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Uo-Ei Restaurant in Ooya

A fortifying meal before the climb to a mountain temple

On a day-trip from Utsunomiya to the charming small town of Ooya, best known for its limestone and its large statue of the Buddhist Kannon (Goddess of Mercy), I wanted to find somewhere for lunch before embarking on the climb to the mountain temple of Tagefudou-San.

Restaurants were few and far between, but just a few steps from the gate at the base of the hill, I saw some fluttering banners showing that one place was open. Uo-Ei turned out to be a charming, traditional neighbourhood restaurant: the interior was an appealing clutter of all sorts of knick-knacks, the main dining space was low tables on tatami mats, and the counter was decorated with origami, sake bottles and a fishtank, home to a slightly cramped trio of languorously swimming goldfish.

I ordered a tempura set meal for ¥1700, and very nice it was too: fluffy rice, delightfully light, crisp tempura, pickles, soup and vegetables, providing the energy I needed for the trek up to the temple.

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