A ten minute train ride from the Kyoto station transports you to a magical area of Kyoto called Arashiyama. My heart never fails to start pounding during the ride in when the scenary opens up revealing the rolling mountains of the Kyoto countryside. (Make sure to sit on the right side of the train. There is only one train to and from Arashiyama.)
Spring and autumn are the best times to visit Kyoto. The landscape is unbelievable, especially when Kyoto’s greenry looks like it is on fire from the bright orange, red and yellow leaves during fall’s foliage. Or in the spring time when the delicate cherry blossoms fill the city and countryside with the sweetest shade of pink amongst the vibrant green of the newly sprouted leaves. Kyoto is out of control stunning.
Winter is a bit of bummer for all nature. The trees are bare and seem almost cold. But not Arashiyama.
As the train approached the village my face was glued to the window. I couldn’t believe Arashiyama was stunning even in the winter time. This particular day the dreamiest fog softly wrapped the majestic mountain tops. I really love Arashiyama and recommend everyone visit at least once in their lives. Arashiyama is home to many of the legendary temples of Japan. Several are national and world treasures. The bamboo forest is also there.
My objective for this trip was to eat as much tofu as I can. Kyoto is well known around Japan for their silky tofu that is really next level. Even Japanese, who are born and bred in Japan, are blown away by Kyoto tofu. There really isn’t anything like it.
I was recommended to try a tofu kaiseki Japanese haute-cuisine lunch. My reservation was at 2pm which was perfect, as it gave me time to stroll the charming village, pay respect to the temples and re-visit the bamboo forrest. I was also hoping the exercise would make me hungry. 12-13 course is a lot for lunch…
Sandwiched between the Oi river and Arashiyama Park is a hidden area filled with two to three star Michelin ryoteis and my destination, a little house converted to a restaurant named Shoraian. Back in the early 1900s, this house belonged to Prince Fumimaro Konoe (近衛 文麿) who served as the 34th, 38th and 39th Japanese Prime Minister. He used this tiny cottage as one of his vacation homes. The views are indeed, fit for a prince, a king or a very very important person.
Shoraian is the perfect entry level kaiseki meal. If you are looking to experience the very expensive Kyo ryori Kyoto cuisine kaiseki I recommend starting with Shoraian to get a feel of what to expect. There are three courses to choose from, all reasonably priced. By the way I was able to finish every single dish of the top course.
Fall is the best time to go, as Shoraian and the mountainside across the way is filled with momiji Japanese maple trees that are known for their overwhelmingly breathtaking reds, yellows and orange leaves when they foliage. Sadly Shoraian is so famous for their ambiance it is always jam packed. I asked the okamisan (owner’s wife) when the best time to visit is and she said May. The views are just as stunning when the trees’ leaves are a lush green and the weather is perfect; not too cold, not too hot.
Also book the latest time available for lunch. It’s when the lunch rush ends so if you’re lucky, you will have the main room to yourselves. The private room is great too but nothing beats the view from the main room. Eating and drinking staring out of the window with views fit for a king is truly something special. Siiiighhhhhhhhhh. So dreamy.
One last tip: don’t be afraid to ask them to slow down the pace. I had to request for the dishes to come out slower this time because I chose the 12-13 course meal. By the third course I was starting to get a little full and needed to take breaks in between.
Copy and paste this into Google Maps. Use it as a marker to help guide you either through the park or the path along the river. ↓
(They don’t speak English so have the hotel concierge call to make reservations.)
Do please visit if you are ever in Kyoto.
And part of my meal
Arashiyama’s village as I was leaving (it was around 6pm)