Wow, Japan feels like a long time ago! I only got back five weeks ago but it seems far longer ago than that. I've already done one post focusing on the actual reason I was there - sake - but I also want to tell you about all the incredible food we ate out there, in case you're planning a trip.

We started our tour with three days in Kyoto, which I fell in love with. It's a beautiful city and we ate at a huge variety of places there, from some of the top restaurants, to cheap but incredible ramen bars where you order from a screen then wait in line til there's a seat for you to eat at. In fact, that's the first place we ate when we landed. Tired, a little grumpy and really just wanting a shower at the hotel and a strong coffee we were instead whisked off to Sugari where I had the best ramen I've ever tried. It's a tiny little restaurant, and once you've ordered from said screen (which luckily our tour leader did for us as it's all in Japanese) you take a ticket and wait out the back in a little courtyard until there's space at the long bar inside for you. The ramen costs between £6 and £9 depending on what size you choose. I had the "small" motsu ramen made with pork broth and guts, bonito soup and yuzu noodles. I'd said before the trip that the only thing on my 'don't eat' list was tripe (assuming we wouldn't come across Heinz baked beans which are the other item that make up my list) but was convinced to try the grilled pork guts ramen and I'm so glad I did. There were only a few pieces of meat in the broth, that's served separately from the cold made-in-house noodles, and they were delicious. The broth itself was rich and creamy, and the yuzu tang on the noodles balanced this out perfectly. Highly recommended if you're in Kyoto. The queue moves quickly and it's 100% worth the wait, and I really liked sitting at the bar watching the chefs do their thing.


Utterly full of ramen we thought we were finally heading to the hotel but they still weren't ready for us so we piled on to a minibus and headed north to see one of Kyoto's many shrines. To be totally honest there wasn't a great deal to see, but there was more food....! We sat in a small raised hut and drank green tea and ate mochi. These weren't what I thought they'd be. I've always thought mochi are those rice balls filled with ice cream you get in Japanese restaurants here, and which I don't love. These were very different and totally delicious. The mochi we tried were cooked rice that had been pounded into a dough, made into balls and flattened, then cooked over a naked flame by the ladies sitting on the other side of the hut. They're then doused in a white miso, mirin and sweet sake sauce. I declared myself too full to eat again all day after the ramen but devoured a plate of these mochi with several cups of green tea!


After finally making it to the hotel for a quick shower, off we went again, this time for dinner at one of Kyoto's most highly acclaimed restaurants - Kinobu. For a "quick" ten course meal! With 40 chefs in the kitchen, every single plate of food we ate was immaculately presented and most of it incredibly tasty. Highlights included ebi emo - a potato and mullet bottaga dumpling that was so subtle yet the perfect mouthful; fugu aka blowfish sashimi served with blowfish glands, which didn't kill me, so that was good(!) though to be honest I wasn't blown away by the taste or texture; clam soup with Kyoto carrot (which are a special colour and intense taste thanks to the high mineral content of the local soil) which was a bowl full of flavour; abalone and sweet potato which looked like nothing but tasted insane; and rice with crab and spring onion, which was excellent, though nearly defeated me as the final savoury course of a huge meal. You get your own room to eat in at Kinobu and we had sake paired with the whole meal. It is expensive but worth it as a true culinary experience.

Day two and the eating marathon continued. First with a quail on stick, on our way back from the Fushimi Inari temple,  that had been doused in sansho pepper, rendering my tongue completely numb for the next few hours. Which meant I couldn't really taste the hot non alcoholic ginger sake we tried - a popular drink in winter which was created as a nutritious drink that's said to increase electrolytes.

Then more food - lunch at the famous chicken restaurant - Torisei, where I loved the chicken breast yakitori, pickles, rice with small shrimps and the croquette.

Having then spent the afternoon at the sake brewery, the master brewer invited us to Inaseya for dinner with him that evening. Another ten or so course meal there.... And in fact, my favourite "big" meal of the trip. We had a private room and enjoyed lots of the Tsukino Katsura brewery's sake, as well as some beers which tasted better than ever after a full day of sake drinking. My favourite dishes at Inaseya were the sashimi - squid, yellowtail, shirako, black fish, fatty tuna, buri; chicken thigh with brussel sprouts, kumquats and lemon; and the sukiyaki - a chicken hot pot with spring onions and raw egg, that's later filled up with rice, caramelised onions and more egg.

We stumbled out of Inaseya, after a slight mix up with shoes which had us all doubled over in hysterics, and headed to Unmai, a yakitori, beer and sake bar..... for more food! When I came back from Japan my luggage weighed 7kg more than it had on the way out, and I'm pretty sure I probably did too! We had chicken heart, chicken thigh, chicken liver, xo blue cheese, pickled clams, mascarpone and scallop, and lots more.

On day three in Kyoto we stayed in a traditional ryokan, which was stunning - made from wood, with ponds and vibrant green plants both inside and outside the building, and hot steaming baths, where we slept on the floor in a shared room.

We had dinner there one night and feasted on wagyu beef cooked at the table in a walnut and miso sauce; crab claw with Chinese cabbage, again cooked at the table; sashimi; tempura prawn with salt; a broth and Spanish mackerel with young ginger and fiddlehead, which is a type of fern.

On our final day in Kyoto we were left to our own devices, so after a trip to see the macaques (more on that in another post) Rhea and I headed to what appeared to be the equivalent Soho area of the city. It was 4pm on a Sunday afternoon and lots of places were closed but Rhea noticed a small restaurant called Ibushigin. Not knowing what to expect, we ordered a couple of beers and a few bits from the slightly tired looking menu. What came out from the tiny kitchen was incredible. We had pork cheek yakitori, yuzu pepper sauce, salt and lemon; beef tenderloin yakitori, garlic salt, lemon and wasabi; leeks with miso, fried tofu and squid; tempura shiitake with matcha, yuzu and garlic salts; and tuna, squid, sea urchin, roe and flounder sashimi. And whisky! We sat there, eating as much as we could and grinning like two idiots who'd just won the lottery - I know it's only food, but having had all our other restaurant visits so far arranged for us, to have found a place this good by ourselves felt so good!

We headed back to the ryokan to meet the others then got the bullet train up to Nagoya for the next part of our trip. I'll do a separate post on food in Nagoya, and another on food in Tokyo, as well as a post on what to do in Kyoto that doesn't involve eating!!


  1. Incredible! You're so brave for trying the pork guts ramen, although I probably wouldn't mind the taste it's just the thought of it! The mochi sounds amazing and I love the look of the last restaurant that you found yourself. How did you find sleep on the floor on the ryokan?

    1. The ryokan was fine - they give you a futon mattress type thing to sleep on, so actually quite comfy!

      Rosie xx

  2. I live in Tokyo, but yet have to make it to Kyoto. Your food tour looks and sounds amazing, I will definitely bookmark it for when I visit this April. Look forward to your further posts about this gorgeous city! :) xoxo, nano

  3. Looks so good! - let me know where you recommend for Nagoya!

    1. So jealous you're going Steph! In Nagoya there's a really good eel restaurant called Hitsumabushi and a very cool restaurant called Marutani for amazing food and/or drinks....

      Rosie xx


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