As the millennium-long home of the imperial kitchen, Kyoto is known as the centre of Japanese culinary tradition. From the aristocratic kaiseki ryori (Japan's haute cuisine), to the simple yet refined dishes of obanzai ryori (home-cooked cuisine), Kyoto is a city that takes food seriously. Today, you'll experience the simple pleasures of obanzai ryori in a cooking class. Perhaps less well-known than kaiseki in the West, the ancient style of obanzai ryori also has strict rules that must be adhered to. It follows a strictly seasonal approach, and at least half of the ingredients must be Kyo-yasai (Kyoto vegetables) and other locally sourced produce. It should also embody the spiritual elements of genuine things, balance, encounter, hospitality and not creating waste. Ingredients are prepared simply, often simmered in dashi stock with traditional flavouring.
Obanzai is down-to-earth, unpretentious and increasingly gaining popularity in Kyoto as people seek to ensure that this culinary tradition is preserved. You'll then get to enjoy the dishes you have cooked for lunch. This evening is free for your own rest or exploration. Perhaps find a theatre putting on shows of Noh, Kabuki or Bunraku puppetry, or traditional dance, or splash out on a kaiseki meal in a ryotei (small restaurants serving traditional multi-course cuisine). Or perhaps try some hamo eel - a quintessential Kyoto dish in the warmer months. An unknown chef in Kyoto first transformed the eel from 'inedible' to the star ingredient with the invention of a heavy knife that could separate the flesh from the bones. In the cooler months you might try some yuba cuisine or a hotpot of yudofu, using Kyoto's famed smooth flavoured tofu, perfected over centuries by Buddhist monks. Your leader is always there to help you choose! (B/L)