Wonderful Wagashi and Washoku Served at Michelin-Starred Restaurant

Row upon row of exquisite pink-and-white rabbits are lined up at Ukyou, each a miniature work of art that is also edible. These rabbits, complete with tiny button tails, are the exterior of sweet potato buns that are a seasonal speciality at a traditional washoku (Japanese cuisine) and wagashi (Japanese sweets) restaurant in Odawara that has earned a dedicated following for its culinary creations.

Such is the reputation of Ukyou—and the family that founded the business—it has even been awarded a star by the world-renowned connoisseurs at Michelin.

Ukyou Japanese Cuisine Restaurant in Odawara

“Japan has four distinct seasons and is blessed with an abundance of ingredients and we believe it is important to reflect the seasons in our cuisine,” says Risa Suzuki, whose father opened the washoku restaurant in 1994 and expanded into the wagashi confectionery sector in 2011.

Lunch and dinner at Ukyou are a feast for all the senses, with cuisine that includes miso soup, tempura, sashimi, steamed seasonal vegetables, pickled vegetables, beef, and more, all served in earthenware or lacquerware bowls.

“Our washoku dishes express the seasons, the climate, and the natural features of our region,” said Suzuki, who has been learning the skills required to serve high-end cuisine from her parents since she joined them three years ago.

“Washoku is also deeply connected to the traditional ceremonial events that are celebrated by ordinary Japanese people, such as Coming of Age events, engagements, and funerals,” she said. “For each occasion, we prepare different meals with different dishes, as each has its own unique traditions.”

Seasonal Sweets

Japanese Seasonal Sweets

Just as much attention goes into the sweets that are crafted at Ukyou. Often served with green tea, wagashi comes in countless shapes and flavors, but many incorporate mochi, anko (azuki bean paste), and fruit. Once again, the emphasis is on making the most of seasonal ingredients and cooking methods that were in use before Western influences caught on in Japan.

“Both Japanese sweets and their ingredients are simple, and to make the best use of natural ingredients that are in season, we change our dishes every month,” said Suzuki. “That means our customers can enjoy something new every month that they visit us.”

Sticking with ingredients and methods that have served Japan’s confectioners for generations, Suzuki and her team at Ukyou avoid the dairy products and artificial flavors that have crept into cuisine elsewhere in Japan, opting for red beans, agar, and powders made from rice and finely ground sugar.

“The tastes are delicate and simple, but these sweets are also low calorie and healthy,” she said.

The light and fluffy Dorayaki has specially selected bean paste from Hokkaido, while the Odawara Monaka Plum Flower has a wafer made from rice and contains azuki bean paste that contrasts with white bean paste. And visitors should not miss the award-winning Umeyosekan, a chilled jelly that uses locally grown plums and delivers a refreshing sour plum taste.

“Each and every one of the dishes that we prepare is a celebration of the seasons and is inspired by nature,” Suzuki added.



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