A portal to the past, Nikko has established itself as a heritage site rich in culture and history. Just north of Tokyo in the mountains, Nikko can proudly stand at the peak as one of the most religious and culturally rich town as it makes its way to being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Nikko also compliments its culture richness with delicacies that would give you the best experience. From their specialty Yuba to modern steaks, Nikko will surely satisfy your palette.
1. Indulge in Nikko’s traditional Yuba at Yubatei Masuda-ya
One of Nikko’s iconic delicacies is definitely yuba or commonly known as tofu skin. It is a traditional dish that forms as a thin film on the top of soy milk during the tofu-making process. This film is then dried and re-hydrated, resulting in a delicate strip with a rubbery texture. This dish can be consumed in a variety of ways such as wrapping fruits or matched with staple Japanese delights such as ramen.
Yubatei Masuda-ya offers the hungry tourist an opportunity to experience some of Nikko’s local fare with a variety of dishes that includes yuba. It is truly a restaurant that reflects the traditional Buddhist culture of Nikko as they cook up many vegetarian dishes that will whet your appetite. Combine with the traditional setting of the restaurant, any visitor would be captivated by the ambience. Aside from their prestigious vegetarian dishes, they also whip up an amazing Masu no Shioyaki or otherwise known as freshwater trout grilled in salt. It has made a name for itself in the streets as many locals also enjoy this delicacy together with the multiple yuba dishes
ゆば亭 ますだや Yubatei Masuda-ya
Address: 439-2 Ishiyamachi, Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture
Opening Hours: 11 am until ingredients run out
Holidays: on Thursday
Contact: +81 288-54-2151
2. Tsuruya Yuba, traditional cuisine with a fantastic view
Along the scenic streets of Lake Chuzenji lies this restaurant that is strategically located in the quaint little town, offering you a breath-taking view of the lake as well as the mountains around. While yuba dishes and restaurants are everywhere along the streets with similar price ranges, Tsuruya Yuba stands out among the crowd as they not only serve it with the usual varieties but also mix it up with ramen and udon.
However, the combinations does not end there! Tsuruya also offers Yuba Curry that has made a name for itself. For diners with a sweet tooth, the restaurant will satisfy those sweet cravings with Yuba desserts such as Yuba custard pudding and Yuba soy milk. The Yuba food fare and experience is completed with the natural scenery in the vicinity, promising you a memorable experience!
つるや湯波 Tsuruya Yuba
Address: 10-6 Kawamuro Nikko Tochigi
Opening Hours: 11 am to 3 pm
Contact: +81 288-21-7641
3. Classic handmade noodles at Houtoku-an
An old quaint stall that prides itself in their handmade soba and udon sets itself apart from other restaurants and offers you a taste of local Japan. As a hidden gem among travelers, it may be a bit hard to locate but when you find it and see the long queue in front, you will know the effort is worth it. This restaurant is popular even among locals as many make their way there to experience the classic handmade noodles for themselves.
As if having a meal at someone’s house, the restaurant’s interior houses a large tatami mat room with tables on the floor – a true Japanese-style restaurant. As a family run restaurant, you can see people of all ages and the scene of a typical Japanese household for yourself. Their hot favourite is the traditional handmade soba, or buckwheat noodles, that is chewy and of the right softness. Coupled with their own dipping sauce, the combination of sweet and sour in the soy sauce and yuzu will give you the gastronomical delight of a lifetime. Serving up a generous portion in wicker baskets, you can look forward to a hearty meal!
Address: 383-1 Segawa Nikko Tochigi
Opening Hours: 11 am to 4 pm
Contact: +81 288-21-4973
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4. Traditional Japanese Buddhist Cuisine at Gyoshintei
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Being in a cultural landmark of Japan, there is no better place to experience Washoku, which was listed in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2014. It is the traditional cuisine of Japan based on rice with miso soup and other side dishes that place a strong emphasis on seasonal ingredients. Falling in line with Nikko’s shrines and religious highlights, Gyoshintei offers traditional Japanese Buddhist cuisine, or Shojin Ryori, which is considered the origin of Washoku, giving you the full religious experience in the very heart of Japan culture.
Right among the temples of Nikko, this restaurant will open your eyes and show you the wonders of vegetarian food. With various vegetables and tofu as its base, they will present different dishes that highlight the refined taste of their religious cuisine. With a traditional tatami-filled interior and tranquil gardens around, you can be fully immersed in traditional Japan culture as you clear the plates of vegetarian dishes served by waitresses in Kimonos. Offering two vegetarian sets, visitors will enjoy a feast not only for their stomachs but also their eyes as each dish is beautifully decorated to whet your appetite.
Address: 2339-1 Yamauchi, Nikko -city, Tochigi Prefecture
Opening Hours: : 11 am to 5 pm
Contact: +81 288-53-3751
5. The No. 1 pit stop by the shrines, Hippari Dako
Located just before the majestic shrines of Nikko, lies this yakitori or Japanese chicken kebab stall. This restaurant has made the headlines of famous travel guides such as Lonely Planet and promises to live up to its name. Offering yakitori and various noodle dishes like ramen, it is a deliciously convenient pit stop before visiting the shrines. The restaurant also offers beer and sake to complement the meal and ensure that you experience true Japanese culture.
Aside from the food, the restaurant also serves as a travel guide. Plastered across their walls are business cards and recommendations from previous visitors, making the place a simple pit stop for more delicacies to enjoy and sights to visit. Be sure to see for yourself if it deserves the praise it earned as well as find out what previous travelers like you have to say, filling up both your tummy and your mind.
ひっぱり凧 Hippari Dako
Address: 1011 Kamihatsuishimachi, Nikkō-city
Opening Hours: 11 am to 7 pm
Contact: +81 288-53-2933
6. Nikko with a tint of the West: Steak House Mihashi
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Keeping up with modern trends, Nikko has also introduced Western elements in their efforts to keep trendy while preserving their tradition. This is no exception when it comes to food as Japanese restaurant owners put their own spin on Western cuisine. Known for their high grade wagyu steak, the Mihashi steak house offers quality beef cooked to perfection in their restaurant.
Using meat from a specific and rare breed of cattle, the Tochigi wagyu served is one of Japan’s highest grade wagyu and promises that every dollar is worth it. Velvety, smooth and flavourful meat will fill your plates matched with an equally delicious special garlic sauce. Together with a glass of premium wine, the indulgent meal will surely leave you satisfied. With its unique meat and sauce, this restaurant is definitely a place you must visit when in Nikko!
ステーキハウスみはし Steak House Mihashi
Address: 1115 Kamihatsuishimachi, Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture
Opening Hours: 11:30 am to 8 pm
Contact: +81 288-54-3429
7. Home of the cows: Guruman’s Wagyu
While Mihashi specializes in high-grade Tochigi wagyu, Guruman offers a variety of different wagyu across Japan to the typical meat fanatic. Despite being a bit out of the way, this restaurant offers a variety of different home-grown wagyu that is comparable to Kobe beef, ranging from Sendai wagyu to Maesawa Wagyu along with a price tag that matches the quality, going from 5,000 JPY (49.50 USD) to 25, 000 JPY (247 USD).
With a set meal, you will get side dishes like soup and salad along with dessert and beverages. Your steak can be customized as you select your preferred grade of wagyu in a sirloin or fillet as well as the cook of the meat. Served in a sizzling hotplate, you will be satisfied with the strong flavor and tenderness of the meat. Finish up your meal with fried rice and a sweet pancake for dessert and I am sure you will leave satisfied. Remember to bring along cash as they do not accept foreign credit cards, and make a reservation in advance!
日光グルマンズ和牛 Nikko Guruman’s Wagyu
Address: 1541-297 Tokorono, Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture
Opening Hours: 11:30 am to 2 pm and 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Contact: +81 288-53-3232
8. Indulge in the freshness of Nikko at Yacco Sushi
There is one thing you definitely must not miss in the Land of the Rising Sun and that is, Sushi! With origins dating far back to the roots of Japan’s culture, it is definitely a delicacy and exquisite cuisine that any visitor should try. Nikko also offers this delicious tradition at Yacco Sushi. Adopting an Edo-style theme, the restaurant offers a variety of platters and different types of raw fish for you to enjoy.
Keeping prices affordable with their lunch set starting at 1,134 JPY (11.20 USD) for a huge serving of tasty freshness, Yacco remains one of the best value-for-money sushi restaurants in the vicinity. The restaurant also ensures they pick the season’s best catch to offer various seasonal dishes throughout the year, making their menu equally fresh and relevant. So be assured, you will not be disappointed here!
Address: 379 Imaichi Nikkō-shi, Tochigi-ken
Opening Hours: Lunch (11.30 am to 2 pm), Dinner (5 pm to 10 pm). Close on Thursday
9. Yuba with a twist at ZEN
It is definitely established that Nikko is famed for their Yuba and if you have not tried it yet, this restaurant is one of the best restaurants to have your first yuba experience! Putting their own twist on yuba as well as traditional Japanese cuisine sushi, ZEN offers a different combination for their visitors. Instead of the regular seaweed wrap for their maki (sushi or vegetable wrapped in seaweed), ZEN cleverly adopts their own specialty and uses yuba as a replacement for the traditional seaweed.
The assorted sushi is wrapped with yuba and served with white soy sauce, making sure you can expect a totally different taste! However, their gastronomical adventure does not stop here. ZEN also have their fair share of quality Tochigi Beef, which is nicely rolled into a maki together with their famous yuba, summing up to an unforgettable taste. You can also match these yuba-makis with various small side dishes that enrich the flavor further. Offering a wide variety of different combinations and a good range of alcohol from local breweries to wash it all down, ZEN is a perfect place to sit back and enjoy a great meal.
Address: 1007, Kamihatsuishimachi, Nikkou-shi, Tochigi
Opening Hours: 10 am to 7 pm. Closed on Tuesdays
Contact: +81 28-853-3470
10. Enjoy the sweetness of Nikko’s natural spring water at Shogetsu Himuro
For tourists with a sweet tooth and avid hunters for sweet treats, Shogetsu Himuro is a place you must definitely visit. Using water from Nikko’s natural spring water, the restaurant freezes it in an ice room and offers visitors some sweet kakigori or also known as shaved ice. Just a stone’s throw away from Nikko Inn, this restaurant attracts a huge crowd every day but their mouth-watering dessert is something worth queueing for.
The ‘airy’ texture of the ice will melt instantly in your mouth and coupled with their various homemade syrup, it will bring you to cloud 9 as you indulge in the dessert. Offering a variety of flavors with their signature Mango Milk shaved ice, visitors can reassure that their sweet tooth will be satisfied!
Address: 379 Imaichi Nikkō-shi, Tochigi-ken
Opening Hours: 11 am to 6 pm
11. Tofu and tea at Fudan Kaiseki Nagomi Chaya
Revel in the historical wonder that is the Fudan Kaiseki Nagomi Chaya house! Located near a difficult-to-pronounce, easy-to-find Kamihatsuishimachi street, this restaurant sports both a wonderful series of delicious menu options, to go with its simplistic, traditional ambiance. Adored by locals and visitors alike, for its sensational synthesis of low prices with absolute world-class foods, the Fudan Kaiseki Nagomi Chaya restaurant will easily elevate your expectations for traditional Nikko culinary excellence!
The restaurant is often first identifiable by the long line of locals, waiting for a table. Once inside, you’ll find an assortment of both traditional and regular tables, a perfect blend of culture with contemporary style. While there is only seating for roughly twenty guests at a single time, the wait is well worth it. Sooner rather than later, delicious plates of traditional Japanese cuisine will render the distance between you and complete culinary satisfaction a short one.
No matter what you’re looking to sample onsite, you’re in for a winning experience. Try their yuba, a soybean counterpart to tofu that proves a bit chewier than traditional tofu, but otherwise proves to be a delicious menu option. When presented as part of their extensive, six-course full meal, the yuba truly proves to be the perfect food item to satisfy whatever you’re in the mood for.
Note the fact that Fudan Kaiseki Nagomi Chaya does not take credit card, only cash, and furthermore does not take reservations. If you’re looking for a world-class experience, you’re going to want to get a seat early!
Fudan Kaiseki Nagomi Chaya
Address: 1016 Kamihatsuishimachi, Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture 321-1401, Japan
12. World-class sushi at Komekichi Kozushi
Render the distance between you and world-class sushi provisions a short one, when you take a seat and enjoy the warm accommodations present at Komekichi Kozushi! Check out an assortment of sushi unique in both taste and diversification, at a sushi icon forever dedicated to the satisfaction of even the strictest palate. Various sushi options are available for your enjoyment, including select vegetarian dishes you’re not likely to find anywhere else.
Located directly off of Matsubaracho street, Komekichi Kozushi exists in a culinary class entirely unto itself. Open as early as 11am and serviced by local bistro experts, the property itself is decorated in traditional Japanese furnishings, as well-lit and modern an atmosphere as any in the region. Take advantage of their daily, low-priced specials, as well as their distinct variety of homemade soups! The restaurant even goes so far as to first educate guests with the proper sushi-eating technique, for those who may be unaware, a gesture not lost among the rave reviews provided by both guests and locals.
If you’re not sure what you’re in the mood for even after perusing the menu, the Sushi Plate is often the way to go! Featuring a sampling of a variety of fish, sourced from local regions, you’re sure to find a new favorite before you leave for the evening. If you’re in the mood for yuba, rest assured that they have the soybean-based dish on the menu as well! It’s a culinary experience you won’t soon forget, at Komekichi Kozushi!
Address: 9-1 Matsubaracho, Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture 321-1406, Japan
So much more to savour in Nikko
These restaurants are only the tip of the ice berg as Nikko offers a strong flavor both in taste and in sight. Immerse yourself in the rich history of Japan along with their best flavors. It is definitely worth a visit or even a day trip from Tokyo or you would be missing out on all the delicacies they have. So be sure to visit with an empty stomach and a full wallet!
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