Nikko, in Tochigi Prefecture, is a historic town home to the World Heritage site ‘The Shrines and Temples of Nikko’. Visitors can reach Tobu Nikko Station in around two hours from Asakusa in Tokyo and enjoy the local hot springs, natural scenery, entertainment options and great dining that have long made Nikko one of the leading tourist resorts in the Kanto Region. Of the various options for enjoying Nikko, a ‘Time Travel Gourmet ’ trip is a great way to experience some of Japan’s most ancient culture through local cuisine.
Nikko is famous for yuba, the skin formed when boiling soybeans to make tofu. Yuba was brought to the area in 766 when Buddhist temples were first founded in the Nikko mountains. It is nutritious, and easy to process and carry, which made it an indispensable source of food for monks and acolytes in training. Nikko Hoshinoyado is an inn located near to Nikko’s World Heritage ‘The Shrines and Temples of Nikko, ’ but many people visit for lunch to enjoy the yuba cuisine, which includes hikiage-yuba skimmed straight from the pot. Guests can enjoy both making and eating the yuba, an important part of Buddhist vegetarian cuisine.
Enjoying Japan’s unique irori-yaki (hearth –fired) cuisine at Honke Bankyu, an inn founded 350 years ago
In 1185, Taira no Tadazane of the Heike Clan is said to have escaped to Yunishigawa in Tochigi after losing the Battle of Dan-no-Ura, which pitted two powerful clans against each other. Taira no Tadazane discovered Yunishigawa Hot Springs at the current site of the long-standing inn Honke Bankyu, where hot water still flows into the Fujikura no Yu, an out door bath with a magnificent view.
Honke Bankyu was founded in 1666, and has been open for more than 350 years. 800 years on from the days of Taira no Tadazane, the current owner is the 25th generation of the family to run the inn. Crossing the Kazura Bridge brings visitors to the Heike no Kakurekan, a branch of Honke Bankyu designed in the style of an old guesthouse. Here, guests can enjoy irori-yaki, fresh local ingredients from the mountains cooked on a charcoal fire, as well as traditional Japanese kaiseki cuisine including seasonal ingredients. When experiencing Japan’s ancient food culture by dining around the traditional hearth, the diner can enjoy the atmosphere, feeling as if they have traveled back in time.
Honke Bankyu (4) Fujikura no Yu outdoor bath