An Unforgettable Meal in Kyoto


I experienced an unforgettable meal in Japan thanks to my friend and colleague, Masahiro Ouchi  who suggested that I stay at the traditional ryokan, Kanamean in Kyoto.  It was way more expensive than my budget allowed but I decided that I wanted to have dinner there since it seemed like such a special place.  It was a stretch for me financially, but I decided to go for the 12,000 yen meal (about $140) since I knew it was doubtful that I would ever do it again.

Tatami Dining RoomIt was a great decision and a very interesting experience.

When I arrived,  I was greeted by a charming man and 2 kimono-clad women who escorted me to a private tatami dining room.  I sat on the floor at a low table looking out over a small but beautiful garden. I was brought a small cup of sake with a few yellow chrysanthemum leaves floating in it and some sashimi covered with chestnut.

cropped sashimi w- chestut

In two and a half hours, I was served  an 8-course meal —  each course  more beautiful than the last.   The high points included 3 perfect edamame placed on a leaf ….a tiny, flawless quail egg suspended in fish aspic…4 small slices of the perfect pear delicately topped by a shiso leaf…snapping turtle soup…barracuda sushi (those were the weird things)…sake served in bamboo…..miso soup, rice, & pickles….green tea.

Sake served in Bamboo

Sake served in Bamboo

The food was incredibly healthy and served in minuscule portions (a bite or 2 of a number of things, mostly fish and vegetables) that exploded with flavor in your mouth.  It was beautifully presented on exquisite pottery accented by seasonal elements of the natural world – bright red maple leaves, sheaves of wheat, gingko nuts. Every bite completely delicious and fulfilling. Every bite to be savored and enjoyed.

I’ve traveled all over the world and had many memorable meals  (some of them cooked by myself, friends or family) but this one was unique. Even though in terms of quantity, there wasn’t much of it, around the 6th course, I realized how full I was.  The aesthetics of the presentation and the exquisite flavors combined to provide a fullness of experience that was completely satisfying but difficult to describe.

Server w- Wheat

I know that a meal like this is not for those who are literally starving but it made me think about the place that hunger and satisfaction occupy in our lives.  When we say we’re hungry, are we hungry for food or for something else?

Is it possible to feed ourselves on beauty?

Koi#6, Kyoto, Japan

Koi, Kyoto, Japan

©Photographs by Sharon Smith
All rights reserved


3 thoughts on “An Unforgettable Meal in Kyoto

  1. Hi Sharon… Just catching up in reading after getting home from a weekend trip. Saw the comment about the Symposium and it led me to this about the meal in Japan that I must have missed.
    Sounds like a great place and a lovely time to chill out and
    drench yourself in subtle flavors. Japan is a place for that for sure. Clean and pure is sometimes a challenge to find, n’est pas ? And attempts at that seem even more pristine in that domain.

  2. Hi, Sharon,

    The meal experience of a lifetime. You describe it so well, I can almost see it (but not taste it, unfortunately).

    Only two of your photos came up (the bamboo saki and the goldfish swimming). Don’t know why.

    Thanks for sending.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s