This is just an example of how the days could be organized since I haven't done any reservations for lunch or dinner yet. So it will most likely not be exactly like this. I just gave an example to show you graphicly how it could be.

      Now can we please get back to what this thread is actually about?

      1. re: Roysen

        You've never been to Japan, you have no idea what you're getting yourself into. To give you some color, I've been to pretty much every restaurant you list above. After eating lunch at Hyotei, my dinner that night consisted of a piece of fruit and some cold tea, I was so full, and this is after picking the small bento lunch.

        Before my dinner at Sojiki Nakahigashi, I had a decent breakfast and had nothing but liquids between then and dinner. And even then I was seriously stuffed after that.

        You get the drift. I don't see how anybody who doesn't weigh 400 pounds or has a prodigious food intake capacity could eat lunch AND dinner at these kinds of establishments for more than a couple of days in a row. Maybe you are one of those lucky few, in which case, knock yourself out, literally.

        1. re: Uncle Yabai

          What you mean is that I haven't been to the actual restauarnts? That I haven't been to Japan hardly seems relevant. That situation is quite similar to other trips I have planned in the past, so that is nothing new to me. As always I have researched every restaurant choice in depth and in terms of the amount of food I know the menus in detail. As I said this is the type of trip I do a couple of times every year. For instance last October I went to Sao Paulo for three weeks and organized a similar schedule with lunch and dinner every day at restaurants with tasting menus all over. Additonally I had snacks and drinks after dinner most days. I skipped breakfast and had no mid day snack but I had no problems what so ever. Same thing for my 10 days trip to Barcelona spring last year and Paris October 2012.

          It could be that our motabulism is fundamentaly different and that I burn my food quite rapidly compared to you. I have always been able to eat very big and because of that also have a very healthy apetite. I do however only weigh 75kg and are 180cm tall.

          Let me ask you one question. How many pieces of nigiri would you normally eat and how many before you can't take any more. I normally would need about 30 to be satisfied and about 50 before I can't take anymore. If that was for lunch I would be ready for another round at dinner if I had 30 pieces at lunch.

          Your point is noted and taken into consideration, but I don't think it will be a problem for me. Thank you for sharing your opinion with me. I appriciate the concern.

          1. re: Roysen

            Are you an olympic athlete? I'm done by 12-15 pieces of nigiri and I'm 90kg, and I have to go to a few hours of jujitsu and boxing before hand to endure long meals.

          2. re: Uncle Yabai

            But my dear Uncle Yabai, I would very much appriciate it if you could share some of your thoughts from the visits to the restaurants I have listed and if there are other options I should explore instead. Like I wrote in the OP and as you so rightly ponted out I have never been to Japan and my knowledge have got to be full of holes. You seem very knowledgable about this. I would need company to every restauarnt on my list anyway since I don't speak Japanese and would like to communicate with the restaurant staff in order to be able to enjoy the meal fully. I would very much prefer to dine with someone nice than to pay a guide for their meal and translational services, so I would be more than happy to treat you to a meal on my list if you would care to share some of your knowledge with me.

            1. re: Roysen

              You're barking up the wrong tree. I'm not a nice person as commonly defined.

              1. re: Uncle Yabai

                Oh, Uncle, you are too! You're just being curmudgeonly today. I say take roysen up on his offer and have a meal on him. I'm sure it'll be interesting conversation!

                1. re: prasantrin


                  I am sure neither us wants to have the meal on me, but I hope he will be interested in having the meal at my expense.

                2. re: Uncle Yabai

                  Really? I seem to disagree on that matter entierly. As far as I can tell you have done nothing wrong but given me some advice based on your own experience. The fact that I didn't want to follow that advice doesn't mean you are not a nice person, does it?

                  However if you don't want to, it is of course entierly up to you.

                  The offer is standing until I have left Kyoto and can't go back. That is if you don't want to dine with me in Osaka or Tokyo instead.

                  You have also offered your help in other threads where I have inquired about details, so I actually think I already owe you.

                  ...and by my definition no matter what the common definition might be you certainly are a nice person in my book providing help like that.

                  Please forgive me if I came out sounding like I thought you were not a nice person. I meant no such thing. I can certainly see your point of view in the opinions you presented.

        2. I know you're looking to subtract restaurants and not add any (which would cause you to have to subtract a third restaurant from your list), but I would strongly recommend you try Okariba when you're in Kyoto. He serves game like boar and deer (that he often hunts himself), and if you're lucky, insects. You will not likely find such a restaurant where you live, and while the other Kyoto restaurants on your list are more of the same that you'll be trying elsewhere, Okariba will be very different, indeed (and still very "authentic" Japanese, just not the type most foreigners know about).

          11 Replies
          1. re: prasantrin

            Thanks! That is great advice. I will definetly include it. Do you know if it is a hard reservation?

            1. re: Roysen

              Shouldn't be hard at all. You should even be able to walk in but you can try making a reservation just in case things have changed. It's a very casual place.

            2. re: prasantrin

              Ok, I have tried to learn a little about Okariba and found some info on the web. I understand it is an Izakaya, but do they allow a la carte ordering or will they only allow a menu?

              1. re: Roysen

                There is a photo of one of their menus on Tabelog:

                The reviews (kuchi-komi, 口コミ) there would suggest that it is only a la carte.

                1. re: Hiyodori

                  The reason why I am asking is that I read a blog where someone had dined there and was served a menu which included freed bee larvae and fried grasshoppers.

                    1. re: Roysen

                      It appears that they only have "course" (i.e. fixed menu) plans for parties, aside from having an all you can drink "course" option.

                      So unless they serve you some insects as an "otsumami" when you first sit down, I suspect you won't receive any unless you order them yourself. I bet that the prime season for grasshoppers would be right now in mid-summer in any case!

                2. re: prasantrin

                  I am interested in trying bear meat somewhere. Preferably as a steak. I have tried that in Russia before with sliced potatoes in cream sauce. That was really great. Okariba would probably be an option for bear steak too. Any other options? Takajo Kotobuki in Tokyo maybe. It is hard to get in. It is by introduction only.

                  1. re: Roysen

                    La Boucherie du Buppa in Naka Meguro specializes in game meats and they often serve bear.


                    1. re: ruprecht25

                      Sorry, that I mixed in Tokyo and Takajo Kotobuki. I am really looking for a restaurant serving bear steaks in Kyoto. I understand that it is also more common there with game restaurants than in Tokyo.

                      1. re: ruprecht25

                        Thanks! This is also the advice of my tixer. He has actually called them and this is where we will set up the bear steak meal eventually. That meal will in the end be a late night snack after lunch, mid day snack, dinner and drinks. So the other meals that day have to be really small in order to handle all the food.

                  2. More people have given me valuable input on the itinerary I presented as my side trip to Kyoto. Based on these recomendations and this advice I am redesigning the schedule and will be back shortly with a presentation of the new schedule.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Roysen

                      So basicly the consensous is that my first trip plan was too much food, too one-sided food, too long meals and no spontanous drop-ins at local gourmet, down-to-earth spots I pass along in down town Kyoto where the locals line up to dine which indicates it should be good. A stay at a high end Ryokan including dining has also been adviced. Advices on specific Ryokans would be valued highly. So would a some more knowledge about what a stay at a high end Ryokan would be like be.

                      I have also already received a specific advice on how to provide more variety by visiting Okariba. Any other specific advice.

                      I am also very interested in opinions about my plan for Yamashita as my late night snack option for just drop ins. Is that possible at Yamashita and how good is Yamashita really?

                      Your thoughts and knowledge would be highly appriciated.

                      ....and finally to Uncle Yabai. You were right and I was wrong. I am sorry about my stubborn attitude. I should have listned to you. I have later learned that most of both lunch and dinner restaurants on the current plan are three hour dining marathons. So that is more what I am afraid of than the actual amount of food.

                    2. Yamashita is great. But it is more of a kappo type place than an izakaya. Seating is at the counter where there is room for perhaps twelve people, although I believe there is a room upstairs for large groups. And as for it being a late night place, I think they pretty much wrap things up by 11:00. I think I may have gone in alone once without reservations, but otherwise we call in advance, at least a couple of days prior. Also, as far as I have seen, no one speaks English. Rather than try to go every night (except Monday) it might be better to give up one of your numerous kaiseki meals and find someone to go with you to Yamashita.

                      2 Replies
                        1. re: edozanmai

                          I forgot to mention that there will be Japanese speaking company with me all the time everywhere in Kyoto. So the major concern about Yamashita would not be langauge. If it however is not a typical drop in place for snacks late in the evening I will probably need to find a replacement for that purpose and visit Yamashita as a lunch or dinner one of the days instead.

                          Anyone with a recomendation of a great seafood place with priority on shellfish and crustaceans over fish where I can just drop in without a reservation late in the evening. The price is not that important. Preferably they would have a good sake or wine selection too.

                        2. I refuse to let provocations put me down. So I am going to continue my threads on the trip I have planned to Japan. The plan outlined in the OP of this opost is still valid except the restaurant list has been slightly changed. The work with booking restaurants will start next week. Then we will see how difficult this becomes. I will use the help of the Tokyofixer Shinji Nohara to do this. The upated restaurnt list is this. There will be no more changes now. We hope to convince some of these restaurnt owners/chefs to give us a reservation by showing up at their restaurnt for reservation with a copy of my medical journal proving my illness and explaing to them how important this trip is for me as the last which I have before it is all over. I am keeping my fingers crossed it will help.

                          Reviews will appear daily while I am on the ground in Japan.

                          KYOTO LUNCH
                          Il Ghiottone
                          Sojiki Nakahigashi
                          Wakuden Kodaiji
                          Akasaka Tsuruya
                          Gion Chimera

                          KYOTO DINNER
                          Gion Sasaki
                          Gion Suetomo
                          Kikunoi Honten
                          Kitcho Kyoto Arashiyama Honten

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Roysen

                            Boring considerations of money, diet and health aside, my questions or very gentle pieces of advice would be

                            - how did you get a reservation at short notice for Nakahigashi? I have known the place and the owner reasonably well for some years now and still I have to book three months in advance?

                            - please check carefully the implied etiquette and self esteem of Kichisen's chef. If you were to tell him what your plan is, he might refuse to have you as a customer. Please report back on this one, should things go as I think they well might.

                            - and just to make sure: do you realize that the ingredients your meals will be based on, will be the same each time - Kichisen, Kikunoi, Kitcho and Chihana will not drift far from what have for some 300 years now in Kyoto been considered the seasonal ingredients.

                            I will read your report with deserved attention!

                            1. re: hblnk

                              Thanks for your advice. I am not so sure I caught the essence of what you tried to tell me when you wrote this:

                              "please check carefully the implied etiquette and self esteem of Kichisen's chef. If you were to tell him what your plan is, he might refuse to have you as a customer. Please report back on this one, should things go as I think they well might."

                              Would you mind elaborating?

                              To be clear I have no intention of telling any of the restaurants about the other restaurants. I am not sure if that was what you had in mind.

                            2. re: Roysen

                              A note, if you read ulterior epicure's blog, you'll see that he does not rate Kichisen very highly.

                              You can read his review at for a better explanation.

                              He does have very high praise for Ifuki, but it is not on your list.

                              1. re: prasantrin

                                Thanks. That blog was new to me. I will take a look.

                                1. re: prasantrin

                                  Ifuki is superb, one of my best meals ever. It will be a 3 hour marathon, though, with probably 14-15 courses all-in. Everything is excellent, but his grilled stuff is the highlight.

                                  As an aside, I wonder where Roysen ended up eating, if anywhere at all. It's crickets nowadays.