The cuisine at Yatakiya can be characterised as Japanese ingredients, particularly those local to Nara, prepared in an Italian style. The head chef, Takeshi Tanagi, describes this fusion as sousaku itaria ryouri: literally, ‘creative Italian food.’ With the exception of the occasional high quality cut of meat, the food at Yatakiya is entirely plant-based, with no dairy or egg used. Instead,
Takeshi makes innovative use of local organic vegetable varieties to emphasise their flavours. In particular, seasonality is valued highly; the dishes on offer shift and change with the seasons, allowing for ingredients to be sampled at their prime.

At lunchtime, diners can enjoy salads using ingredients freshly picked from the garden, homemade breads, delicate pasta dishes, and more. Meanwhile, evenings promise a delicious nine-course set menu, a true journey through the flavours of Yatakiya. A sample menu might include a dish of plump red kotoka strawberries, a prized variety local to Nara, served atop lightly salted silken tofu and garnished with rocket and edible violets; or perhaps a soft, sweet, and sticky whole roast onion, in a black garlic sauce. Throughout, your server will alert you to subtle components: a scattering of wild herbs, or a dash of persimmon dressing. For drinkers and non-drinkers alike, they can also advise you on pairings of local wines, sakes, or craft soft drinks.

Whilst lunch and dinner are both in the sousaku itaria ryouri style, breakfast gives guests a chance to try traditional Japanese cuisine. Served in an enormous wooden box, the lid is lifted to reveal a selection of around 12 small plates. A sample selection would be thickly sliced shiitake mushroom, a round purple umeboshi (pickled plum), deep-fried agedashi tofu, and endless other small vegetable dishes of bright colours and varied textures. This breakfast serves as a wonderful introduction to the flavours and textures particularly prized in Japan: the sourness of Japanese tsukemono (pickles), the stickiness of tororo (grated yam), and the complex savouriness of dashi and miso.

Whether prepared in a Japanese or Italian style, the food at Yatakiya opens one’s eyes to a new attitude to eating. Awareness of the depth and deliciousness of plant-based food, along with its health benefits; an attention to seasonality, which is kinder to the environment whilst also prioritising ingredients at their best—these mindsets can be carried home and learnt from, long after one has left Yatakiya itself.


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Intro: Welcome to Yatakiya




Surrounding Area: Landscape

Surrounding Area: History

Surrounding Area: Community and Culture


This text is written by Gabriela Mancey-Jones who is studying in Japan at the invitation of the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, through interviews conducted in February 2024. She is looking to specialize in cultural anthropology with a Japan focus.