Experience the taste of Nara produced in the Old Capital! As Japan’s first capital of government in the 6th century, Nara flourished as a center of culture and politics. Naturally, Nara is where the origin of Japanese food culture began, including both native Japanese (local specialties were brought to Nara from all around Japan to offer to the imperial family as well as powerful temples and shrines) and foreign foods (cheese and butter was brought to Nara from China via Korea). Some of these foods were very valuable and only a handful of people could enjoy them while some local specialties from the mountains and rivers, were also enjoyed by the general population.
Nara no Umaimono,Delicious Nara Project
To welcome the 1,300th anniversary of the Heijo-kyo capital relocation in 2010, Nara prefecture has set up a new promotion project: Nara no Umaimono (Delicious Nara). The prefecture has created a new series of dishes using Nara’s special ingredients. Look for the sign below to enjoy these selected foods and dishes (some of the recommended restaurants where you can try Delicious Nara dishes are on the next page!).
Nara is famous for its agricultural products such as locally grown vegetables (“Yamato Yasai”), Yamato-cha tea leaves, strawberries, and persimmons. Nara produces some traditional food which is famous throughout Japan by its local name, for example, Nara-zuke pickles (gourd or vegetables fermented in sake lees with a very strong sake flavor) or Miwa-somen (thin flour noodles; mainly produced in the Miwa area, which is present-day Sakurai city). With the historical background of Heijo-kyo capital (since 710) and other time-honored temples and shrines, there are a variety of special sweets and dishes which can only be experienced around the time of festivals or other rituals.
Nara’s Specialty Food Products & Dishes
Yamato Chicken is locally produced chicken. Farmers improved the taste and texture of Nara chicken and successfully created new Yamato Chicken in 1982. Yamato chicken can be enjoyed grilled, steamed, or roasted to give good texture, and it goes well with both Japanese and western cuisine. Black rice was brought from China to Japan during the Asuka period (5th century) and it was regarded as special food for celebrations. Today, there are some rice fields still growing black rice in the Asuka area (map D, pg 7). Yoshino-kuzu is one food that is representative of the Yoshino area (map E, pg 7). The dried kudzu starch is popular in Japanese sweets and it is also enjoyed as dessert-like thick jelly with sweet brown sugar sauce. Japanese sake was first produced in Nara. Naturally there are several sake breweries in Nara and some are trying to produce new and interesting food with sake. One example is sake ice cream! Surprisingly, top quality sake lees and rich milk go together well and create an original taste.
Awogaki in Nara Nagomi-kan
Awogaki is located in the Nara Nagomi-kan, a souvenir shop. You can enjoy original sweets and dishes made by Awogaki’s experienced chef. One of the popular menu items is persimmon cake (300 yen) made from additive-free dried persimmons and persimmon liquor. The pound cake uses the rich sweetness of Nara persimmons, giving a soft and delicious taste. A set of sweet dumplings made from Yoshino kudzu and Yamato-cha green tea (630 yen) is also recommended. Many other dishes and drinks are available as well.
Data: Tel: 0742-21-7530; a 3-min. walk to the south of Ichino Torii (first shrine gate) of the Kasuga Grand Shrine, on the left side; map A, C-3, pg 6; open: 10:00-19:00;
At Yoshino, you can try the freshest seasonal tastes in every dish. In Yoshino’s spacious, luxurious atmosphere, they offer the real taste of Nara from authentic kaiseki courses to the a la carte menu. Chicken rice bowl with chicken broth (1,500 yen; with dessert) is a very unique and healthy dish. Streamed chicken, Nara pickles, thinly sliced (like thread!) fried eggs and cooked vegetables are topped on rice, with powdered green tea leaves sprinkled on it. Finally, hot chicken broth is poured over just before you eat. Yamato-nabe hotpot (1,800 yen; with kakinoha sushi & dessert) has Yamato-imo (Nara yam), chicken and seasonal vegetables cooked together in a soy milk-based soup. A wide range of fine sake collected from all over Japan can also enjoyed with your meal.
Data: Tel: 0742-35-5819; directly connected to JR Nara Sta.; map A, C-1, pg 6; open: 11:30-14:30, 17:30-22:00 (L.O. 21:30);also see their ad below.
The Kasuga Hotel is one of Nara’s most prestigious hotels and offers unforgettable dining for its customers. The spacious restaurant is located next to Nara Park and offers a variety of Japanese cuisine. Manyo Bento (2,100 yen) includes delicious morsels of Nara’s food culture in one lunch box. The rice is cooked with Japanese tea instead of water. This special rice has a long history and used to be eaten by Buddhist monks. Besides the tea rice, Nara pickles, sesame tofu, Yamato Chicken and other seasonal ingredients of Nara are presented together. Full volume kaiseki courses, reasonably-priced lunch sets and seasonal Japanese dishes can be enjoyed.
Data: Tel: 0742-22-4031; a 200-meter to the west of Kintetsu Nara Sta., on the right side; map A, B-3, pg 6; open: 11:00-14:00, 17:00-21:00 (L.O.: 20:30; no break on Sun. & holiday); also see their ad below.
Harushika Sake brewery has been serving Kasuga Grand Shrine since the 8th century in offering sacred sake to the deity. Harushika started to produce sake for sale to the public in the Meiji period (1868-1912). Without changing the production process since its foundation, Harushika continues to produce first quality sake as well as producing new products such as sake ice cream (350 yen). Even if you love both Japanese sake and ice cream, it never comes to mind to enjoy both as one food. This can only be experienced in Nara, the birthplace of Japanese sake.
Data: Tel: 0742-23-2255; a 3-min. walk from Ganko-ji Temple to the west, on the left side; map A, D-3, pg 6; open everyday: 8:15-17:15;also, see their ad on pg 4.
At Mansai, you can choose Delicious Nara dishes from their extensive menu. Each dish contains vegetables, meat and other ingredients produced in Nara, and have a unique taste and appearance. The Yamato Chicken teriyaki rice bowl (1,260 yen) gives you the taste combination of Yamato Chicken and teriyaki flavor (soy sauce-based sweet sauce) which are perfect with Japanese rice. Mansai offers a variety of Delicious Nara dishes: Manyo lunch box (2,400 yen), somen set (1,380 yen), tea rice porridge set (1,380 yen) and curry with black rice.
Data: Tel: 0742-23-8943; in Nara Prefectural Culture Hall, a few minutes walk from Kintetsu Nara Sta.; map A, B-3, pg 6; open: 10:00-19:00;
Rahotsu is a small Thai restaurant but the owner has an incredibly strong feeling for Nara. This creates a unique yet delicious combination of Thai cuisine and Nara ingredients. One of these is curry with black rice (800 yen). This combination of ancient black rice and Japanese curry (one of the most popular Japanese home-dishes) lets you experience both the old and new tastes of Japan. Yamato chicken green curry (1,650 yen) and Miwa-somen noodles (1,350 yen) in spicy tom yam kung soup are also very popular.
Data: Tel: 0742-24-1180; across from the old Daijo-in Temple Garden, on the northeastern corner; map A, D-4, pg 6; open: 11:30-14:30, 17:30-22:00, closed Mon.;
Hirasou is a specialist Kakinoha Sushi shop which started in the Yoshino area (map E, pg 7) in 1861. Kakinoha Sushi has long been a specialty of Yoshino and in the old days, people brought the best mackerel from the coast of Kumano (Wakayama prefecture) and salted them as a preserved food. A sliced piece of mackerel is put on a small piece of vinegared rice and then wrapped with a persimmon leaf (Kakinoha). Kakinoha Sushi was a popular preserved food as well as a typical summer meal in local areas.
Data: Tel: 0742-22-0866; a few minutes walk to the south from Sarusawa Pond; map A, C-3, pg 6; open: 10:00-20:00; closed Mon.;
Ochaccha is a tiny shop located in the Yume Cube, a space where there are a lot of interesting small shops. They offer Kurumi-mochi sweet dumplings (400 yen) which people make in autumn to celebrate and give thanks for a good harvest. In the past, people made rice cakes (mochi) with the first rice harvest of the year and covered them with a sweet paste made from beans. Ochaccha’s special Rei-cha is a traditional Taiwanese tea which people offered to welcome the guests. More than 20 kinds of grains, beans and tea leaves are dried and powdered. Many other unique kinds of Taiwanese tea are available.
Data: Tel: 0742-26-5506; on the east side of Mochiidono Center Arcade, about 400 meters from the north entrance; map A, C-3, pg 6; open: 11:00-19:00, closed: irregularly;
Hanakiku in Nara Hotel: 3,465 yen; open: 11:30-14:00; Tel: 0742-26-3300; map A, C-4, pg 6; Inoue: 1,500 yen (take out only); open: 10:00-17:00; closed Wed.; Tel: 0742-64-1314; map A, C-3, pg 6; Nara Park Hotel: 3,500 yen; open: 11:00-15:00 (reservation required); Tel: 0742-44-5255; map B, pg 7.
[Yamato Chicken Teriyaki Rice Bowl]
Kagariya in Hotel Asyl Nara:1,000 yen; open: 11:00-14:00; Tel: 0742-24-4941; map A, B-1 pg 6; Miyoshi: 800 yen; open: 10:30-19:30; closed Mon.; Tel: 0742-24-7214; map A, C-3, pg 6.
Kotoya: 500 yen (with coffee); open: 9:00-17:00; Tel: 0742-22-4337; map A, B-5, pg 7; Café in Nara Prefectural Office (6F): 350 yen (with coffee); open: 8:30-16:00, closed Sat., Sun., holidays; Tel: 0742-22-1101; map A, B-3, pg 6; Asukabito no Yakata: 600 yen (take out only); open: 8:30-17:00; Tel: 0744-54-3624; map D, pg 7.
Izasa: from 693 yen (6 pieces); open: 9:30-19:00 (restaurant: from 11:00); Tel: 0742-22-8133; map A, B-4, pg 6; Yukawaya: from 5,250 yen (course menu); open: 11:00-19:00; Tel: 0746-32-3004; map E, pg 7.
Try New Delicious Nara Special Lunch Boxes!
Nara Prefecture has recently started a new project. Ideas for lunch box menus using Nara’s specialties and other interesting ideas were gathered from the public. After the selection process, 15 lunch boxes were created in regard to taste, appearance, concept, and cost. They will be available at several shops and restaurants from this spring. Take one and enjoy the taste outdoors while your explore Nara! Note: lunch boxes will be available in many places in Nara. For further information, contact the Nara Prefecture Marketing Section: Tel: 0742-27-7401;