Kaiseki Cuisine - for Your Special Day

November 17, 2012

by Reiichi Inoue, Saya Takeuchi


REIICHI: “Our 1-year anniversary is coming. Let’s go eat something special.”


SAYA: “Sure! We should try kaiseki of Kyoto because we are students at a university here in Kyoto.”


“Good idea. I will make a reservation. What time would you like to arrive?”


“Seven or so, but what is kaiseki, anyway?”


“It’s a type of cuisine, but believe it or not, kaiseki originally meant a warm stone. In the Meiji era (1868-1912), Japanese Buddhist priests put those warm stones into their own kimonos to warm their tummies up to distract themselves from their feeling of hunger.”


“That’s interesting. What about kaiseki cuisine?”


“Kaiseki Ryouri (Readers, that’s Japanese for cuisine) used to be served at tea ceremonies in the Meiji era. It was their light meal for drinking green tea, at first very simple: only one soup and three vegetables. However, as kaiseki began getting more popular, the amount of dishes in the meal increased. Kaiseki nowadays usually has…

  • Sakizuke (先付): an appetizer
  • Hassun (八寸): the second course, sushi and small side dishes
  • Mukōzuke (向付): seasonal sashimi
  • Takiawase (煮合): vegetables with meat, fish or tofu
  • Futamono (蓋物): soup
  • Yakimono (焼物): seasonal fish
  • Suzakana (酢肴): vegetables in vinegar
  • Hiyashi-bachi (冷し鉢): served only in summer; lightly cooked vegetables
  • Naka-choko (中猪口): acidic soup
  • Shiizakana (強肴): a hot pot
  • Gohan (御飯): rice cooked with seasonal ingredients
  • Kou no mono (香の物): seasonal pickled vegetables
  • Tome-wan (止椀): a miso soup
  • Mizumono (水物): a seasonal dessert


“That’s a lot of food.”


“It depends on the restaurant and price you pay, but it’s usually a lot. I’m sure you can’t finish, Saya.”


“I will finish up! Anyway, isn’t it too expensive? I think it costs like 10,000 yen (aboutUS$125).”


“No, it’s about 5000 yen (about US$62).”


“Really? That’s a good price.”


“Lunch is even cheaper. It’s about 3000 yen (about US$37).”


“Wow! That’s really good. I think everyone thinks kaiseki in Kyoto is too expensive, as I thought until just now.”


[They made a reservation and enter the restaurant]


REIICHI: “Here we are.”


SAYA: “Sensational! The atmosphere here is so nice. I can feel Kyoto so much.”


[A waiter seats the couple and hands them a menu.]


REIICHI: “This is really nice, and we’re on the 8th floor of the well-known Marui Building, too, so people who come to Kyoto for the first time can easily find it.What course are you going to choose?”


SAYA: “I will eat ‘flower kaiseki.’ What about you?”


“I will have ‘steak kaiseki.’”


“That sounds nice, too. Hey, we can look out over the city of Kyoto from this big window! It’s so romantic!”


“I’m glad you like it. Here our dishes come!”


[A waitress in a kimono arrives with the first serving.]


Waitress: “Here you are… An aperitif, seasonal vegetable assortment, pike conger soup, and today’s arrival: raw fish. Enjoy these dishes; more are on their way soon.”


[Waitress leaves.]


SAYA: “Why do we have so many dishes? Can’t they serve them on one or two plates?”


REIICHI: “Are you really from Japan, or are you a visitor from Mars?! It’s the way Japanese food is. People call it wabi sabi (wabi: taste for the simple and quiet; sabi: elegant simplicity). And the order of the dishes is decided so you have to finish each of them before you can eat the next dishes.”


“I see. Anyway, let’s eat.”


“The foods are lightly flavored so you can eat slowly, and you won’t get bored while eating.”


“That’s right. I like this taste. Hey, look! Here comes another dish, but we don’t have this one on our menu card. What is this?”


“This is for our 1-year anniversary. The restaurant made this for us because I told them we would come for our anniversary.”


“Really? I love that! That’s really a nice thing for them to do!”


“Happy anniversary, honey.”


“Thank you darling. Yum! I’m not sure what this is but it’s wonderful.”


“Yes, it’s fantastic but look! Our main dishes are almost here.”


“I’m having sea bream boiled with soy sauce.”


[Waitress serves the dishes.]


SAYA: “Mmmmm! This not only looks delicious, it really is!”


REIICHI: “I’ve got some very tasty sirloin steak here myself. And by the way, wasn’t it fun to roast the meat here on the heated stone?”


“It seems like there are some more dishes after the main course.”


“Yes, you have tempura and another bowl of vegetables.”


“I love eating this kind of food! But I’m afraid I’m a little bit full now.”


“No, you can’t be because next we have rice, miso soup, and Kyoto pickles.”


“They are also delicious, but can you eat the rest of my rice, please? I’m completely full.”


“Okay. But after this, dessert will come. Are you not going to eat it?”


“Now I have a space for dessert. For dessert, I can always make room…”


“Oh….. You never change. But that’s how I love you, so….go on being like that!”


“Finally, our dessert is here!! It’s white miso ice cream with fruit jelly and green tea!!”


“They refresh our throat and make us feel relaxed.”


“We had a great anniversary, didn’t we?”


“Yeah, this was a wonderful night. I’m happy coming here with you, honey.”


“Thank you for taking me here, darling.”

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