Kurashiki full of charm and a great place for kaiseki lunch

When I told my Japanese friend that we were going to Kurashiki, he asked, “Why!?” I told him it was because we wanted to see a cute old Edo period town, which they sort of have, and it was easy to access by train (Shinkansen to Okayama and then a 12 minute ride on a local train), unlike some of the other little towns on Honshu island. 

We had a great time!

The first day we walked around the Bikan district, which is the part of town where the old buildings are, that is supposed to give you the feel of an Edo period town. It has a lovely canal where boats take passengers and there were still some cherry blossoms. Kiddo fed the Coi and everyone was happy. We got pizza for dinner at a little restaurant in the area. It was actually really good. Kiddo was thrilled: “Pizza!” It was a nice break from fish and vinegar, the flavors of Japan!

Our hotel was right by the Bikan district – Hotel Dormy Inn. It was cheap (from what we are used to in Australia/Singapore/Tioman), and had big beds and enough room for our suitcase, even though that meant we couldn’t walk to the bathroom without stepping over it. So it goes in Japan 🙂  

One thing that was extra special was that I decided to book us a meal at one of the top ten ryokan in Japan. A ryokan is a Japanese style inn that has tatami mat rooms and futons instead of beds. From my research, there seem to be about two classes of ryokan – cheap hostel style with shared bathrooms and tiny rooms, or extremely fancy and expensive ones with costs of up to $700 PER PERSON per night. (There is a third, middle way, class, like the one we stayed in in Kyoto, which is sort of half western, in that they don’t have shared bathrooms, but they also don’t serve dinners.) Ryokan Kurashiki would have been about $475 per night, PER PERSON for us, although even if we did want to spend that much money on one night, which we didn’t, we couldn’t have, as they don’t accept children under the age of 12.

When I was looking at booking us a lunch in Kurashiki at one of the old timey restaurants there, I came across their page, where they advertise for their Kaiseki lunch, which is basically the same kind of meal you would get for dinner if you stayed there, minus a couple of courses probably, and for way less money. I decided to book it. They had a really good English website and that was the clincher for me.

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“Vinegary dish” of sardines and roe and mustard. See how the presentation is directed towards looking at it from right at eye level and in front? When you sit at a low table on a tatami mat, this is exactly where you are viewing it from! Genius.

Well, we were really glad we did it. It was a blast. When we arrived, our server was waiting outside for us to greet us and take us in. She had lined up slippers for us, a men’s sized pair, a women’s sized pair, and a baby sized pair. She took us to our room, served tea and water, and then began to serve the meal. The meal was eight courses, and each of the courses were beautiful and tasty. We kept thinking of how much work they would need to put in to produce all the little details. It was really fun. Kiddo fell asleep halfway through and the server brought up a baby-sized futon for her to sleep on. The only strange thing was that the server spoke no English, but just forged ahead, saying everything in Japanese and hoping we would understand her. I guess we sort of did though, so maybe that is why she did it! The woman I corresponded with by email came and said hello. She saw Kiddo eating from her baby meal, and enjoying the clear soup (Kiddo has never ONCE eaten broth, even though I try to serve it to her all the time), and told us that she would tell the chef because a Japanese chef feels most pride about the clear soup broth. Good to know! We were thrilled that she liked the soup.

It wasn’t a cheap meal – about $100 each for me and Hubby, including gratuity and Kiddo´s baby meal – but it was an experience.

We moved on from Kurashiki having had a nice respite from big city Japan, only to have our next stop Osaka: one of the biggest and the busiest cities in Japan. Here we go!

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