Culinary Journeys with Chef Namae Shinobu

Shinobu Namae picnics amongst rice fields at Terada Honke_2

Chiba Terada Honke

I am very excited to share air time with Chef Namae Shinobu in this month’s Discover Japan special on CNN. His show is airing today at 5:30 p.m. Japan Standard Time. Be sure to tune in to travel with him as he goes to Kyoto and to Chiba as he explores the world of tea and saké. Learn about omotenashi, an essential part of the food culture in Japan.

Following is an interview with chef Namae Shinobu with CNN’s Culinary Journeys. Read on for where chef Namae would go in the world for his personal culinary journey. I was surprised to hear his destination.

  1. What inspired you to cook? And what compose your culinary philosophy?

Cooking is all about making something by hand to make someone happy. My philosophy is to be sincere to everything around you, love who you are and what you do.

  1. You hold a diploma in Politics from one of the top universities in Japan, Keio University, but it’s not a career you pursued. Becoming a chef must have been quiet an interesting journey for you. Can you tell us about it?

A lot of people been asking me this question but it was quite natural for me to get into the world of cuisine. When I was studying, I needed to earn money to support myself. So I started working part-time at an Italian restaurant at night and went to school in the morning. I needed to survive and this job fed me a delicious and warm meal at the end of the day. That was my starting point and it was really simple.

I love people and I am interested in Social Science, and I wanted to understand people’s difference in different aspects including culture, generations, gender, religions etc. Learning politics was all about how to cope with these differences. And now finding the beauty of different food cultures is another way to fulfill my interest.  

  1. Why have you decided to do French cuisine instead of Japanese cuisine?

My mentor Michel Bras is a French chef. And I was interested in learning something different so I started from European cuisine.

  1. You’ve had experience in the kitchens at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck and Michel Bras’ three-Michelin-starred restaurants – what did you learn from your time there?

Both chefs are unique and have extreme curiosities about nature and science. They are both self-taught chefs, creating dishes from nature. 

  1. Tell us about your ‘Culinary Journey’ on CNN. What is the highlight of this journey?

Through this journey, I would like to show the very unique Japanese hospitality made by Japan’s historical background, beautiful landscape and craftsmanship. I travelled to Kyoto to meet two Kaiseki chefs and a tea master. And I completed the journey at a sake brewery in Chiba with more than 300 years history.

I thought I already knew many beautiful aspects of Japanese food culture and I realized again it’s a never an ending journey to discover all of them.

Highlights are everywhere from this journey, but I would say each person who I introduce to audience in this journey not only care about details of their craft but also care about people they encounter and serve. The warm-hearted hospitality is the most unique thing here in Japan.

  1. In CNN ‘Culinary Journeys’, you went to Kyoto to discover the best quality Japanese green tea. And a tea ceremony is integral in the dining experience at your restaurant L’Effervescence. Tell us the importance of tea in Japanese dining culture.

The traditional Japanese fine dining, Kaiseki, is originally the meal served in the context of tea ceremony. The tea ceremony ceremony gives you a precious moment of encountering with other guests. A good cup of tea makes people united together and it has a power of magic.

Tea ceremony is an important dining experience at my restaurant because it’s the symbol of unity and peace as well as care of each other.

  1. Will we still find hints of Japan flavors in L’Effervescence menu?

Yes very much. I put some Japanese technic behind European composition, but I try not to make it too prominent in one side of the culture on my dishes. But almost all ingredients are sourced from all over Japan now. 

  1. How would you describe Tokyo’s culinary scene?

A lot of new restaurants opened by younger generations are rising.  

  1. If we gave you a blank cheque, where would your dream culinary journey take you and what would you do there?

Ethiopia. The starting point of “The great journey of human being”. I believe I can find something very important in this country of many tribes. And I am interested in “Gursha” – grabbing a morsel of food and place into the mouth of someone else at the table. Then the person you have just honoured with a “Gursha” returns the favour. It’s about making the friendship and love stronger.
And great coffee too.

  1. What does Michelin recognition mean to you?

It’s good to be recognized but I try to be humble and generous. I don’t mind being called a celebrity chef or so, but I am still who I am. Nothing more or less after recognized by Michelin.  

  1. What do you usually like to cook when you are at home?

Something simple like vegetables with some seafood. And I enjoy having sake and wines.

Part one – the art of hospitality:

Part two – Kyoto’s culinary traditions:

Part three – a meal inspired by memories:


Kyoto Honke Owariya Soba 京都本家尾張屋

Kyoto Owariya Tempura Soba

Kyoto Owariya Vegetable Tempura Soba

Owariya is a Kyoto soba shop with a rich history, that can be traced back hundreds of years. I love the branch in Takashimaya as it is near many popular sites such as Nishiki Market and Gion. As the shop is in a department store, it is also kid-friendly.

The vegetable tempura soba (1620 JPY) included sansai, spring vegetables, and the dark red Kyoto carrot. We ordered a kake soba (756 JPY), soba with hot broth, and topped it with fish cakes.

Kyoto Owariya Kake Soba

Kyoto Owariya Kake Soba

Owariya is on the 7th floor of Takashimaya.

Owariya’s website includes photos and an English menu:

If you like shōchū, you should definitely try the soba shochu served with soba-yū, the hot water that the soba is cooked in.

Honke Owariya at Kyoto Takashimaya

Kyoto-shi, Shimogyō-ku, Teiammaenocho 52, Kyoto Takashimaya 7th Floor


Kyoto Takashimaya Access:

Michelin Guide Kansai 2014

The Michelin Guide Kansai 2014 has given two more restaurants the prestigious three stars ranking in its most recent edition. From the press release, Michael ELLIS, International Director of the MICHELIN guides comments, “We are very pleased to award two new three stars restaurants, Mizai and Kichisen, both located in Kyoto. They serve Japanese cuisine cooked at a remarkably high level. We are also delighted to introduce a Bib Gourmand selection in the Kansai region for the first time. This distinction is really appreciated by our readers”.

“A Bib Gourmand is a separate award from a star and indicates a value-for-money restaurant, offering a menu or a single plate (depending on the restaurant’s style) for under 5,000 yen. The name is a shortened version of ‘Bibendum’ (the Michelin Man), along with ‘gourmand’ which means ‘one who enjoys eating. ”

Upon quick glance at the Bib Gourmand for Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe, I believe that non of the recipients are Japanese restaurants but are all French and Italian.

Michelin has partnered with Gurunavi and the information is now available online for free. Here is the updated list of Kyoto three star restaurants:

Surf the Gurunavi site for updates in Kansai including Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, and Nara.


Cooking, Eating, Drinking in Kansai: Tasting Kyoto – Nishiki Market and Kyoto Uzuki


Kyoto Nishiki anago

Daikokuya Unagi

This post is courtesy of Janice Espa from Australia. Janice did a supermarket tour with me a year ago. We have stayed in touch and she had such a delicious time in Kyoto that she is sharing with Food Sake Tokyo readers some of her favorite spots and experiences in Kyoto. Janice’s biography and photo is below. All photos and text are from Janice.

Kyoto Nishiki at the markets

Takakuraya Pickles

Kyoto Nishiki down the market

Nishiki Market in the heart of Kyoto

Kyoto Nishiki Market stall action

Tsukimachian wagashi shop

Kyoto Nishiki Market stallsMasugo pickles

Part One of Two

Beyond Kyoto’s rich history and numerous temples and shrines, lay a number of truly delicious and traditional ways to explore and taste the city.

Nishiki Market, Kyoto’s fresh food street, is an essential stop for those interested in seeing fresh and seasonal produce, meeting the locals who run the stalls, and sampling traditional food.  Pickles, spices like shichimi (seven spice) and ichimi (chilli powder), rice crackers, tofu, mattcha, ice cream, grilled eel, black edamame; all appealing and available for purchase.  There are also specialty stores, like the Aritsugu knife shop, which was established in the 1500s and is still a premium seller of Japanese knives.  The market is open daily (although many stalls close on Wednesdays), from nine in the morning until approximately six in the afternoon.

Kyoto Uzuki - cooking at Uzuki

Kyoto vegetables, hamo eel, dashimaki tamago, nasu dengaku, and chawanmushi

Kyoto Uzuki - Emi

Emi Sensei
Kyoto Uzuki - sauteed beef with sansho

Beef with Sanshō

Past the five blocks that Nishiki market covers, there are several ways to tour and taste Kyoto.  A worthwhile experience for any food aficionado is to take a local cooking class.  Emi Hirayama runs Kyoto Uzuki, traditional Japanese cooking classes for small groups of two to four participants in the comfort of her home.   The dishes she prepares with students vary by season, and she also offers a day of only sweets, focusing on not only delightful taste, but also pristine presentation.

After reading wonderful reviews about Emi’s cooking classes on her website, I contacted her and was able to secure a spot in one of her summer cooking classes.  To my luck, the chosen day was not full and Emi, in a very accommodating manner, accepted some of my requests for particular dishes.  I have a fascination for egg dishes that are different to many western ones, especially when they combine sweet and savory flavours, like the Japanese omelet tamagoyaki, or new textures, like the savory steamed egg custard chawanmushi.

The afternoon I spent at Emi’s house was a treat much more enriching than expected.  Carmen Grau, a Spanish travel writer, was the only other student that day, so the two of us took turns prepping food and assisting Emi while she explained Japanese cuisine: from basic ingredients, to tips and tricks, to seasoning preferences, and even discussing the differences between Kyoto and Tokyo styles of cooking.

Emi, who lives with her husband, spends days doing pottery and teaching Japanese cooking.  She opens her home to strangers and shows the best she has to offer.  The ingredients she uses are seasonal and top quality; beef, fish, vegetables, are bright, plump, and flavoursome.  She doesn’t skimp on anything, she makes sure her students understand what is going on, asks about their preferences, while querying inquisitively about the food and culture of those places where her students come from.

The dishes we cooked were the following:

  • Hamo (conger eel) tempura – in season
  • Chawanmushi (savory egg custard)
  • Nasu dengaku (eggplant with a sweet miso dressing)
  • Beef sautéed with vegetables
  • Tamagoyaki (Kyoto-style dashimaki no tamago; more savory than sweet as in Tokyo)

It was all delicious.  After almost five hours moving around her kitchen, sipping a purple shiso drink and then some home-made umeshu, I was enchanted with how this experience encompasses Japan.  It is one of the best ways to see Kyoto, from within a Kyotoites’ home. You get to share a meal, exchange stories, learn something new, and take away from the experience a taste of Japan.

Contact Information

Nishiki Market

Shop directory and directions:


Kyoto Uzuki – Traditional Japanese Cooking Classes

Cost From ¥4,500 per class per person (private classes may be arranged)

Duration is approximately 3-4 hours

Janice Espa photoJanice Espa

Janice Espa is a Spanish-Peruvian food enthusiast; an avid traveller and inquisitive taster who explores culture through cuisine.  Janice lives in Sydney where she writes and styles food. Her days are spent visiting grower’s markets, checking out restaurants, and shopping at specialty stores to discover goods from every corner of the world.

Feel free to email suggestions and travel tips, or to contact Janice for her own recommendations, whether you’re visiting Peru, trekking South America or doing a road trip along the east coast of Australia.


Kyoto Michelin Stars 2013

Michelin has released its list of Kyoto stars. I hope to report more in detail when I get my hands on a book. For now, a list of the winners below. Take note that there are several restaurants listed that have meals for 5,000 JPY or less.

Kyoto 3-Stars

Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey:



Kikunoi Honten (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Kitcho Arashiyama Honten


Kyoto 2-Stars

Excellent cuisine, worth a detour:




Gion Maruyama

Gion Matayoshi

Gion Nishikawa

Gion Sasaki

Hassun  Honke Tankuma Honten


Kenninji Gion Maruyama


Kikunoi Roan   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)



Mitsuyasu   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Miyama-so (ryokan)



Shunseki Suzue

Sojiki Nakahigashi

Sottaku Tsukamoto


Wagokoro Izumi

Wakuden Kodaiji

Kyoto 1-Star

A very good restaurant in its category.

Agiyao Aji Rakuzan

Ajiro    (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Awata Sanso    (menu 5,000 JPY or less)



Gion Matsudaya

Gion Nakahara    (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Gion Nanba

Gion Nishimura


Gion Owatari

Gion Suetomo

Gion U    (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Gion Yutaka

Hamasaku Hana-Kitcho    (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Hanamura    (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Hayashi    (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Hiiragiya (ryokan)

Hirokawa    (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Hokkoriya    (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Hoshinoya (ryokan)


Igarashi ®


Ikuta  (menu 5,000 JPY or less)


Jiki Miyazawa   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Jikishinbo Saiki   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Kamigamo Akiyama   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Kanamean Nishitomiya (ryokan)

Kanei   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)



Kyotenjin Noguchi ®

Kyoyuke Yokikana

Maehara   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Mashita (menu 5,000 JPY or less)


Mokube   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Motoï ®

Mutsunoya ®

Nakazen   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)


Ogami   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)


Ogawa   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Okina   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Onikutoyasai Hachibe   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Rikichi  Ryuheisoba   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)



Sakuragawa Gion


Saraku ®

Seike Nishijin   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)


Shoku Kobo Hirosaki

Shunshin an

Sobaya Nicolas   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Sushi Imai   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Sushi Matsumoto   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Takeyamachi Mita

Tankuma Kitamise Honten

Ten you   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)




Tozen-tei   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)

Uosaburo   (menu 5,000 JPY or less)


Wakuden Muromachi


Osaka 2013 Michelin list.

Yubakichi in Kyoto’s Nishiki Market 京都錦市場の湯波吉

Yubakichi Nishiki

Yubakichi Nishiki

Yuba Namakohikiage

Yuba Namakohikiage

Yubakichi Interior

Yubakichi Interior

Yubakichi’s rich history dates back to 1790. The delicate yuba is made using domestic soybeans. The yuba has a light sweetness to it. You will find both dried and fresh yuba. The fresh yuba is creamy and has a nice texture. This can be served with just wasabi and soy sauce.

Yubakichi 湯波吉

10:00 – 18:00, closed Sundays and the 4th Wednesday of each month

075-221-1372 (Japanese)

Aritsugu in Kyoto’s Nishiki Market 京都錦市場の有次

Aritsugu Exterior

Aritsugu Exterior

Aritsugu Interior

Aritsugu Interior

Aritsugu 有次

9:00 – 17:30, no holidays

075-221-1091 (Japanese)

Aritsugu has been in business since 1560. Famous for their knives, you will also find an enticing selection of other essential tools for the kitchen including nabe, handcrafted oroshigane (graters), and peelers. Aritsugu also has a shop in Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, but this shop in Kyoto has a wider selection, and is more accustomed to tourists.

Dintora in Kyoto’s Nishiki Market 錦市場のぢんとら

Dintora ぢんとら

Dintora ぢんとら

Dintora ぢんとら

Dintora ぢんとら

Dintora is filled with spices, perfect for any home cook, including dried yuzu, chinpi, ichimi, shichimi, sansho, and karashi. Many of these spices are light and portable so stock up here if you are visiting from abroad. The chinpi (dried citrus peel) can be mixed with honey and hot water when you have a cold, or added to a bath.

Dintora Spice Shop ぢんとら


closed Tuesdays, if Tuesday is a holiday, it will be open and closed Wednesday (Japanese)

Daiyasu in Kyoto’s Nishiki Market 錦市場大安







At one end of Kyoto’s Nishiki Market is Daiyasu. Behind the blue noren with white writing is a popular bar for fresh oysters served with sake, white wine, or beer. A casual place to rest your feet and refresh over a beverage and some small bites. Oysters are very popular but there is also a variety of grilled and cooked seafood as well.

Daiyasu 大安


8:30 – 18:00, closed Sunday and holidays