Welcome to Ohara Chaya, a restaurant you’d likely never find if you weren’t looking for it. Follow the stone steps into the bamboo grove, as the breeze sways the long green stalks, for one of the most stunning meals of your time in Japan.
Tucked away in Oita Prefecture’s Hita city, an area largely undiscovered by tourists, is this slice of tranquility where you can dig into a delicious traditional kaiseki meal in a bamboo forest.
A kaiseki meal is often described as a Japanese multi-course feast that is made with select seasonal ingredients specially prepared by the chef. In other words, each customer can expect to eat whatever the chef’s choice is that day.
After taking in the greenery, head to the dining area that overlooks the forest and enjoy the view until your basket of goodies arrives. Did we mention the main course is served in a giant bamboo woven basket? That’s just one of the local flavors you’ll find at Ohara Chaya, which is walkable from the nearby Hita station and only open for lunch.
When we asked the staff at Ohara Chaya why they use the baskets, instead of the traditional dishes, they said it is easier to carry the baskets back and forth, so the functionality more or less became tradition at the restaurant. Back in the day, the baskets also played an important role in transporting and picking ingredients like mountain vegetables for the restaurant.
While the ingredients often vary by season at Ohara Chaya, in the basket, you’ll find several small dishes like tempura, as well as local veggies, potato, meat, egg and more, garnished with delicate momiji (Japanese maple tree) leaves. There are also sides of rice, miso soup, and chawanmushi (savory egg custard). It really fills you up. The general price range for lunch is between ¥2,000 and ¥2,999 per meal.
Just a few minutes away on foot is a fairly large and impressive Shinto shrine called Ohara Hachimangu (Map) as well as the nearby Ohara Park which are worth exploring before or after your visit. While it may not have much in terms of English support, Ohara Chaya is certainly a memorable highlight while discovering Oita.