While often overshadowed by her more prolific neighbours, Nara is by no means lacking in culinary specialties.
Looking back at my travel photos, I realise that I walked – and ate – a hell lot on my Nara day trip. Talk about your metabolism fluctuating during your travels.
Soooo, I thought I would relieve some of my post holiday guilt by compiling everything I ate into a mini food guide! Hey, sharing is caring, right? 😉
(Or maybe I’m just looking for any reason to look through my food pictures again…)
All of these food stops are located within central Nara or Nara Park, and pretty friendly on the wallet (about 1000¥ per person).
Read my other Kansai posts!
Kagamitei kissa 下下味亭 吉茶
This quaint little cafe is one of those hole-in-the-wall places that you stumble upon and don’t regret walking into one bit. Located across the road from Nara National Museum, Kagamitei kissa appears to dish up localised Western fare with quirkily translated names (stew of a tomato and mushroom of the chicken, anyone?).
Overall, a not too shabby place to relax and recharge before taking on the next stretch of Nara Park. Did I mention you can also get a pretty good view of the sakura trees in the neighbouring Homura Shrine? Don’t forget to try a cup of coffee jelly while you’re there!
Address:〒630-8213 Nara-ken, Nara-shi, Noboriōjichō, 59 (next to Himuro Shrine)
Opening hours: 10am – Sunset (Daily)
One thing I did not expect was how early shops and eateries in Japan close – at least, by Singaporean standards. Can’t imagine what would happen if we ventured out for dinner at 9pm only to find nothing open.
Thankfully, I wasn’t too late for a bowl of Mentouan’s famous drawstring bag udon!
Boy, was I glad that I saved this humble, yet filling bowl for last. Slurping on those thick, fat noodles and piping hot broth was the perfect reward for walking all the way back from the park to the train station in the impending cold (the temperature drops drastically come nightfall, by the way).
Not a fan of udon-in-a-tofuskin-bag? There are other renditions of udon for you to try, such as one with a giant heart-shaped tofu just because. Credits to RocketNews24 for highlighting this find!
Address: Hashimotocho 30-1
Opening hours: 11am – 7pm (closed on Tuesday)
Of course, there’s no way you can leave Nara without a taste of Nakatanidou’s yogomi mochi dusted with kinako powder. They’re even famous for being the fastest mochi pounders in Japan!
Here’s a video if you’re not convinced. You can even watch them live every hour!
While their claim to fame is their mochi, Nakatanidou also sells other snacks, like crackers dusted in different flavoured powder (not included is the sushi which I’m gonna talk about below).
And last but not least…
Persimmon Leaf Sushi (kaki no ha sushi)
You’ve heard of nigiri sushi, but have you tried kaki no ha sushi? This local delicacy acquires its unique box shape from the way it’s prepared.
Salmon, mackerel and trout are first cured and pressed into a mould with sushi rice. Upon setting, the sushi is cut into rectangular chunks and wrapped in individual persimmon leaves, which are said to have an antibacterial quality and treated with salt to make them stay fresh longer.
For some, it may be a little more pungent than what you’re used to. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying it! Persimmon leaf sushi is sold all over Nara, but in case you need a recommendation, I got a box (for the next day’s breakfast, of course) from Izasa ゐざさ 東大寺店, a shop located on the same street as Kagamitei kissa. There’s even a restaurant on the second level if you fancy their Kaze Gozen set!
Address: 16 Kasuganocho, Nara, Nara Prefecture 630-8212
Opening hours: 9.30am – 7pm (Daily)
With a culture that’s as rich and diverse as Japan’s, it’s hard to go hungry. And Nara is no exception. Do give these places a try when you’re in the area!
Information accurate as of April 2016.