Japan's No.1 Restaurant As Rated By Local Foodies

"If someone would have told me to dance, I would have probably been spinning around the restaurant like a crazy man"

-a tabelog reviewer lucky enough to have dined at Yanagiya


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Don't let the unassuming facade of Yanagiya deceive you. Restaurants like these don't need a signboard - especially when it's edged out Michelin-starred establishments to clinch the top-spot on the "Japan's Top 100 restaurants" by Tabelog, Japan's definitive online restaurant rating community.

tabelogengWhile anyone with an account (you can register for free) can place a review for a restaurant and rate it with 5.0 as the highest score,  Tabelog (食べログ) works out an overall score for each restaurant such that the rating of a foodie with more reviews carries more weight.

So revered is the system that "What's the tabelog score?" is a common question in Japan when you recommend a restaurant.

With a score of 4.6 points - the highest score ever on tabelog - you know you're in for a treat at Yanagiya, a restaurant hidden in the deep mountains of Gifu Prefecture that mainly serves wild game caught in the area.

Now, before you pack your stuff and leave for Gifu Prefecture, read on as there are quite a few factors that make Japan's highest ranked restaurant difficult to approach.

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1. Accessibility 

Yanagiya is located in the mountains of Mizunami City, Gifu Prefecture. Even from Mizunami Station (the most nearby station) a taxi-ride to the restaurant takes 20 minutes.

2. Reservation

This is a reservation-only restaurant. Since a charcoal fire has to be made on the restaurant's Irori (a traditional Japanese hearth constructed in the floor), reservations can only be made for 4 customers or more.

3. Price Range

Since you are getting Japan's very best, the prices are not cheap. Expect to spent between 15,000 yen and 20,000 yen per person.

4. Ichigensan Okotowari

This is a Japanese phrase that means "No first time customers". You need a proper introduction from someone that has been to Yanagiya before to be able to make a reservation.

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Although these factors make one's chance of actually visiting Yanagiya sound minimum, and you may hate me for it, here's a spoiler of what you will be missing until you meet someone with the right connections.

The wild game caught varies from day to day, so what you get is a surprise until the day you visit. However, tabelog reviewers all agree on that whatever it might be, it is worth the effort to get there. Here are some examples of what one can expect, with translated comments from tabelog reviewers.

Ayu (鮎、Sweetfish)

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Comment from tabelog: "The soft and full flesh's elegant savory smell was amazing. Starting with the head, sinking my teeth in this fantastic sweetfish is an experience I will never forget"


Uribo (うり坊, Wild Boar Piglet)

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Comment from tabelog: "Any prejudice of boar meat being tight and having a bad smell will completely disappear once you savor Yanagiya's wild boar piglet"


Kojika (仔鹿, Venison Loin)

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Comment from tabelog: "While being a juicy, fatty piece of meat, this venison loin was not greasy one bit."


Koguma (小熊, Young Bear)

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Comment from tabelog: "The flavor that spreads through your mouth like butter when chewing, is so rich in taste you will not want to swallow it."


Unagi (鰻, Eel)

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Comment from tabelog: "Very rich in taste! Grilled without making it greasy, but powerful nonetheless."


Kamonabe (鴨鍋, Wild Duck Hot Pot)

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Comment from tabelog: "Just look at it! This duck hot pot with plenty of fresh spring onions. What a perfect combination. This hot pot possesses the power to make anyone happy."


Excited yet? Allow me to end this article with a sentence by a tabelog reviewer on Yanagiya that had a lasting impression on me.

"If someone would have told me to dance, I would have probably been spinning around the restaurant like a crazy man"

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Spot Information:

Name: Yanagiya

Address: Suecho-mashizume 573-27, Mizunami, Gifu

Access: 20-min by taxi from Mizunami Station (JR Tokaido Chuo-Line)

Price Range: 15,000 - 20,000 yen

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