Italy and Japan are very distant from each other in culture, history and traditions. But, wandering around the Eternal City, we can have a nice surprise, discovering some Japanese places in Rome. Today, I will take you to the best of these places that indissolubly bind two so different cultures...
The Japanese Cultural Institute in Rome is located in the Valle Giulia area, near the National Gallery of Modern Art, in the same area where there are many other foreign academies. The aim of the institute is the dissemination of Japanese culture in Italy. All the events organized by the Japanese Cultural Institute are totally free and concern arts, music and entertainment.
In the complex, there is an auditorium, a boardroom, an exhibition hall, a library and the famous garden. It is the first garden created in Italy by a Japanese architect and includes all the traditional elements: the pond, the waterfall, the rocks, the small islands, the bridge and the stone lantern. The institute can be visited freely, while the garden can be visited upon reservation. It is especially beautiful in the flowering period of sakura (the Japanese cherry trees), usually in early April.
There are several places in Rome where you can witness this ancient and ritual ceremony. The most authentic and respectful of tradition is Urasenke. The Urasenke centre was born in Rome in 1969 to spread the practice of the tea ceremony and has the same name as one of the most important tea ceremony schools in Japan. Tea preparation courses are held here, and conferences and projections are organized, always relating to this ancient ceremony. Zen meditation is practised one day a week as well as ikebana courses, the ancient technique of decoration with plants and flowers.
The gardens surrounding the EUR lake are decorated with 174 sakura (Japanese cherry trees), 150 of which were donated to the city of Rome by the city of Tokyo in 1959, as a sign of friendship between Japan and Italy. One of the paths inside the gardens is called the "Japan Walk", and here, during the sakura blossoming, just like in Japan, families gather to picnic in the shade of the flowering trees. For the Japanese people, sakura blossoms symbolize the beauty and transience of life and hope for the future.
Given that all restaurants who make a mix of Chinese and Japanese cuisine, and all all-you-can-eat restaurants are to be avoided, in Rome, there are several excellent Japanese restaurants. The first among them, and most authentic, is the Waraku Japanese Bistro.
Waraku is the new Japanese Bistro in Rome. Born from the old Waraku Sports Association, the restaurant continues its work of spreading the gastronomic culture of the Rising Sun, continuing to offer the classic dishes of Ramen, Gyoza, Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki that made it famous. The menu also includes many proposals to suit all palates, including vegetarian Ramen, tasty appetizers and Japanese-style desserts!
Hamasei is undoubtedly the most famous and most elegant Japanese restaurant in Rome. Located in the historic centre of the capital, a few steps from the Spanish Steps, Hamasei offers authentic Japanese flavours created by Japanese chefs. The Kaiseki menu is highly recommended and characteristic, it dates back to the end of the 16th century and takes its cue from the tea ceremony and Zen philosophy. In fact, this menu was served in ancient times during the tea ceremony: it was a quick meal consisting of a soup, three side dishes and rice. Preparation requires special care and the freshest ingredients, to create a perfect mix between flavours, aromas and colours.
After discovering the best Japanese places in Rome, the land of the Rising Sun will seem a little less unknown and less distant, and maybe you will want to organize a trip to discover this beautiful and very hospitable country. Have a good trip!
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