Sorry for yet another long request to comment on a Japan trip itinerary. We (group of 4) are visiting Japan for 10 days in November from California. We’re really good eaters (appreciate different type of foods, not a lot of dislikes), but I’m probably the only one who’s willing to do a lot of research for food and venture out for good food (away from all the attractions we want to visit) so the restaurants have to be in easily accessible areas.
We’re on a budget of roughly ~$100 pp a day excluding our splurge meals (1 omakase sushi meal in Tokyo, 1 kaiseki meal in Kyoto, 1 kaiseki meal as part of our Hakone Ryokan stay). We’d ideally like to stay within the budget but can be flexible. Also we don’t speak Japanese. We’re staying in ryokans while in Kyoto but will be staying in an Airbnb in Tokyo (so we have no one to make reservations for us)
I would really appreciate your comments to our rough plan below (I’ve done my research) and answer some of my questions if you can. Apologies for such a long post!
>>>Kyoto/Osaka/Nara (5 lunches and 5 dinners – Fri-Wed) – staying between Gion/Tokyo Station
Tofu kaiseki at Shoraian - I know there’s mixed review, but we really want to enjoy the bamboo forest and eat in a beautiful setting. Is there any better alternative?
Find snacks on the way to the philosopher’s path, if still hungry stop by Omen (udon). Is Omen udon great or a tourist trap? Is there a better udon place? I can’t find much on udon on chowhound.
Lunch in Osaka (snacks in the Dotonbori area, will hit the usual suspects for okonomiyaki, takoyaki, crab)
Kintame (ochazuke & tsukemono)
Tempura lunch at Yoshikawa (not the kaiseki lunch)
Soba at Henko
This is still out in the open (we’ve spent most of our time researching hotels in Kyoto since everything seems to be fully booked!)
Kaiseki – Kikunoi/Nishiki Arashiyama. We may even do a lunch kaiseki instead and move one of our lunches to dinner since we’re already doing a full-on ryokan kaiseki meal and I don’t know if I can justify a $300pp meal. Would this be a mistake? Which one is the best “value”? We haven't tried to make reservations yet so may be too late...
Tonkatsu at Katsukura
Beef in Osaka
Ramen or random walk-in somewhere
Where can we find a good (not found in the US) nabe
Snacks - My SO love dessert so we will need to do some sweet stops. There’s not a lot of info on this on chowhound, would appreciate your comments.
Kuzumochi in Nara – Where can I find this? Any suggestions?
Tsujiri honten for matcha dessert
>>>Hakone (1 lunch and 1 dinner - Thurs)
Dinner will be at a ryokan (we’ve booked it)
Lunch – Open, we might just have to eat kurotamago for good luck and visit one of those restaurants that serve black sulfur noodle just for fun or do a simple lunch 7-11 type lunch we hope to do hot spring hopping. Please let us know if there’s anything we shouldn’t miss.
>>>Tokyo (4 lunches and 3 dinners – Fri-Mon) – staying in Shinjuku
Unagi lunch at Kabuto or Nodaiwa or Tomoei - If Tomoei, we will go on our way to Tokyo from Hakone, is this worth the stop with our luggages?
Breakfast/lunch near Tsukiji – Maybe we’ll hit up a random sushi spot (not willing to wait hours) or get soba at soba marutomi
Oden lunch at Otafuku – I believe it’s open for lunch on Sundays in November, but we can also move this to “snack”. Is this worth dedicating a lunch to? What about moving oden meal to Osaka while we graze on okonomiyaki/takoyaki/etc and reserving this for something else? Anything I’m missing?
Ramen lunch on the last day – Menya Musashi/Afuri (yuzu)/Rokurinsha (Tsukemen)
Sushi dinner at Sushiso Masa (reserved)
Izakaya dinner Omoide Yokocho alley/Robatanoro in IIdabashi
Sushi train dinner (for fun and we need a cheap night after the trip)
Isetan (Sadaharu Aoki, etc)
Mr Donut (i just like this place a lot)
1. Where can we enjoy simple prep of grilled sanma (I believe it is in season in November)? Is there any place where we can get this or is this mostly reserved home-cooking adventure?
2. We love persimmons – Is there a place to get interesting prep of persimmon (savory or sweet is fine)? We’ll absolutely hit a supermarket to try some Japanese persimmon (is it wildly different than what’s available in California?)
3. We love different/local/special/”kitschy” food items too and may not care about the taste as much if it’s really fun (e.g., a place that has stewed its broth for years and years – right up our alley). Is ippon udon worth trying? Anything else we should know in this area?
4. Is matsutake still in season? What’s the best way to enjoy this? Any kaiseki place that incorporates matsutake?
5. Any recommendation for special Tokyo/Kyoto ekiben? We also love chestnut rice or rice simmered with seafood. Where’s the best place to get ekiben if we’re going from Narita to Kyoto (we’ll be eating it for dinner on the train to Kyoto).
6. I really enjoy cold noodles (cold soba, I’ve always wanted to do the flowing somen) and know that our trip is in the fall. Do people still eat cold noodles then? If so, best place to try?
7. Any other fall/November dishes/ingredients that I should watch out for?
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