Translated by Jasmine Nishino
Ryotei Yamaya - Enjoy Japanese Seasonal Cuisine In Kawagoe
Written by Noriko
Ryotei Yamaya in Kawagoe city, Saitama, is a famous restaurant that offers traditional Japanese cuisine. Here you can savor a delicious kaiseki-style lunch that reflects the aesthetics of Japanese culture and the locals' love for the four seasons.
Yamaya: A Traditional Restaurant in Kawagoe
A ryotei is a traditional restaurant where you can experience Japanese hospitality through authentic cuisine using seasonal ingredients. Aside from the meal, in these restaurants you can also enjoy the charms of Japanese culture through the flower arrangements or the kakejiku (*1) hanging in the tokonoma decoration space along with the seasonal scenery of the garden outside.
At the historical Japanese restaurant Yamaya located in Kawagoe city, Saitama, you will be able to savor a luxurious kaiseki (Japanese multi-platter meal) or even a casual lunch. They host events from time to time and you will be able to experience the culture of classic Japanese ryotei restaurants. It is a place where both Japanese and international visitors can enjoy their time.
*1 Kakejiku: A wall scroll with writing or a drawing.
A Mansion Within a Back Alley
Yamaya is located slightly away from the authentic storehouse streets of Kawagoe city. When approaching the restaurant, you may feel like you’ve slipped back in time from the historical exterior, which in actuality, was a mansion that was used by a wealthy merchant in the late 1800's.
Enjoy a Kaiseki Meal in a Cozy Atmosphere
A view of the courtyard garden welcomes you in the private room with tatami mats. All the meals will be served in these delightful rooms. Please note that kaiseki-style meals need reservations in advance.
Kaiseki meals are mainly constructed in the ichiju sansai (*2) style. Here, you can relish traditional Japanese cuisine in the special dining style where dishes are arranged to match the seasons.
Another wonderful trait of Yamaya is the comforting atmosphere and welcoming hospitality. The staff brings each dish at the perfect time, so this may be a great opportunity for you to ask the staff about any questions you have about the dishes.
*2 Ichijyu sansai: A formula to arranging dishes when savoring Japanese cuisine. Along with rice and pickles, ichijyu (one soup dish) and sansai (three sides consisting of a sashimi dish, stew dish, and grilled dish) are paired together.
The oldest room in Yamaya is the room in the annex that was said to have been built around 170 years ago!
Experience Classic Japanese Culture Through a Casual Lunch
"But I don't know how to make reservations in Japanese or go to a high-class kaiseki-style restaurant!"
Those who feel anxious about these points should try to go to the lunch at the cafe. There are boxed lunch menus which you can enjoy at Yamaya without making any reservations in advance.
The photo displayed above is the Kagome Bento (1500 yen) that has a variety of side dishes. This is a great option for those who would like to try a little bit of everything at once.
For those with a larger appetite, there is Tsubasa Bento (3000 yen) that comes in two lunch boxes. Reservations are not needed, however, there is a limited amount of each lunch box available, so it is best you arrive early.
An average of one group of non-Japanese tourists discovers this hidden gem daily while venturing through Kawagoe.
Yamaya's Special Hospitality Toward International Visitors
After the visit of a non-Japanese ambassador, Yamaya opened their doors to the English market by making an English website. They also began to think of services suited for international visitors.
Along with the store explanation and a helpful English menu, they offer free Wi-Fi for people to use too.
With advanced reservations, they are also able to customize their menu to suit dietary needs for vegetarians or Muslims.
For those who feel uncomfortable sitting on the floor, there are seats with tables and chairs available as well.
The Seasonal View is a Must-See
During the autumn celebration of the Jugoya (Night of the Full Moon), the restaurant is decorated as shown in the photo above. As you can see, Yamaya takes the seasons into consideration and works it into their presentation.
The view from the courtyard is also not to be missed. This is the view from the private room on the second-floor window when we visited. As spring was coming to an end, the lush green of the maple trees began to spread as summer approached.
When autumn arrives, the leaves of the Japanese maple trees become a bright red while spreading a crimson carpet on the ground.
In the winter, you may be able to enjoy a meal while gazing at the garden covered in a blanket of snow. The seasonal views of the garden will surely enhance your experience as you enjoy your meal.
Enjoy the Authentic Japanese Restaurant Culture
Yamaya is a restaurant where many international weddings are held as well. Not only can you savor a delicious kaiseki style meal, but it is also a place where wonderful staff welcome you with impeccable hospitality. Next time you are in Kawagoe, take the opportunity to experience authentic Japanese food culture at the historical restaurant, Yamaya.