[not sure]: By the start of the path through the abyss
Just by the start of the path to the Kanmangafuchi Abyss and the Bake-Jizō is a small wooden building housing a café, the name of which I’ve been unable to trace. We had lunch here soon after arriving in Nikko as it was convenient for our accommodation in the Turtle Annexe and our planned walk through the abyss. There was no English menu but there were pictures to help us choose, and we both decided on the dumplings. These were cooked to order by the friendly owner (I assume) and served three to a skewer, three skewers per person.
I believe having done some research since our return that we were eating mitarashi dango – dumplings made with rice flour and served with a sort of sweet and sour sauce with a soy base. This sauce was really tasty! Our meal cost just 500¥ each, washed down with a shared bottle of a local soda.
Fortified, we set off to explore the nearby Kanmangafuchi Abyss.
Bell Coffeehouse: Try the local speciality
This small "mom and pop" establishment is on the western side of town, a convenient 10 minutes or so walk from the Turtle Inn Annexe where we were staying and recommended by them. So it seemed an obvious place to try for dinner especially as it was drizzling with rain on our first evening.
We sat in a cosy corner near the bar, with Japanese baseball on the TV, and were given an English menu to choose from. I wanted to try the local delicacy, yuba - made from sheets of bean curd skimmed from the surface when making tofu. It sounds a bit odd but the result is not unlike pasta or noodles in consistency – maybe a little chewier. Here at the Bell it is served in many ways, including a "yuba feast". In which it appears in a number of dishes. But that looked like more than either of us wanted. So instead I chose a dish of yuba and soba noodles (my favourite Japanese noodles with the extra bite that the buckwheat gives) in a broth with vegetables, which was served with a side of inari sushi. This is usually a pouch of fried tofu filled with sushi rice, but here I think was made with more of the yuba in place of the more usual tofu (an improvement as far as I was concerned, not being a fan of tofu). Meanwhile Chris had a shrimp and yuba gratin dish that he really enjoyed. We both had a large beer with our meals and later found room for dessert – chocolate cake for Chris, cheesecake for me, coffee for both of us. Our bill came to 4,330¥ which seemed good value for the two courses and beers.
The service was maybe a little slow, considering how quiet the restaurant was (only one other table was occupied for most of the time) but it was friendly and welcoming. Definitely worth trying if staying in this part of town.
I hope I have the name right, by the way. This is what we were told it was called by the woman recommending it at the inn, but I have no idea if her translation of the Japanese name into English was correct, and haven’t been able to see any reference to a restaurant of this name in Nikko. But it is a little off the main tourist routes which may explain that.
After dinner we headed back to the Turtle Inn Annexe to make use of their lovely onsen. The next day was to be a long one, starting at the famed Shinkyo Bridge
Kishino: Handy for lunch
After a long morning exploring Toshogu and Futarasan we were ready for some lunch, and in the grey and chilly weather, preferably something warming. I’d spotted a sign near the entrance to Toshogu that had looked promising so we headed over there to explore.
Kishino is part gift shop, part restaurant. You enter the latter through the former, so it was a good job they had those signs outside or we would never have realised we could eat here! It’s not very big and we were lucky to get one of only two free tables. We were promptly brought glasses of water and an English language menu which included various noodle dishes and a few other options. From this Chris chose the curry rice while I opted for soba noodles with yuba – the local delicacy made from sheets of bean curd skimmed from the surface when making tofu. The yuba in my photo (number two) is the coiled omelette-looking stuff floating on the top of the soup.
The dishes were nothing special but they were filling and warming on a chilly day. The service was brisk, understandably since they want to turn tables in such a popular location, but friendly, and we were able to use the spotless toilets here too. Our bill came to a very reasonable 1,800¥ for the two dishes.
And fortified, we were ready to carry on to our final sight in this part of town, Rinnoji
Hippari Dako: A place with character
As we started to walk along the main street of the town we were in search of somewhere we could get a drink and a short rest after climbing the ten storeys of the Rinnoji restoration structure. We found what we wanted at Hippari Dako, a tiny place on the west side of the main street at the Shinkyo Bridge end. There are only three tables inside and a fairly limited menu (in English at least) but that wasn’t a problem for us as we only wanted a drink. I had an orange juice, Chris a coffee – both were fine and we paid just 550¥ for both.
The most distinctive feature of Hippari Dako is its décor. The interior walls are covered with business cards, notes from happy customers, photos, banknotes etc etc. I added a VT card with my details to their collection! The owner was very happy for us to take photos of all of this, but declined Chris’s request to be in a photo herself.
Refreshed, we wandered on down the main street.
Kanaya Hotel: Early closing
The guidebook I was using said that this restaurant was open till 8.00 PM, unlike many in town, so we headed there for an early (for us) dinner at about 6.30, only to be told on arrival that they were about to close. I asked the waitress if she knew of any other restaurant nearby that would still be open, explaining that we were hungry and wanted dinner. She immediately offered to let us eat there after all! But perhaps for this reason, the service was probably the speediest we have ever experienced, with the waitress positively scurrying to take our order and bring us our drinks and food.
We had a table to one side of the attractive old room, which is ornamented with colourful woodcarvings, although the old world atmosphere is somewhat marred by the harsh fluorescent lighting. The menus we were given were in English and offered a choice of set dinners, with the cuisine a blend of Japanese and Western. I had the crab croquettes in a tomato sauce with rice, Chris had the hamburger in "Japanese style" (which proved to be with grated radish on top). The croquettes were quite tasty and Chris’s burger was OK too. The set meal price included a cup of soup (quite nice, with strips of yuba, the local tofu skin speciality) and a small salad. We also had a large beer each, and paid around 4,600¥ altogether.
After dinner we headed back to the Turtle Inn Annexe, as Nikko had clearly shut down for the night (at about 19.30). So this is my last tip on this lovely town; please click here to return to my intro page and leave me a comment.
Great soba on Japan's Romantic Highway: Kawa-no-Hotori - The Banks of the River
Along the Romantic Highway an hour or so east of Nikko, there isn't much for the tired, bored or hungry traveler. We were searching for some food, and we saw lots of signs for fish, but it turned out they were ads for a pay to fish lake, not a restaurant. Luckily, within a kilometer we found a gem of a restaurant.
The name of the restaurant is 川のほとり, pronounced roughly "Kawa-no-hotori" which translates into "The Banks of the River," a fitting name for a restaurant along the shore of a large stream. Oddly enough, we stayed at a hotel called Hotori-an the night before in Nikko.
We sat down and were impressed by the nice, clean, yet rustic interior with its huge glass windows against log pillars and beams. Unfortunately the menu was entirely in Japanese, so we used our limited skills to determine they sold noodles. I ordered zari soba, or cold soba noodles, and Laura ordered a bowl of hot soba noodle soup.
The cold soba noodles were topped with bits of nori (seaweed) and served on a small bamboo tray called a zaru. Next to the noodles was a bowl which contained a raw egg, some a bit of granulated dashi (a broth base) and a small amount of mirin (a sweet rice wine). Next to this was a small cup of soy sauce and a dish of sliced scallions. I mixed the soy sauce into the other ingredients to form the traditional dipping sauce for cold soba, called tsuyu. The noodles I consumed by picking up a small amount with the chopsticks, and dipping them in the tsuyu before eating them. During the meal, the waitress brought a small pitcher of hot water, which I later realized was the water the noodles were boiled in, which is commonly mixed with the leftover tsuyu and drunk at the end of the meal.
Address: 〒 378-0414 Gunma Prefecture Tone-gun Katashina village Oaza Higashiogawa 4663-8
Breakfast at Annex Turtle Hotori An Ryokan
During our visit to Nikko, we stayed at a small ryokan called Annex Turtle Hotori An. Wehn we checked in the staff offered us a Western-style breakfast at either 8:00 am or 8:30 am for about 1,000 Yen per person. We decided to have breakfast at the inn.
The next morning we went for a short hike in the woods around the hotel, then we got back to the dining room around 8:20 am. Our table was reserved with a small place card with our room number, next to a hard boiled egg. We started with the self-serve coffee and orange juice. Soon the staff brought us each three pieces of fresh toasted bread and a plate of fruit: a half grapefruit, a half kiwifruit, and a half banana.
The breakfast was good and filling, though it was a bit expensive.
Sushi Shigeru - Nikko Restaurant
After a day of visiting temples and hiking in the mountains, we were ready for some food. By about 7pm, the town of Nikko seemed deserted. Most shops and restaurants that boasted crowds of tourists earlier in the day were now closed, so we had some difficulty finding an open restaurant. Finally we noticed a restaurant called 元祖湯波寿司 寿司秀 (a bunch of words that roughly means Sushi Shigeru). At the door there was a small fountain and a bunch of odd trinkets. A sign in English said this was a shrine for tourists.
We entered the old, well worn restaurant and were welcomed by a giant of a man who could have been a professional wrestler. We took a seat next to a collection of several hundred Japanese maneki-neko cats. We scanned the menu and quickly decided to get their udon and soba meals (1,500 Yen each). The food was ready in about 10-15 minutes.
Each meal came with a large bowl of noodles, several huge pieces of tempura, some pickled vegetables, and some dishes made from the local specialty yuba, or bean curd skin. The tempura was excellent, the soups very good, and the tofu skin dishes interesting if not spectacular. I did eat everything I was given, so it must have been pretty good.
With my meal I had a Nikkoji Pilsner beer, for an expensive 760 Yen or so. The beer is local to Nikko, and OK, but not spectacular.
Hippari Dako: Cheap, fast and friendly
Well, this is a small place on the main street in Nikko leading up to the Shinkyo Bridge. There is 6 seats and it feels like walking into your grandma's house. 2 lovely Japanese lady who speak limited English greet you and show you there small menu with pictures on it. I LOVED THIS PLACE !!!!! The price was 800 Yen for 3 chicken sticks, some rice, and some fried noodles. The place has been recommened by Frommer and Lonely Planet in there Nikko section. The walls have 1,000's of business cards and notes making it a great little place to sit and have a quick lunch. We loved it ... HIGHLY RECOMMMEND IT !!!! please see other pix's . The food is simple, good, and cheap.
Food for Thought
This cosy restaurant, nestled in the main street not far from the station, provides more than just inexpensive and heartening home-made dishes. The great attraction of this restuarant are its walls and ceiling - a mosaic of momentos from all its previous diners. Photos, business cards, drawings, tickets, money and many other treasures form the quilted curtain that drapes the family run restaurant and provides the customers with a spectacular visual accompaniment to their meal, as well as a great talking point. One can (and may wish to) spend hours examining the paraphernalia left by those who have gone before. The best part is you can leave you own souvenir (if you can find the space) for others to enjoy!
(ENGLISH MENU & VEGETARIAN DISHES AVAILABLE)
Favorite Dish: You can't go past the yakisoba! And if it weren't such a decent serving, you could order another given its cheap price. Also caters for VEGETARIANS.
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This is a Japanese snack that you can find in many places throughout Japan. It is konnyaku, a kind of vegetable that is made in a jelly form. Miso (bean paste) is added on top as sauce. I think it was around 300 yen or so for 3 sticks.
Sweet Bean Jelly: Yokan in Nikko
I saw many many elegant shops or cafe along Nikko's main shopping street specializing in this sweet bean jelly called yokan.
They were all beautifully wrapped and there are actually corners in these shops that people can sit down at their leisure and savour yokan with tea.
The flavor of azuki beans is quite predominant, and the yokan does come with other varieties with chestnut or persimmon fillings.
People with a sweet tooth will really dig it.
And they make great gifts. ^_^
- Food and Dining
Nikko's specialty: Yuba in Nikko
Yuba is a specialty of Nikko. It is made of soy milk and is very nutritious. The soybean smell is quite nice too, abit nutty.
Yuba was first used as part of the vegetarian diet of the temples in Nikko. Now it is being enjoyed by all.
Most restaurants in Nikko will definitely have this. It comes in many variety of dishes. You can even eat it with ramen, eat it raw or eat it fried.
I personally like it fried. :)
- Food and Dining
????: SAME EVIL RESTAURANT
WHEN MY PARENTS VISITED, THEY WOULDN`T HEED MY WARNINGS, AND WE TRIED THIS RESTAURANT AGAIN. THEY WERE JUST AS RUDE AND OVERCHARGED AGAIN. WE PAID FOR TWICE AS MANY DRINKS AS WE ORDERED, AND THE WAITER KEPT CHANGING THE PRICES IN FRONT OF US. NEVER GO HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Directly across from TobuNikko Station (?????): Anti-Gaijin
The food was alright, but the service was horrible. I had the distinct impression that they were very anti-gaijin. The waiter was RUDE and it was obvious that they didn`t want our business, and they will not get it! I advise everyone against going there (see picture of the plastic food window for specifics) It is easy to pick out as it is the only one I`ve see with floating forks and pizza slices!
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