Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Sanpou Nishimuraya and the Amazing Japanese Cuisine

When visiting a hot spring town like Kinosaki Onsen, we inevitably want to dine at a Japanese restaurant. But because bonito is a key ingredient of most Japanese dishes, finding one that can cater to the vegan diet can be quite hard. But don’t worry! While limited, Sanpou Nishimuraya (さんぽう西村屋 本店) has vegan and gluten-free options for both lunch and dinner! In addition to the amazing food menu, you can enjoy the attentive customer service of a luxury inn!

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Mihashira Shrine and Sanpou Nishimuraya

Apparently, the design is inspired by the old Sanpou Kōjin Shrine (already existed in 708) that used to stand where the restaurant is. The shrine of the God of Fire was rebuilt as Mihashira Shrine (三柱神社) at the side of the restaurant’s ground, and the restaurant’s was designed to match the shrine. The god enshrined, Sanpo Kōjin (三宝荒神), is Kinosaki Onsen‘s guardian deity of the fire and fireplace of the hot spring inn. He has long protected the hot spring town.

The restaurant was named Sanpou to express Nishimuraya’s motto. It means the business wants to provide a positive experience for the customers, community, and the business itself. The name is also a sign of gratitude to the Sanpo Kōjin.

If the weather is good when you get to Sanpou Nishimuraya, you can worship Sanpo Kōjin by walking up to the shrine and bowing. On a rainy day, you can still see the humble shrine from the restaurant’s window. We aren’t sure if this is always the case, but when we dined at the restaurant, the sake that Sanpou Nishimuraya offered to the god was placed in the restaurant instead of inside the shrine.

Sanpou Nishimuraya is a modern Japanese restaurant run by Nishimuraya, one of Kinosaki Onsen’s top ryokan. The restaurant, which opened in 2019, has a stylish design with the traditional hearth as a motif. This is why the center of the restaurant has a high ceiling with a firepit in the middle, where the chefs prepare the food.

The premium seats are, of course, the counter seats, where you can see the chefs cooking up close during dinner time (which may upset you if you are a vegan or vegetarian).

Like other restaurants in Japan, a cup of icy cold water is served when you arrive. You can also ask for a cup of hot tea at no extra cost. Tea refill is free too.

The Vegan Options at Sanpou Nishimuraya

At Sanpou Nishmuraya, organic vegetables are harvested locally, and ingredients unique to the region are used. The chefs aimed to provide you with seasonal flavors of the Tajima region that aren’t just delicious but beautifully presented.

The vegan option available for lunch is a Soba Noodles & Tempura Set (但馬の在来種 赤花蕎麦 天ぷら御膳). The vegan dinner course is called Mihashira (三柱). The homemade soba noodles are made from the local buckwheat species, Akahana Buckwheat (赤花蕎麦). The noodles are coupled with crispy seasonal vegetable tempura, a side dish, and a bowl of miso soup.

The soba noodles are thinly made and have a rich buckwheat flavor. So far, it is one of the most delicious soba noodles we have eaten.

The crispy vegetable tempura was freshly fried and came with a slice of lemon and salt in the saucer. For each tempura, you can eat half with salt and half with the dipping sauce.

The vegan dipping sauce has the perfect saltiness for the noodles. The freshly ground wasabi is the real fresh one instead of the cheap fake ones provided by sushi trains. The taste is a lot more pleasant than the fake wasabi made from horseradish.

But instead of adding all the wasabi provided into the dipping sauce in the beginning, we recommend having a couple of mouthfuls of noodles with just the sauce.

In fact, taste the noodles without the sauce! Add a small amount of wasabi to the sauce every few mouthfuls to gradually change the noodles’ flavor!

Towards the end of the meal, the staff will bring out a jar of soba-yu. It is the hot water used to cook your noodles. Adding the soba-yu into the dipping sauce, you can enjoy the last bit of deliciousness of the set menu.

The dinner course Mihashira is a low-calorie, healthy, gluten-free, vegan course that uses plenty of local Tajima vegetables. You can tell an enormous amount of effort is put in to create the incredibly tasted and well-presented dishes brought to you, one after another.

Tip: If the vegan course menu isn’t on the reservation page, contact them via Sanpou Nishimuraya’s Instagram Account.

Sanpou Salon (さんぽうサロン)

The second level of Sanpou Nishimuraya is a salon zone overlooking the hearth. It is perfect if you want a spot to chill or shelter from the bad weather. With just 1,000 yen (2,000 yen for a whole day of access), you can enjoy the lounge’s comfortable seats, snacks, soft drinks, and alcohol, such as Japanese sake.

The confectionery at the snack bar is also sold at Sanpou’s souvenir shop downstairs. So if you find any of them particularly delicious, grab a box or two before you leave!

In addition, you can also send a letter to your families and friends from Sanpou Salon. Free stamp-exempted letter sets are available. All you need to do is to write down what you want to say to your loved ones.

Sanpou Nishimuraya’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Sanpou Nishimuraya is open from
    • 11 am to 2:30 pm for lunch (L.O. 1:30 pm)
    • 6 pm to 10:15 pm for dinner (L.O. 9 pm)
  • The restaurant is a 12-minute walk from JR Kinosaki Onsen Station (城崎温泉駅).
  • From Kinosaki Onsen Ropeway, it is a 3-minute walk.

Important: Both the lunch set and dinner course require a reservation at least 3 days in advance. For weekends and public holidays, the restaurant is usually fully booked weeks in advance. You can make a reservation through their website HERE. When you reserve, please state you need the entire course to be vegan, including the dipping sauce.

Visit Kinosaki Onsen for Extraordinary Michelin Certified Sceneries

Kinosaki Onsen is a hot spring resort with rich historical and cultural elements that also sports many recreational activities. In addition, the spectacular view from Mt. Daishi is the recipient of a two Michelin star rating!

So when you visit Kinosaki, don’t just stay in the ryokan or public bathhouses. Explore the town!

For more information, please refer to our article on Kinosaki Onsen!

Click the photo to find out more about the stunning Onsen Town

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