A ryotei is a traditional form of high-class Japanese restaurant that, in various cities with a long history, represents the region’s food culture. However, it is not simply about expensive dining. Rather, being a ryotei means having a sophisticated facility that meets certain requirements and standards, such as traditional techniques and seasonal variations in cooking, tatami rooms that can accommodate proper Japanese-style parties, a stage that can host Noh, Kyogen as well as traditional dancing and a Japanese garden that shows the transitions of the seasons. Few ryotei now survive outside Kyoto and Tokyo, making them highly precious.
Ukiyo means “joy of life.” The “U” in Ukiyo means “space,” while the “ki” means “joy” and the “yo” signifies the temporality of human beings. It expresses our wish that once a customer enters Ukiyo, the place is found to be full of joy, with all the gloomy matters left behind to enjoy a refreshing experience. This wish of ours is embodied in “Ukiyo Daruma,” a traditional character and symbol based on Buddhism. Daruma is regarded as a talisman that, even when there are difficulties in life, brings something good afterwards-the symbolism that was derived from the characteristic of a Daruma doll, which always bounces back to its original position no matter how many times it falls over. Please try finding this motif of Ukiyo Daruma scattered across Ukiyo in engravings, paintings and drawings.
The history of Ukiyo dates back to the mid-19th century, toward the end of the Edo period. The founder, Jinnosuke, started it as a catering restaurant that used fresh seafood available in Takada. Later, in the latter half of the century, Ukiyo became a ryotei under the reign of Jinnosuke’s son-in-law, Yatsuzo. Since then, across three centuries it has been a prestigious ryotei, cherished by a variety of renowned guests and famous cultural figures, including two visits of a member of the imperial family.
Ukiyo is designated as a Registered National Tangible Cultural Asset. Yet unlike some other cases, it is still a fully operating ryotei, where you can enjoy its cuisine in a setting of cultural assets. In this wooden, three-story building, there are 10 rooms of various sizes, eight of which are available as guests’ dining rooms (two rooms are available only to see inside for the protection of cultural assets). Particularly remarkable is the Oohiroma (grand hall) that occupies most of the second floor, with the size of 153 tatamis. Ukiyo’s exceptional space for good fortune and celebration is created with a proper traditional stage, engravings on pillars and paintings on the ceiling that represent the “five seasons,” spring, summer, autumn, winter and the new year.
Ukiyo’s cuisine is Washoku (Japanese food) in the Joetsu (the city in which Ukiyo is located) style. It is characteristic of Ukiyo and has been passed down for generations. Among many others, Ukiyo-no-iridori (Ukiyo-style stirred chicken) is Ukiyo’s auspicious specialty that never fails to accompany any celebration meal. Young chicken, which was a rare ingredient in the old days, is combined with vegetables that have good symbolism, such as bamboo shoots, which signify growing energy, gobo (burdock root), which signifies deep-rootedness, and lotus roots, which have holes through which one sees the future. Its exquisite flavor, seasoned with dashi, soy sauce and sesame oil, goes well not only with sake but also with wine. Since this dish was originated, Akazake (lit. red sake) has been used in the recipe for a subtle touch to enhance its taste. This sake was revived about 100 years ago by Zuiyo, a sake brewery in Kumamoto. The Ukiyo-no-Iridori recipe has not been changed for more than a century, and generations of our customers have appreciated the dish. Also popular is our retort pouch “Ryotei Okondate” series, which has made it possible to take our authentic ryotei taste away with you. It features our popular dishes such as Ukiyo-no-Iridori, Kaki-Sansho (Oiled and Herbed Oyster), Fukkoku Curry (Original Curry) and Tai-no-Arajiru (Porgy Soup).
Joetsu has a rich sake tradition, with 14 sake breweries, each of which has a distinctive character and many of which are available only locally. The city is also home to Iwanohara Vineyard, which was founded in 1890 and was the pioneer of Japanese wine. In Ukiyo, a selection of sake and Iwanohara wine is at your disposal.
Although dining in Ukiyo requires a reservation, it is not required during the lunch time of 11:30-14:00. Please feel free to visit us.