Traveling Spoon: Keiko, Kyoto, and an INCREDIBLE Culinary Experience

Today we want to introduce you to an experience that will take your travels to the next level.


But first, we have to figure out what type of traveler you are. Are you the “typical tourist” or do you like to explore on your own? Do you frequent McDonalds when you’re in foreign countries, or do you like to try the “local” food? If you crave a cultural experience that will take you off the eaten path, we cannot WAIT to share with you about Traveling Spoon!!


The best way to describe it is exactly how they do on their website, that “Traveling Spoon is like having a friend’s mom cook you a home cooked meal in every country you visit”.  And your “friend’s mom” will even let you help cook, or go to the local market and pick out ingredients (if you’d like). Traveling Spoon connects travelers with vetted local hosts and provides an incredible culinary experience. Depending on how adventurous you are, you have three options:

1.     Enjoy an amazing in-home meal

2.     Cook with your host, and then indulge in your creation

3.     Spend time in the local market with your host, followed by preparing and enjoying the meal

Do whatever fits your time frame, but we would highly recommend that at a minimum you do some cooking. During our time in Kyoto, Japan, we had a blast cooking with our host, a retired English teacher named Keiko. It was an experience we’ll never forget…

We arrived by train to a station in Northern Kyoto, and Keiko was there to pick us up right on time. We instantly connected with her warm, kind demeanor - and we were thankful that she spoke flawless English! 10 minutes later we were slipping off our shoes as we headed into her traditional Japanese home. We sat on the cushions on the floor where Keiko shared with us about her family, her background in cooking (and teaching), and gave us a brief overview of what we were doing that day.


As is very common in Japan, the first part of our meal involved tea. Keiko taught us about the 4 common green teas (Matcha, Sencha, Gyokuro, and Bancha) and showed us how to prepare each of them. Best green tea you’ve ever had? Most likely. There’s something about experiencing this in Keiko’s home that made it that much cooler.

Into the kitchen we went! Keiko had tasks for all of us, and did a wonderful job explaining what we were doing. We made a variety of simple dishes, including nijujaga (a Japanese stew with meat and potatoes), a lotus root and chicken creation, and miso soup. After about an hour of preparation, we all sat down to enjoy our lunch. It was AMAZING. Every dish was delicious, and tasted that much better that we had helped prepare it! We felt so accomplished (and very Japanese)!! We loved sharing the meal with Keiko and learning all about Kyoto and her life there. We could have stayed and talked to her for hours! Once we were all finished, we were so sad that our time with Keiko was coming to a close. 

To simplify, these are the experiences that fuel our desire to travel. While the food we ate was amazing, we highly recommend this even more for the people you will meet and spend time with. We learned more about Japanese culture in our 3 hours with Keiko than the rest of the trip combined. So, if you have the desire to get beyond the standard tourist experiences (and we hope that you do!), please check out Traveling Spoon. They are located in 18 countries primarily throughout Asia (with a few other locations outside Asia) and did we mention it’s extremely affordable?!


Enjoy the company, appreciate the authentic cuisine, and if you visit Keiko please tell her that we say hello! 

You’re Welcome… A Quick Recap on 3 Japanese Mini Bars

Okay, so we can admit that there are FOR SURE other hidden gems in Japan that we don’t know about. Duh. But these are our three favorite watering holes from our recent trip to Japan. We want to share this with you, but would advise that you don’t tell anybody else. Part of the amazingness was that we always found a seat. If the secret gets out, good luck. These bars are all small, incredible, and hard to find. So let’s get to it.



Little Smith- Hike two stories underground (below an office building) and you will meet bartenders dressed to the nines in white tuxedoes, ready to concoct homemade libations based on your liking. There is no menu here, so you say “Omakase” (“trust the chef”) and tell them what your spirit of choice is. Since there is probably a cover charge here, you’re going to want to hunker down at the beautiful oval shaped bar and enjoy a couple cocktails at Little Smith. We suggest sharing something off the menu as well, as all of their food is amazing!



Bar Core- Japan is known to have a plethora of small bars. This may be the smallest. Please find it and enjoy a Japanese whisky with five of your friends (it only holds 6). It is a standing-only bar that we stumbled upon after dinner one night, and we will never forget it. Great whisky selection, great pours, and a great vibe. (If you’re not a fan of whiskey, ask for a gin cocktail. We’re not sure what all was in it, but Alli is still dreaming about it!)


Bar Bunkyu- While all three of these spots are a little different (and really hard to compare), Bar Bunkyu was probably our favorite. It is another tiny, 8-person bar with great pours (you order a single and the bartender pours a double – yes please!!) It’s dimly lit, totally hidden, and as Alli liked to say, it’s just “sexy”. We were in Kyoto for 3 nights, and always ended the night here. It is primarily a whisky bar, but the bartender Nao has plenty of delicious cocktails to offer up as well. Please go here. And take us with you.

There’s a reason we titled this blog “You’re welcome”. Go find these spots and you can thank us later.