Asaba Ryokan in shuzenji, Japan

After spending several days in Tokyo our little adventure in Japan took us to Asaba Ryokan in Shuzenji, a pictoresque village about 2 hours by train south of Tokyo that was recommended by the lovely Ayaka of the Ryokan Collection. Asaba is a traditional Japanese ryokan dating back to 1675 (and still owned by the family who started it) situated in the hot spring (onsen) village of Shuzenji and bordered by a bamboo forest on one side, a lagoon on the other and a Noh stage floating above the pond like in a dream. It’s one of those magical places you never want to leave.

That’s where travelers in search of peacefulness and delicious food come to spend the night. And they wear yucatas. I think they may be a video of myself in a yucata struggle circulating on the internet soon. I hope you close your eyes in time. Ouch.

Step into Asaba and you feel like you have stepped into another world. A world significantly slower and where great attention is paid to every details for the ultimate comfort. I’ve travelled quite a bit around the world but nothing in my opinion can match Japanese hospitality. And if that wasn’t enough you have access to the hot springs in public and private spots in Asaba, and even in your room.

Guest rooms are constructed using traditional Japanese methods: tatami and sliding doors are the norm here. There was also a sliding screen door giving on the spring right outside that filled the room with the soothing sound of water. Isn’t it the most perfect setting for a zen chef?

The table is used for meals which are served right in your room. After the meal is done, a team of nakai come to move the table aside and set out the futon for sleeping.

Another reason, if not the main reason, you should visit a Ryokan is for the food. There’s usually a Master in the kitchen and this place is no exception. The chef has been working at Asaba for the past 30 years and the meals consist of kaiseki cuisine and features seasonal and regional specialties prepared in the most harmonious manner.

Fear not. The menu also comes written in english.

This may look simple but those may be the best scallops i have ever eaten. They were firm and meaty but fresh and the flavor was sublime. The creamy sauce they were served with took them to another dimension. As it could get any better, it was served with sake with chrysanthemum leaves.

Next on the menu was a seasonal platter which was artfully arranged and served by our hostess Noriko, aka: the most gracious and knowledgeable person you can wish for to serve you dinner.  The composed platter consisted of Ikura (salmon roe + grated daikon), chrysanthemum flowers wilted with jelly fish and shitake mushrooms, glazed chicken wrapped in shiso, a steamed prawn, a sea snail and a mountain root vegetable.

The next course was a clean tasting Japanese style consomme which consisted of burdock, shiitake, mountain gourd, bamboo and pork fat. Oh yea! And it was followed by a sashimi of flounder and creamy tasting squid. Beautiful and pure.

Next was kinme, a local fish from the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture where Asaba ryokan is located. It was lightly cured in miso and sake and grilled over Japanese charcoals which was the perfect treatment for this fatty fish.

And there was a grilled spiny lobster in a lobster broth. As simple as it looks this dish packed lots of roe and plenty of briny and sweet flavors. One of my favorite of the night.

Braised platinum pork with turnips which we labeled ‘fried pork fat’ after the first bite. It was just as delicious as it sounds of course, with turnip, Japanese citrus zest and a clear aromatic broth for the perfect balance.

Conger eel stuffed with sticky black rice and a pickled ginger stem was followed by vegetables and deep fried tofu rice with pork. Some pickled daikon and myoga and a miso soup. I’m hungry again just writing about it.

For dessert was kuzukuri ( a kuzu starch noodle) in a black syrup, a smokey grilled eggplant ice cream that was phenomenal and a ginger ice cream as palate cleanser.

This was only dinner. Breakfast in Asaba ryokan is just as impressive but let’s keep some element of surprise for when you visit.

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into the “perfect world”. Now go and explore for yourself.


3450 -1 Shuzenji Izu-shi Shizuoka

tel: +81 (0) 558-72-7000


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  • Sara

    Gorgeous Post! Thanks for sharing! I hope to make it to Japan one of these days!

  • Anonymous

    Wow. I am definitely going to stay here next time I’m in Japan. I wish I could go tomorrow!

  • Ju

    Such a pleasure reading this post. The Japanese turn the simplest things into an artform. Beautiful photography. Wow.

  • jenjenk

    I am so flipping jealous. SO FLIPPIN’ JEALOUS!!!

    those shots were breathtakingly amazing. I can’t believe how incredible your photos are!!!!! I feel like I was there!!! Stunning.

  • Lauren

    Curious…what the cost is for that experience? thanks.

  • Jun Belen

    Oh my! Such beautiful photographs. Thank you for sharing!!

  • heidileon

    I´m hungry now!. Gorgeous meal indeed (and pictures).

    ps. went to Macau´s Robuchon yesterday….. good!

  • Kristina

    Wow, what an amazing experience. I’ve always wanted to do that and I hope my time comes sooner rather than later.
    I’m curious about what the smokey grilled eggplant ice cream tasted like.

  • Bogna@Pots and Frills

    This is really my style–interiors and on the plate !

  • Anonymous

    Damn you zenchef!!! now I want to book a flight to Japan. I miss staying at a ryokan and having kaiseki. I am intrigued by the smokey eggplant ice cream as well. Did you get the recipe from the chef?

  • Asha@FSK

    That’s a beautiful Ryokan!! and the food ?! WOW! I have been to Shizuoka and eaten fresh fish smoked on sticks that we begged some family to share with us.. It was bleeding awesome!!!! sighh.. u took me on a nostalgic trip!!

  • Anne

    My homeland! Great photos- aren’t ryokans the best? After a couple of days I actually started to crave a plate of bolognese, haha. The food is incredible and so intricate, beautiful, delicate. I’m excited to read more about your Japan adventures.

  • Anna Johnston

    Wonderful gorgeous post, I didn’t stay in Japan long enough to see this side of it, intriguing & certainly a *must do* huh. Thanks for sharing.

  • Adelina Badalyan

    Beautiful as usual Chef Zen… I will miss following you on Project Food Blog. I have crowned you with a blog award. You can come check it out on my site.

  • Lisa H.

    Beautiful photos … of everything ~food, culture and the place looks so peaceful :)

  • Tasteslikehome

    That first photograph has me mesmerized.

  • Donna

    Question about the Chocolate tar with bananas – why not refrigerate it like a regular ganache? I am trying to make it tonight

  • Denise Michaels

    Think about how much more calm and relaxed the average American would be if we lived and ate like this – even once a month. Can you imagine how much more polite and easy going people would be if they got away from wifi and everything else and got to enjoy this for a weekend – even a few hours? Sheesh. Thanks for sharing it all.

  • Spicy Green Mango

    Wonderful post and even more mesmerizing pictures! Love this and I adore your vibrant photography!

  • jonny

    Perhaps it’s because I’m English and inately mistrustful of pleasure, but my initial feeling was that all this happiness and peace would just be too much. Then, after a while, I started to get with the program and am now drooling at the menu. I remain concerned that being so relaxed and sleeping to the sound of running water might make me wet myself, but it could be worth the risk.

  • Colloquial Cook

    Faut-il commencer le bouche-à-bouche de ce blog, chef?

    J’ai mon brevet de secouriste! :roll:

    Bon courage pour tout le travail. Stay Zen!

  • aionaccount

    What bewitching pictures you have their, the place seem a haven for stress people and foods looks delicious! If time permits, I would certainly go there for a tour/vacation at once. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jean

    Your pictures are gorgeous, and I love your breezy, happy writing too. Blog on!

  • Anonymous

    Here you are!! Found it! [happy dance]
    That’s the nicest comment I ever received!
    Better late than never to answer, right? :)

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  • Acies

    If you don’t mind my asking, approximately how much does it cost to stay in a hotel like this + the food?

    Thanks! =)

  • Anonymous

    It varies greatly but as an example an overnight stay in this Ryokan cost somewhere between $800 and $1000. That includes the food and the pampering. There are cheaper ones but maybe not as pretty.