Entrance gate to Ikinari-ya (Photo: Tomoko Kamishima)

Ikinari-ya, Niigata

300 year-old classic Japanese restaurant

Entrance gate to Ikinari-ya (Photo: Tomoko Kamishima)
Tomoko Kamishima   - 3 min read

Ikinari-ya (行形亭) is a 300+ year old high-class, traditional Japanese restaurant. The restaurant opened in the mid-Edo era, when stylish Edo culture was flourishing all over Japan. Thirteen different tasteful detached rooms are scattered about the 6,600㎡ beautiful garden of Ikinari-ya. All dishes are lovingly prepared with local products and fresh materials. And if you’d like, you can request professionally trained, authentic Geisha to come in and entertain you in your room. But this, of course, is very expensive and requires a reservation!

The enjoyment of Ikinari-ya

Ikinari-ya is located just off the main streets of Furumachi in Niigata city. It is located in an upper-class residential area, but still close to the fashionable shopping district. When you reach the gate of Ikiari-ya, a nicely polished stone pavement leads you to the well-trimmed garden. If you arrive early, enjoy a stroll around the garden. Various kinds of trees and flowers are arranged on a small hill. You might also see two model cranes in a big cage. They had kept real cranes in the garden until 1975—they were symbols of the restaurant. You can see a crane emblem on the shop curtains, dishes, and other things.

At the entrance, a waitress in kimono will be waiting for you, to guide you to your guest room. When you are seated, you will see on the table a beautifully hand-written list of the day’s dishes. Please read it from right to the left. The first line is the date, and the second line is your name. You can bring it back with you, if you like as a nice memento of your stay in Niigata.

The taste of Niigata

The food here is wonderful. First, you will be served several kinds of appetizers in small dishes—all of them placed on black lacquered trays. We can catch the beauty of color, variety of shape, and flavor of each dish at once. When I dined there recently, our appetizers were shrimp, flatfish, scallop, oyster, and mackerel. Then, soup was served, followed by sashimi, grilled fish, boiled vegetables, and sushi. Desert was vanilla and green tea ice cream. In Japan, it is common to enjoy many kinds of smaller dishes. Each dish is brought in at the exact moment you have finished the previous dish, so as not to interrupt the flow of conversation drinking and eating. This sort of thoughtful service is a tradition at Ikinri-ya, as well.

Ikinari-ya is a wonderful, classic Japanese restaurant with a long history. If you want to soak in the atmosphere of Japan, and the classical face of Niigata, make a reservation at Ikinari-ya. You will experience pure Japanese service.

Tomoko Kamishima

Tomoko Kamishima @tomoko.kamishima

Japan is a small island nation, but we have a huge number of surprising things to discover here. Many of these delights can be found when you step off the main street onto small side paths. I really enjoy studying about and researching various aspects of traditional Japanese culture, and then sha...