For our first evening in Kyoto, we were given a few recommendations but found ourselves completely lost in some part of Kyoto, relying on recognising the kanji characters of the restaurants' names we had been given. We had been traveling from very early, having left Takayama early in the morning, taken a bus, two trains, found our machiya (traditional Japanese wooden house) in Kyoto and then visited the Arashiyama bamboo grove. We were tired and starving.
As we were thinking about finding the next subway station and eating near the machiya, we saw a tiny place open in a dark alleyway with a word we could recognise: izakaya (Japanese bar where you can also eat). We walked in, sat at the small counter, and after that we had an incredible evening!
We got to chat with the owner and chef, Tamura, and one of his customers in as much Japanese and English we could all manage. We discovered E. was his first ever Irish customer but that he had seen many French people in his bar (yes, sounds like many of us are visiting Japan these days!).
We ate delicious yakitori (chicken skewers), drank sake poured from a carved piece of bamboo, chatted and laughed all evening. We met Tamura's young family as they would come down from their apartment every now and then to bring some ingredients needed to prepare such or such dish. As we were about to leave, Tamura asked us to wait a moment and his little girl arrived with two beautiful hand painted uchiwa (flat fan) for us as a gift. We were so honored and thankful for such an incredible evening and memories of a trip that we will cherish for a long time.
I am sharing here a photo of Tamura who was proudly showing us a photo of him when he was a rock star many years ago. I was observing him slicing and cooking food with such precision and silence, and next thing I discover the chef is a man of many talents. Isn't it just amazing!
Image Copyright © Yolène Dabreteau