Jindaiji is Tokyo's second-oldest temple, located near Chofu, a Western suburb of Tokyo. It can be reached in around 30 minutes from Shinjuku, so it's a perfect half-day excursion.
Whilst the temple and the surrounding gardens are very beautiful, the bigger drawcard seems to be the soba! Soba is a type of noodle made from buckwheat. There are probably over 20 soba restaurants here. Make sure you allocate some time, however, to walking around the temple and the gardens, and checking out the many little shops and stalls, either before or after your soba feast. There is also a botanical garden located next to the temple that I hear is very good.
I decided to eat at Yusui, which is said to be the most famous soba restuarant in Jindaiji. Whether this is true or not I'm not sure, but I can certainly say it was excellent soba, handmade on the premises each morning.
Yusui is in a two-storey building. I was shown to the top floor, which is a very traditional tatami mat room. You must take off your shoes before going up the stairs, and once you are upstairs you will be shown to a low table, where you sit on a cushion on the floor. As soon as I sat down I was served a cup of delicious green tea. And the tea kept coming throughout the meal, which was great.
In terms of the menu, there are an abundance of choices. There is both hot and cold soba, with various topping options. I opted for the chef's recommendation, which is soba made from 90% buckwheat (the remaining 10% is ordinary wheat flour), served with tempura (one prawn and various vegetables). It didn't disappoint! It was quite a warm day, so I went with the cold option. Alongside the soba is a small jug of the water that it was cooked in. It is very popular to drink this at the end of the meal. You can even add any leftover tsuyu (the dipping sauce for the noodles) into the mix.
For dessert I dined on a Japanese style sweet and some more green tea.
If you are looking for a short day trip outing that combines a bit of culture with some delicious food, you can't go past Jindaiji and Yusui!