Kyoto, Japan

On Location: A Traditional Shabu Shabu Dinner in Kyoto

Zegrahm Contributor|May 19, 2009|Blog Post

After a pleasant international flight from Seattle to Osaka, Japan, I was woken from a gentle slumber in the early evening by the phone. On the other end was a familiar South African voice: "Hi Matt, Lynne here. Would you like to join our group for Shabu Shabu dinner tonight? We are meeting in 30 minutes." Would I—yes! So off we went to Saami Ryotei, a traditional Japanese inn and restaurant built in 1615 on a hill in Maruyama Park. On arrival we had time to walk through the lovely gardens with the scent of camphor trees wafting through the evening air.

As we reached the inn, a taxi pulled up and out stepped two visions of Japanese beauty—a Geiko and a Maiko resplendent in beautiful kimonos and their simple but striking painted faces. At the door of the inn we were asked to remove our shoes and were then lead into a "dining" room with groupings of low tables set with large ceramic pots of boiling water and large trays of meat, vegetables, and tofu.

Once everyone was seated the two geishas entered and made their way around the room, pouring sake for those interested. Another set of women in much simpler kimonos came around to the tables and began putting the meat and vegetables into the boiling water—preparing our dinner. During the meal we learned from Cheiko-san, our wonderful guide and host, that Shabu Shabu is Japanese for swish, swish. The food was tasty and the courses just seemed to keep coming!

Soon after everyone had eaten, the Geishas returned with their Jikata (an older Geisha), who in turn played the Shamisen—a three string guitar-like instrument. The Geiko and Maiko performed a lovely dance and then invited people up to try there hand (and feet) at traditional Japanese dance. Soon the evening came to a close and everyone got up to stretch their legs. After a pleasant walk back to the motorcoaches, a light rain started—a welcome relief from the hot weather earlier in the day. Shortly after leaving dinner we were back at the hotel, tired but well fed and ready to rest our weary bodies and re-energize for another day in the land of the rising sun.

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