On the steep approach up to the gates of Mitaki-dera Temple you pass several well presented restaurants, however, just within the temple grounds is the quirky tea house Kūtenan [空点庵].
Located on the left hand side of the temple path just past the Tahōtō Pagoda, Kūtenan is in a rather “weathered” building with a somewhat overgrown garden in front. It seems that many Japanese visitors to the temple don’t quite know what to make of it and first-timers enter with some trepidation.
Squeezing through the wooden sliding door which stuck in its frame half way, I went in for lunch with my 9 year old son. Passing a pile of “antique” goods, we took a seat at one of the tables next to the large windows which look out onto a pond below. The interior of Kūtenan is a real trip. It’s like an old Japanese curiosity shop with lots of striking masks hung on the wall, and all sorts of odds and ends scattered about the place.
The menu is quite limited, but if you are a fan of homely Japanese fare and, in particular, Japanese sweets, you will love it. The dishes on offer differ between the colder and warmer months. We chose from the winter menu available until May. They do have an English menu which, although a little out of date, gives a good idea of what’s on offer, especially when supplemented by the photos on the Japanese menu.
In winter you can basically choose from udon noodles and nyumen (very thin noodles) in a hot broth with vegetables, riceballs with konbu filling and wrapped in nori dried seaweed, zenzai hot sweet bean soup with mochi and warabi-mochi sweets.
To drink, there is maccha green tea, coffee and soft drinks. I opted for the ¥1600 Kūtenan Set with nyumen noodles. The noodles were really tasty, topped with a fresh shrimp, rolled egg and vegetables, the riceball was handmade and quite large, and the portion of warabi-mochi covered in kinako powder was huge. My son is a big fan of zenzai and he gave his a big thumbs up.
One thing you may find Kūtenan a little short on is service with a smile. The place is long on character, however, and, in a way, the manner of the staff fits with the off-the-wall atmosphere. Also, when I struck up a conversation they were quite chatty, so I don’t think there is any need to be intimidated!
Kūtenan, makes for an interesting place to relax and refuel after walking around Mitaki-dera or doing the hike over Mt Mitaki-yama. It also presents a good opportunity to enjoy a Japanese maccha green tea and sweets without some of the stress (and cramp) that can come from taking part in a tea ceremony.
Here is a summary of the menu as of beginning April, 2012. According to the staff, the mochi items on the menu will be switched out for Japanese shaved ice desserts, which I’ve heard from friends are quite something. So I will definitely be back!
- Maccha (with a little cake) ¥650
- Warabi-mochi (3 pieces) ¥550
- Warabi-mochi (2 pieces + coffee) ¥800
- Warabi-mochi (3 pieces + matcha) ¥850
- Zenzai ¥700
- Isobe-maki riceball wrapped in seaweed with konbu filling
- Kutenan Set (Nyumen or Udon noodles, riceball, warabi-mochi and mattcha or coffee) ¥1600
- Nyumen ¥700 (+ riceball ¥880)
- Udon ¥650 (+ riceball ¥830)
- Riceball wrapped in seaweed with konbu filling
- Coffee ¥500 (¥100 off if ordered with food)
- Soft drinks ¥400
Opening hours: 09:30-17:00
Address: 411 Mitaki-yama, Nishi-ku, Hiroshima-shi, Hiroshima-ken
View Mitaki-ji Temple in a larger map
Access: In the grounds of Mitaki-dera Temple. 20 minutes walk up the hill from Mitaki JR Station on the Kabe Line (two stops from Hiroshima).