Soba, a thin noodle made from buckwheat flour, is one of the most popular foods consumed in Japan. Think of it like you would spaghetti, burgers or sandwiches. The point being: soba is everywhere. While traveling in Japan, you will often find that no matter how far off the beaten path you find yourself, there is still a good chance you will be close to a soba restaurant.
In Kamakura, about a one-hour train ride south-west of Tokyo in Kanagawa prefecture, is Rai Tei. A wonderful soba restaurant that sits in a beautiful sprawling garden overlooking Kamakura, Rai Tei Restaurant serves incredibly high-quality soba noodle dishes in a peaceful, authentic and somewhat traditional rural Japanese environment.
To get to Rai Tei, head to JR Kamakura station, leave through the east exit and jump on a bus headed towards Kamakura-yama (either Bus #4 or #6) from Bus Stop #6. Get off at the stop named “Takasago”. Watch the screen at the front of the bus, because that will tell you which stop will come next. Once off the bus, walk a mere one-hundred metres up the road and you will find the intricately-designed gate that welcomes you in to the garden.
The garden itself is actually 500 yen for entry, but it counts towards your meal. You actually need to go through the garden to get to the restaurant, so it might seem a little confusing at first! After eating at Rai Tei Restaurant, you will likely want to walk off the delicious meal, so in my opinion this is a perfect setup.
Rai Tei has the famous Japanese-style low tables, so make sure you stretch out your legs before you sit down, and do not forget to take off your shoes. Once seated you will be treated by the beautifully-dressed staff to some delicious Japanese tea. The menu is in Japanese, but the website has an English menu which you can check here.
I ordered the hot soba noodle soup with tempura prawn. The freshness of the ingredients, along with the skill with which they were prepared and presented, really put this restaurant high on my list. It was definitely one of the best dishes I have experienced since moving to Japan.
While eating, you can take in the exquisite view of the surrounding gardens. On a clear day you can see Enoshima Island and I was told that you can sometimes see Mt Fuji (although I was not so lucky this time).
After finishing my meal, I headed out to explore the gardens. Along the way you will see ornate statues and bamboo trees, among many other beautiful things. Being so far away from the hustle and bustle of busy Tokyo, the quietness and peaceful atmosphere is something to relish.
It took almost half an hour to walk through everything, so considering the quality of the food, the view and the garden, I am confident that I got my money’s worth! So, if you are looking for an uncommon experience, a wonderful view and even better food, I absolutely recommend heading to Rai Tei the next time you visit Kamakura. I know I will![cft format=0]