Location, location, location! A restaurant that was once Japan’s first resort cottage subdivision and built during the Edo Period, Rai Tei 檑亭 is nestled within the luxurious green hills of Kamakura City. In 2003, the restaurant was designated as an important scenic building. It is surrounded by a stunning Japanese circuit garden covering 50,000 square meters and was the perfect venue to celebrate our wedding anniversary in Japan. Private dining in a traditional setting, impeccable service, and a view of majestic Mt. Fuji from our window, all made for the most romantic setting on a warm summers night. We felt like royalty!
Our dinner reservation for a Sunday evening was made via an English form online five days prior to the requested date. To my delight it was confirmed within 24 hours by email. Upon arrival, we were immediately greeted at the gate that forms the entrance to Rai Tei. Referred to as San-mon Temple gate since 1931, it was reconstructed after the historic Juen-zan Koshou-ji Temple gate in Kamakura’s Nishi-mikado area, erected in 1642. Mama-san gently directed us to the second floor of the main building by whispering, “Dozo,” and pointed down the cobblestone pathway. Here, a beautiful woman kneeling and dressed in kimono offered a sincere, warm welcome. We exchanged our wardrobe shoes into house slippers and proceeded inside.
As our hostess prepared one of the three, private, traditional Japanese rooms, we settled into the large waiting area. Decorated with the first stained glass windows fired in Japan and a foreign chandelier made at the beginning of the Meiji Period, we cleansed our hands with a customary cold towel and sipped hot green tea. The cool breeze invited us to look out into the picturesque landscape. It was at this moment we witnessed glorious Mt. Fuji peeking through the clouds. Oh, love was in the air!
In our private Tatami room, or Washitsu, we were assisted in finding comfort to sit on the floor. The hostess then proceeded to tell us what we were to expect for our Kaiseki “Sansho.” A 6-Course menu decided on at the time of reservation, it included Sakizuke (Amuse), Zensai (Appetizer), Wanmori (Clear soup), Sashimi (Raw fish), Yakimono (Grilled dish), Nimono (Simmered dish), Agemono (Fried dish), Soba, and Fruits. I must say that we didn’t completely understand the menu before the reservation, but agreed to take a chance. Our hostess tried her very best to describe, in English, exactly what we were eating during each course. Nevertheless, with an open mind and a slightly adventurous palate, we agreed that each dish was exquisitely prepared and delivered a burst of surprisingly great flavor. Paired with a bottle of Kirin Lager Beer and in good company, it was an experience we will never forget.
To access Rai Tei by car, exit Asahina interchange from Yokohama-Yokosuka Road. About 7 km. By train, exit JR Kamakura Station. Take a Keihin Express Bus bound for Kamakurayama and get off at the Takasago bus stop. 15 minutes.
Visit the beautiful garden of Rai Tei for just 500yen per person (waived if dining at Rai Tei). View photos here.