Apart from must-eat items like ramen and sushi, have you ever found yourself craving for more local dishes on your trips to Japan? Here is a guide to famous "ryotei" and "kappo" restaurants where you can sample traditional Japanese cuisine, as we walk you through differences between the two. See for yourself if they cater to your tastes and indulge in these great gourmet places like never before!
Both "Ryotei" and "kappo" serve traditional Japanese cuisine
A country's cuisine reflects her customs and culture. In Japan, people would try to preserve the natural flavor of ingredients while allowing seasonality to play an important role. While Japanese cuisine can be anything in their daily diet, it can also be specifically referring to fine dining, e.g. Shojin and Kaiseki. You can have a taste of these luxurious meals at high-end restaurants known as "ryotei" and "kappo". Let us first look at the defining properties of each.
Ryotei are high-end restaurants where guests can enjoy traditional Japanese cuisine in private tatami rooms. You can also enjoy performances by geisha here, as well as the architecture, the gardens and the atmosphere.
Kappo is restaurant that provides traditional food in a particular Japanese traditional cooking style. Guests enjoy the simplicity of food and everything that is associated with it.
A brief introduction to Ryotei
Ryotei are high-end restaurants where guests can enjoy Japanese cuisine in private tatami rooms. They are particular about every little detail, from the architecture and the garden to utensils and decorations. They can be dated back to the early 17th century, when the Bakumatsu government required feudal lords to live in the capital to keep an eye on them. As a countermeasure, they would contact each other via their trusted subordinates and meet at the secluded ryotei. To this day, politicians, businessmen and celebrities would do the same, having banquets and holding meetings behind closed doors in ryotei.
That magic of a Ryotei and how to enjoy it
There is more to a ryotei than food - the carefully cultivated garden, beautiful floral arrangements and exquisite works of art are all to be admired. The food itself is usually offered in courses, and through the presentation of dishes one can tell the prowess and experience of the chef. To liven up the atmosphere, you might consider summoning geishas to participate in some fun and games.
Since the menu changes every day, ryotei are more or less reservation only, and some would go so far as to reject solo first-timers (they must be accompanied by regular patrons). Below are three foreigner-friendly ryotei that can be easily booked!
Chikae Fukuoka Branch
Established in Showa 36 (1961), Chikae Fukuoka Branch has an elegant grandeur to them, yet at the same time feels cozy like a family restaurant. It is a popular go-to gathering place for Japanese companies, as well as tourists looking to try out Japanese cuisine. There is a large aquarium in the public area on the first floor for guests to admire the swimming fish while enjoying their meal. Seafood dishes such as [squid sashimi] and [whole Japanese jack mackerel sashimi] are taken directly from the aquarium, prepared to order - nothing can beat this freshness!
Chikae Fukuoka Branch
: [Weekdays] 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm (L.O. 9:00 pm)
※Reservation only during daytime. Bar counter available from 5:00 pm.
[Weekends and National Holidays] 11:30 am - 10:00 pm (L.O. 9:00 pm)
※Lunch hours 11:30 am - 2:00 pmClosed
: NoneAverage price
: [Dinner] 10,000 JPY / [Lunch] 4,000 JPYAccess
: 4-minute walk from Exit 4 of [Akasaka Station]. Turn left at the Public Employment Security Office Intersection.Address
: 2-2-17, Daimyo, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka city, Fukuoka MapMore Details Reservation
Shien is a long-standing, highly-rated restaurant in Osaka, and has been serving excellent Japanese cuisine for more than 60 years. Their head chef is incredibly skilled and experienced, always presenting guests with the grandest banquet. Notable courses include [Hasun] (bite-sized food item) and [Wanmono] (soup-type appetizer) which heavily rely on seasonality. They are placed in handpicked utensils, as the pursuit of beauty is a common theme in Japanese cuisine. Immerse in traditional Japanese culture at this historical ryotei!
: [Weekdays, Saturday and Day before National Holidays] Lunch hours 11:30 am - 3:00 pm (L.O. 1:30 pm), Dinner hours 5:00 pm - 10:30 pm (L.O. 8:00 pm)
[Sunday and National Holidays] 11:30 am - 10:00 pm (L.O. 8:00 pm)Closed
: IrregularAverage price
: [Dinner] 18,000 JPY / [Lunch] 12,000 JPYAddress
: 4-9-16, Nishi Tenma, Kita-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka MapMore Details
Located in Yamagata, Kishokaku makes good use of traditional vegetables like spinach, Zao pumpkin, Okanodai burdock root and taro, as well as local ingredients such as edible chrysanthemum, seafood from Sonai and Yamagata beef. Their staff prioritize guests' experience above all else; they would arrange rooms and adjust their service according to each guests' needs, and even take note of guests' eating pace in order to deliver each dish in the most timely manner possible - a testimony to the ultimate Japanese hospitality.
: Lunch 11:30 am - 2:30 pm, Dinner 4:30 pm - 10:00 pmClosed
: IrregularAverage price
: [Dinner] 10,000 JPY / [Lunch] 6,000 JPYAccess
: 10 minutes by car from the east exit of Yamagata station on the JR Yamagata Shinkansen. 5 minutes by car from the east exit of Kita-Yamagata station on the JR Yamagata Shinkansen.Address
: 2-8-81, Yakushi-cho, Yamagata-shi, Yamagata MapMore Details Reservation
Definition, origin and history of kappo
Kappo literally means cutting and cooking, the two basic food preparation techniques in Japan. Unlike a ryotei where guests are seated in private rooms and cannot see the chef, kappo's seating mainly consists of a bar counter, and guests can watch as the chef cook up their meal and make direct requests. The fine Japanese dishes are often served à la carte.
The magic of kappo and how to enjoy it
Kappo's seating arrangement is dominated by bar counter or table, with the dining and cooking areas close together, which is why the greatest joy of visiting a kappo lies in watching the chef work their magic into preparing the foods. Some of them would chat with guests along the way, adding a pinch of human warmth to the cuisine. Read on find 3 recommend kappo for you!
Izakaya Kappo Tamura
You can sample seasonal seafood of Hokuriku and the chef's creative cuisine at Izakaya Kappo Tamura. Besides fresh seafood from the region like [Red Bass] and [Crab], the beloved [Japanese Amberjack Rolled Sushi] is also a must-eat item. Another guests' favorite would be the springy [Tamura Udon], created by the restaurant without putting in any additives. From local specialty cuisine and traditional Kanazawa cuisine to à la carte items with a prodigious amount of expensive ingredients, you can have them all at one place. You are encouraged to ask the chef about Kaga cuisine too!
Izakaya Kappo Tamura
: Lunch 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
[Friday to Sunday, National Holiday] Dinnner 5:00 pm - 10:30 pm *Lunch reservations available for groups of 2 to 30 people, Open on National Holidays, Dinner reservations only available to high school students or older.Closed
: Tuesday and WednesdayAverage price
: [Dinner] 5,000 JPY / [Lunch] 2,300 JPYAccess
: About 5 minutes drive from JR Kanazawa Station, a 2 minute walk from Higashi Chaya District, at the base of the Umenohashi Bridge on the Asanokawa River.Address
: 2-18, Namikimachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa MapMore Details Reservation
Situated near the tourist hotspot Sumidagawa, Kappo Tonbo is a high-end Japanese restaurant with over 80 years behind them. The head chef has practised their art for 40 years, and is ready to turn local ingredients into a feast just for you. Other than traditional Japanese cuisine, you are also in for creative treats such as the [Maple Syrup Splendid Alfonsino Saikyoyaki], and the sirloin steak of premium A5 Matsusaka/Miyazaki/Saga wagyu simply cannot be missed! Spend an extravagant night at the place where jazz is in the air and seasonal flowers adorn the interior, and revel in the dishes - the very life of the head chef.
: IrregularAverage price
: [Dinner] 5,000 JPY / [Lunch] 1,500 JPYAccess
: 1 minute walk from Honjo-azumabashi Station Exit A4 on Toei Asakusa Line. 8 minuutes walk from Asakusa Station Exit 4 on Tokyo Metro Ginza Line.Address
: 3-7-17, Azumabashi, Sumida-ku, Tokyo MapMore Details Reservation
Speaking of traditional Japanese cuisine, what about Kyoto? Kappo Chihiro works on seasonal ingredients and spares no effort in unleashing their natural flavor. For instance, their signature dish, [Grilled Eggplant], is prepared without using any seasoning, a true embodiment of the philosophy of "less is more". Their single bar counter is made of Japanese cypress, and private room is available as well. To tourists, it is a great choice for chatting and dining with friends; whereas for locals, the place is perfect for receiving distinguished guests and spendinig quality time with family.
: [Tuesday - Sunday, National Holidays and days before National Holiday] Lunch 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm ※Reservation must be made at least a day in advance, Dinner 5:00 pm - 8:30 pm (L.O. 8:30 pm)Closed
: Monday Average price
: [Dinner] 20,000 JPYAccess
: 394 meters from Gionshijo StationAddress
: 279-8, Gionmachi-Kitagawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto MapMore Details Reservation
Having read this article, are you now more familiar with the concept of ryotei and kappo? Do take some time to visit them and experience the pinnacle of Japanese cuisine!
Disclaimer: All information is accurate at time of publication.