Although most people prefer to spend only a day visiting Himeji (especially if you are on a touch-and-go JR Pass) just to explore the castle, it is highly recommended to stay at least 1 night to explore the city in more depth. I’ve blogged about the various places and experiences we did in my previous entry and in this post I will be sharing about the restaurants and bars we dined at.
In my recent trip, we stayed at Hotel Nikko Himeji which was right beside the JR station.
Something to note if you are arriving to Himeji via JR trains – You will be able to spot the majestic Himeji Castle right from the train platform! The photo below was taken from the platform we alighted from the train.
Maegura by Nadagiku- Suminabe & Tofu Restaurant
Address: 1-121 Tegara, Himeji 兵庫県手柄1丁目121番地 灘菊酒造内
Menu Price: 2160Y
More information about this place: http://english.harima-sake.jp/introduction/nadagiku/contents000210.html
Situated within the premises of an old Sake Brewery since the early 1900s, this restaurant will give you a peak of what it was back in time. Most of the buildings that you see today are in its original architecture and many furniture and fittings had been reconstructed from the various wood equipment they used back in the olden days.
The sake brewery and restaurant is more than 100 years old and it is currently helmed by the 3rd-generation owner. Back in the late 1990s, he opened his brewery to the public and provided guided tours to visitors that are keen in knowing more about the sake brewing process. Many of the old cellars have been converted to dining venues and event halls, able to accommodate large groups at any one time. As sake-brewing grew increasingly competitive, the business stopped the mass production of Sake. Today, they only do limited small lot production while the main focus of the business today focuses more on brewery tours and food.
Just so you know, the current chief brewer is the owner’s 3rd daughter! There are few female chief brewers in the country and she has even won an excellent award in brewing Sake back in 2013!
Their first restaurant opened back in the 1960s and the business had been backed by the idea of bridging the harmony of sake and food culture. Before we started eating, we were told to drink up a small cup of Sake, which was part of the tradition in their restaurant. I believe the Sake was complimentary with the set menu.
The highlight of the menu would probably be the soup (nabe), which has been infused with Sake. You can somewhat smell the aroma Sake while it boils and the taste is rather refreshing. Apart from the main dishes, the item that caught my attention was the boring looking tofu at the bottom left corner in the photo below.
I can proudly say that it was the best tofu I’ve ever eaten in my life. I can’t find the words to describe its taste but the silky texture coupled with the richness in taste makes it super delicious. If I ever get a chance to return to Himeji, I would definitely return to eat their tofu. (Note: they have a total of 5 restaurants in Himeji City)
A key reason why their tofu can be so delicious is because of the spring water in that region. It is also the same reason why the Sake here is highly sought after too.
*Do note that the items in the menu are seasonal and may be subject to change.
After eating, we were brought on a tour around the premises. Although this was not the first time I’ve been on a sake brewery tour, what makes this tour unique is that a lot of effort had been spent preserving the buildings and equipment in its original state. It feels less of being just another sake brewery but more of a museum with legit artefacts.
I like how they kept the old wooden barrels and pails and used it as part of a decorative feature in the spaces.
At the end of the tour, you can also purchase their sake at the gift shop.
Kokoromi Sake Bar
Address: 125 Minamiekimaecho, Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture
If you are a sake lover or just want to soak in a local bar atmosphere, do check out this Standing Sake Bar which is situated within the Himeji JR Station area. In this bar, you will be able to taste more than 200 different types of Sake from all over Japan! Each cup (prices starting from 130Y) will contain 50ml of Sake filled to the very brim.
If you are unsure of what Sake to order, there is a machine in the shop which recommends you Sake base on your preferences of Taste (dryness), Grade, Price etc. The best part of this machine? There’s an option for English language ^_^
After choosing your alcohol, you will also receive a small card which contains a short write-up on the alcohol.
Not to worry if you can’t drink on an empty stomach, there are bar snacks available for sale in the bar too!
うめ野 Umeno (Japanese Izakaya)
Photo Credit: 上海冷空气 (link)
Address: 58, Shiroganemachi, Himeji-shi, Hyogo, 670-0902 (〒670-0902 兵庫県姫路市白銀町58)
Price: 3800Y (Set Menu)
For our last dinner in Himeji, we were brought to a Japanese Izakaya (gastropub) for a meal.
Inside this gastropub, it was one of the rare times in my entire Japan trip where I hear Japanese talking and laughing loudly. Generally, Japan is a very courteous country with good mannerism where talking on the phone in the public train is frown upon. However, within the premises of this gastropub, the atmosphere became very lighthearted and somewhat noisy as people were talking and laughing loudly. I guess this was perhaps one of the few types of places where people can talk and make noise freely, especially under the influence of alcohol.
I started with a cup of “highball” (Japanese whiskey and carbonated water) and.. can you see how pretty their coasters were? I wish I could bring them home!
We had a crazily extensive set menu at the izakaya. It kind of felt like an omakase (chef’s choice) menu as the menu we were given was handwritten and valid only for the day. I am not too sure if the menu changes across the days.
Each dish was served one at a time, giving you sufficient time to take photos and slowly savour the flavour of the food.
There was 12-course in total: seafood sashimi, delicious tofu (though the one at the sake shop is still more memorable), fish soup, fried fish, grilled fish, aburi chicken sashimi, fried chicken, grilled beef (damn awesome; beef in japan can never go wrong), octopus, tempura, tea rice soup and black sesame ice cream.
Photo Credit: 上海冷空气 (link)
Anyway, the whole meal took about 2 hours and we did have a pleasant time. We were feeling amused with the food (especially the chicken sashimi – which was my first time eating it) and gasping about how delicious most dishes were.
If you do have the chance, don’t forget to check out an izakaya to soak in the local atmosphere when you visit Japan! Usually, they can be identified by this Kanji character “居酒屋”. Do note that English menu may not be available in such places since they mainly cater to the local crowd. Sometimes, not knowing what you are ordering can be pretty exciting too!
Read the other articles for my Trip:
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