If you go down to Fushimi-Inari…

….you’ll be bombarded by all kinds of tourist traps. Because after all, you’re in Japan and you’re in Kyoto, one of Japan’s top tourist destinations.

Fushimi-Inari is a shrine that has thousands of orange torii (Japanese-style gates that you can walk through) stretching 4km up the mountain, through forest and cemeteries. It’s stunning, peaceful and even mystical.

The street at the bottom, however, is graced with all kinds of trinkets and bowls of udon (fat white Japanese noodles) for over 1,000円, even if they do serve some inari (rice in fried, sweetened tofu pouches) in order to be in-keeping with the name.

We’d cycled for several kilometres and had several more kilometres to go. I was prepared to shell out a few extra yen if it meant I got full on tastier food. The strategy paid off.

The Place: Kanoco

The Food: Ridiculously large teishoku  (set lunch) and udon

This caught my attention and I had to have it…..

Delicious lunch set, 1500円

It was sitting in the window, quite blatantly giving my stomach the eye and I knew it was going to be love at first sight. Or rather, I knew this once I’d checked the price and that my stomach was not making a high maintenance commitment.

At 1,500円 for a large lunch set, the price was only 200 – 300円 higher than the udon places. And you bet that this lunch set was LARGE. Not only did it include all the food pictured there, but it came with a perfectly balanced cream of sweetcorn soup and a coffee.

Now you might be looking at the lunch set a little confused. Is that fried pork, salad, rice, vegetables and a hamburger? Wait! Is that hamburger on spaghetti?

Yes, yes it is. The Japanese have a very interesting take on food when it comes to combinations. And when I first arrived out here I was more than a little surprised at things I saw placed together. But now it is the most natural thing in the world that hamburgers – and all other kinds of fried things – should come on top of spaghetti. Served with rice as well, of course.

As to the actual taste of the food… it was delicious! Everything was of exceptional quality and home-made. Even the fried pork had incredibly home-made tasting batter and was proper meat, as opposed to the reformed grey patty that sometimes appears. And believe it or not, the steamed vegetables are well-worth a mention: cooked to perfection, the flavours stood out charmingly.

My only criticism would be that the salad had a rather strong Caesar dressing, which smothered the taste of the actual vegetables. But given that salad with lettuce and tomato is not terribly common served in Japan, I was thrilled to have it.

Calle, my vegetarian partner, had the kitsune udon (udon with fried tofu pouches). I should point out that all udon dishes are made with dashi (Japanese fish stock) which tends to be shoved into almost everything and therefore means very few things are truly veggie. It’s a compromise for Calle, I guess. His dish was also very tasty, and included a well-grilled rice cake. The dish erred on the overly sweet side but still packed plenty of flavour and the dashi didn’t overpower, thank goodness.

Kitsune Udon, 750 円

To top the eating experience off, the interior was beautifully designed.

Overall 5/5
I would visit again, no hesitations. Even if the amount of food did make it a struggle to walk up the shrine.

Food quality 5/5 – Very well prepared and exceptional ingredients.

Value for money 5/5 – Compared to what else was on offer, it was amazing. No actually, I would pay 1,500円 for this food anywhere!

Atmosphere 3/5 – It was fairly quiet but I imagine it to be great dining at night.

Service 4/5 – Staff were very helpful and kept us well topped up with tea.

How to find it:

Facing downhill at the bottom of the Fushimi-Inari complex, there is a little street full of tourist shops and restaurants to your right. Walk down it until you hit the main street. Turn right. Kanoco will be on your left. Look out for the entrance and the food display.

Author: Phoebe Amoroso

Phoebe Amoroso is a Tokyo-based reporter, multimedia journalist and storyteller. Hailing from the UK, she moved to Japan in 2014 and has since been shouting about the country to all who will listen. She divides her time between covering breaking news and producing feature stories for TV; writing about everything from business and tech to food and travel; and guiding hungry visitors who want to sample the best of Japanese cuisine. When not working and/or eating, she can often be found running up a mountain or cycling by the sea.

2 thoughts on “If you go down to Fushimi-Inari…”

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