Yoshihiro Murata’s perfect weekend in Kyoto

The Michelin-starred chef-owner of Japan’s Kikunoi restaurants owns Tokimeite in Mayfair and gave Heston Blumenthal and René Redzepi their grounding in Japanese cooking

Yoshihiro Murata, in the Higashiyama area, where he walks every weekend between his home in Gion and Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Yoshihiro Murata, in the Higashiyama area, where he walks every weekend between his home in Gion and Kiyomizu-dera Temple | Image: Jeremie Souteyrat

I have lived in Kyoto my whole life, just as my family has for 22 generations. Tokyo may be Japan’s capital, but for me this is the capital of culture.

On Saturday mornings I like to get up late and walk around the grounds of Kiyomizu-dera temple, which is probably my favourite of the city’s many World Heritage Sites and is near my house in the Gion area of eastern Kyoto. I go on my own so I have space to think – it’s so peaceful, and the air is clear because there are no cars around.

Then I’ll go home for breakfast with my wife Kyoko. I like to have English breakfast tea and a bowl of fruit, which I’ll get from Nishiki Market on the way. It’s a busy place and I often get recognised, but I still go there because it’s the best in the city. The Kawamasa company stall is my first choice for fruit and vegetables. I love its figs and persimmons.

For lunch, I like restaurants that are more casual than my own. I’ll go for udon noodles at either Yamamotomenzo or Okakita, in the Okazaki area – whichever has the smallest queue. At Okakita I’ll have tentoji donburi, which is two tempura prawns cooked slowly in egg and served on a bed of rice. Sometimes they do me a “Murata special” with an extra prawn.

In the afternoon, I’ll look around Kaji’s Antiques in Gion, where I’ve bought a lot of pieces. My favourite is a 400-year-old room divider covered in gold leaf with a highly detailed map of Kyoto drawn on it. Kaji’s is also famous for its pottery – there are many works by British artists Bernard Leach and Lucie Rie – and runs classes to help young potters learn their craft.


I’ll also head to the Tsujiri shop to buy tea. I usually go for the gyokuro, a green tea that has a silky texture and a full flavour with a hint of umami and a long finish. The leaves are really fine and are so tender you can eat them raw.

In the evening, I’ll go to Grill Kodakara – especially if I’ve a European chef visiting me, because it makes yo¯shoku cuisine, a style of Japanese food heavily influenced by western culture. It comes from the Meiji period, when lots of westerners lived here and started altering Japanese food to suit their palates. They have curries, hamburgers and a stir-fried rice dish flavoured with ketchup and wrapped in an omelette, which René Redzepi ordered when he went there with me. After dinner, Kouki bar, which is run by geishas, is a relaxing place for a glass of Suntory Yamazaki whisky.

I like Sunday morning to be low-key, so I’ll have a light breakfast, then head to Kyoto Hotel Okura for a sauna and a massage – and maybe do a little something in the gym too, depending on my mood.

Then for lunch, something light such as ramen noodles: I love ramen so much I’ve contributed to a book about their history and the best places to eat them in Japan. Many Japanese people think ramen originated in China, and Chinese people think they originated in Japan. If you ask me, they are definitely Japanese. Masutani is the number-one ramen place, for me, in Kyoto. They have two restaurants, but I prefer the one near Ginkaku-ji temple; it’s very authentic, nothing fancy. I usually go for tonkotsu ramen and I ask them to water down the pork broth a bit and to cook the noodles less than they normally would.

Later, I like to visit museums such as the Kyoto National Museum, where there is always something interesting to see. I also love to go with my daughter Kayo to The National Museum of Modern Art. I know nothing about modern art, but she does.


Sunday evenings in Japan are all about the big family meal, and everyone comes to us for dinner – so I’ll head back home in time to cook. I prepare complex multicourse menus at work, so it’s nice to have something simple like curry.