Trendy Omotesando, which stretches from Aoyama Dori to Meiji Shrine is a fascinating place. The tree-lined avenue is grand, and often compared to the Champs Elysees in Paris. As you pass casually dressed tourists toting cameras, and Tokyo fashionistas in their best outfits, you can gaze up through the boughs of zelkova trees at fascinating modern architecture. In the back streets are many trendy eateries with long lineups. But a little further along the back streets of Omotesando and into Jingumae, the area before the shrine, is a soba and kaiseki restaurant, Shirou, that bucks the trendiness and exudes vintage charm with classic Japanese dining.
On a weekday afternoon, I slid back the wooden door to be ushered to the counter. For lunch, I was served kakiage and zaru soba. Shirou's kakiage is a fritter of julienne carrots, burdock roots, diced bell peppers, shrimp and octopus tempura. The basket of handmade soba is made from new buckwheat sourced from farms in Hokkaido. Each dish was served with its own light broth tsuyu for the soba noodles and a tangy broth for the kakiage.
You might want to arrive early at Shirou to see the soba chef make the noodles for the day, or linger later over tea or nihonshu to soak up the vintage atmosphere of the space. Although the building is modern, the hardware, ranma transoms, beams, posts, and hardware have been recovered from antique buildings to recreate an atmosphere that hearkens back to Meiji and Showa Period classic shophouses.
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The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program took me to Ehime Prefecture in 1999, and Japan’s culture and beautiful places kept me here. You will see many of my stories on Japan Travel are about places and events outside of big tourist draws. While I highly recommend the big name sights and experiences, I encourage visitors to see and feel the atmosphere off the beaten path, too. I've lived in cities in the Tokatsu area of Chiba Prefecture (Noda, Nagareyama, Matsudo, Kashiwa, Abiko and others) for the last 15 years and have discovered the many cultural, culinary, and historical treasures here which I share with our readers.