Disclaimer: This Cooking class experience in Kyoto was provided as a free sample by JAPANiCAN. No part of this blog post/review is influenced. All opinions are honest and our own.
Looking for things to add to our itinerary during our trip to Kyoto, we were looking for things a little outside the ordinary ‘go here,’ ‘pose with this,’ ‘look at that,’ and we happened upon a few local cooking classes.
We’ve been to cooking classes before, but never in Japan, so we thought this would be a great opportunity to learn some new recipes.
Luckily, while looking for a class to attend, a representative from JAPANiCAN.com (a popular travel booking website specializing in Japan tours, hotels and experiences) contacted us with a number of different tours and attractions for us to choose from. And Cooking Sun was one of the items offered.
Please note that in exchange, we needed to write a review of their service, include an affiliate link, and fill out a survey.
Cooking Sun offers two types of classes and has multiple locations in both Kyoto and Tokyo. They offer both a bento cooking class and an izakaya class, and while a bento class seemed fun, an izakaya (traditional Japanese bar food) class was more novel, so we decided to choose it instead.
If you’re not interested in Izakaya Cooking Class, you might be interested in Bento Cooking Class.
As I said at the start, Cooking Sun has multiple locations in Kyoto, and so the directions may vary. For our class, we were attending the smaller of the locations, in a residential area about 10 minutes from the Karasuma subway station. The directions given was just a picture in an email and didn’t really explain much, so if you happen to have access to Google Maps while traveling, I’d highly suggest using it instead. As for the building itself, it’s just a simple black building with a small wooden sign which says “Cooking Sun,” so keep an eye out, or you may walk right past it.
The Cooking Instructors
We had two instructors at this location, and both were very polite and friendly. They offered tea or water while we sat waiting for the rest of the groups (five groups of two in all) arrived. Each had a good grasp of English, and both seemed to genuinely enjoy both cooking and teaching. So no worries in this department.
Before the cooking class, they explained that food from the menu is autumn inspired and that some food items were from Niigata Prefecture, such as the rice and miso paste that was used. Some cooking equipment from Niigata was also featured like the knives used. One instructor explained that it is because the Niigata Prefecture has partnered with them to promote their prefecture.
We introduced ourselves one by one at the start of the cooking class. There were folks from London, Israel, China, Taiwan, and France. It was fun to meet these people coming from different countries. One guy always joked about alcohol due to that was always being teased by the instructor most of the time about having some sake.
The Cooking Class Experience
Our class consisted of making seven items that are autumn inspired and each a pretty regular item you might find on an izakaya menu.
The items were as follows:
- teriyaki baked salmon (main dish),
- dashi soup,
- fried lotus root with chicken, minced onions and mushrooms,
- sweet potato salad with grated daikon radish,
- green bean with chrysanthemum shiraee (shiraae is Japanese cooking method where you mix vegetables with miso, freshly grinded sesame seeds and crumbled tofu),
- ginger rice; and
- Chinese pear sherbet.
The food was quite good, though many I would not actively seek out on a regular basis. The biggest issue here is that when compared to other cooking classes we’ve been a part of, this one was much more hands-off than any others.
My wife on other hand liked the food very much, especially the green bean salad. I guess because she’s an Asian and had acquired taste that she didn’t have any problems with any of the food.
One person in our class for some reason doesn’t eat chicken or other land animal meat but eats fish. Not sure what type of diet that is, probably it’s just sort of personal preference and not really diet.
Anyway, the instructors were able to give an alternative for it and replaced the chicken with tofu. So if you’re a vegetarian taking this class make sure you notify Cooking Sun when you make the reservation in order to accommodate you.
What Could Have Been Better
Much of the prep work was done before-hand (which, considering the time it takes for some items, makes sense), and a few things that only one or two groups did since it would be wasteful to have everyone do the same thing.
However, the biggest issue we ran into was that there was only one set of equipment per group of two. This means that each one of us only really got half of the experience since only one person could be using the equipment at a time. This is probably due to the relatively small kitchen area, but it seems like each person isn’t really getting their money’s worth.
Final Thoughts, Is it Worth it?
Overall, we actually enjoyed our time in this class, though much of this was due to the good-natured cooking instructors, who were happy to explain the food and ingredients used during the class. We also had a toddler running around in the waiting area refusing to nap, so that may have affected our feelings during this visit.
If you’re really into Japanese cooking then this may very well be for you. I would suggest trying to get a class in the larger classroom, as it may offer more equipment for each group, allowing for more participation. If you’re traveling alone then this won’t be an issue of course.