imagine making these healthy treats and having fun in an homestay like environment (Photo: Mr Taro Saeki)

Kyoto's Haru Cooking Class

Join this cozy party filled with zest and laughter

imagine making these healthy treats and having fun in an homestay like environment (Photo: Mr Taro Saeki)
Bonson Lam   - 4 min read

This is a story of a country boy who rediscovered his love of cooking simple but authentic Japanese cuisine for his friends and family in this traditional country house replete with a Victorian grandfather’s clock and tansu from an earlier more bucolic era.

Born to parents who hail from Nagasaki, he came to Kyoto to gain experience in International hospitality, but has retained his rural style of relaxed hospitality in his blood. There he met his wife Yoshiko and realized that cooking for friends and family was what he loved best, something that he has done since he was a teenager.

Taro San loves his Kobe beef and tell me that in Japanese cuisine it is best cooked in its own fat unlike French traditional cooking which uses more butter, as dairy products were not originally part of Japanese cooking. He also prefers to serve his Kobe beef medium rather than rare, because the marbling make the meat even softer after it is slightly melted when the meat is cooked this way. Furthermore, he explains that for those who prefer rare or raw beef, there is always tataki and sashimi beef.

His class also caters vegetarian and non-beef eaters. Actually throughout his class he explains the secrets of eating healthy, and is passionate about showcasing soy beans and seaweed in his recipes. While soy is becoming popular as a health food around the world, in his opinion, seaweed is nowhere near soy in popularity. High in calcium, potassium and fiber, seaweed is good for digestion and detoxification, as well as lowering cholesterol.

As the same time, while he shows why Japanese food is relatively healthy, he does not advocate eating too much of anything, even though I find it hard to get tired of his delicious miso or fermented soy bean paste soup or egg omelette rolls.

The highlight for me was the preparation of tofu by scratch from soya milk, which is easy to make and unbelievably delicious. I have never tasted such delicious tofu in my whole life, and arguably the best tofu in the world! With a texture more likened to finest cream cheese and a rich flavorsome taste, I am having difficulty going back to supermarket tofu in Australia or the United States. Taro tells me that tofu is best eaten the day it is made, and I now know why. It is like tasting bread or fish, the flavor and texture is totally lost after a few days.

His class is full of simple yet useful insights that allow you to easily replicate his recipes in your own home without specialist equipment or long hours in preparation. His greatest satisfaction is seeing his students being able to replicate these recipes for their family and friends, so people from around the world can discover the joys of Japanese home cooking. In tune with this philosophy all the ingredients used in his cooking class can be found in supermarkets around the world.

Having lived both Japan and the United States, he is comfortable connecting with people from different cultures in his home, and soon you fall into his charm, relaxing and seeing how jovial everyone is in the class, chatting, laughing, and yes, cooking as well. So even if you are not an expert in cooking, you can enjoy this class, whether you are fifteen or fifty five. As the classes are limited to six participants, it is easy to make new friends here, and whether you are travelling alone or in a group, this is a fun way to learn and experience Japanese culture. Be sure to book early in the peak season, such as the cherry blossom viewing season (hanami) in early April, as you don’t want to miss out.

You can either join the class each day at the bus stop near his home 20 minutes north of Kyoto, or once a week at the Nishiki markets, the kitchen of Kyoto where many housewives and house husbands still shop today.

Give yourself three hours to fully enjoy the class which starts in the afternoon. You can select from the vegetarian class from ¥6,900 per person, with options such as Kobe beef ( ¥2,000 extra).

Getting there

Haru's Cooking Class is approximately 30 minutes from JR Kyoto station.

Bonson Lam

Bonson Lam @bonson.lam

I knew my future was destined to be with Japan the moment I flew from Sydney to experience the atmospheric laneways of Kyoto last century.  I am humbled to have met many distinguished people during this time, especially the national living treasures of Japan, such as the doll maker to the Imperia...