Recommended Japanese cookbooks:
Elizabeth Andoh: Washoku and its vegan companion Kansha; free recipes and tips are available on the companion websites http://www.washokucooking.com/ and http://www.kanshacooking.com/. Andoh-san will also send autographed bookplates that match both books. The Taste of Culture campus is in Tokyo and offers a variety of workshops: http://www.tasteofculture.com/ Also be sure to sign up for her excellent newsletters.
Preserving the Japanese Way: Traditions of Salting, Fermenting, and Pickling for the Modern Kitchen, Nancy Singleton Hachisu. Preserving the Japanese Way introduces Japanese methods of salting, pickling, and fermenting that are approachable and easy to integrate into a Western cooking repertoire.
Just Bento, Makiko (Maki) Itoh. Containing recipes from Maki’s “Just Bento” website, this is a treasure trove of base recipes, variations, and sample menus that will keep you happily preparing bento boxes for many months to come! This has more practical, down-to-earth presentations than the labor-intensive kyaraben bento, making it an excellent choice for grownups and older kids/teens.
Shojin Ryori, Danny Chu. Danny studied shojin ryori in Japan before bringing it to Singapore through Enso Kitchen. He has a wonderful overview of shojin ryori at http://www.ensokitchen.com/background.htm
Okashi: Sweet Treats Made with Love, Keiko Ishida. (http://amzn.to/1ri5p3N) A wonderful glimpse into popular Japanese baking that combines French and American influences with traditional Japanese flavors (green tea, red bean, black sesame, sweet potato, etc.).
My go-to soundtrack for Japanese cooking: Dinner Classics: The Japanese Album (CBS Masterworks). http://amzn.to/1uiUZ4c
This gorgeous update on traditional Japanese melodies features flute by Jean-Pierre Rampal, violin by Isaac Stern, and cello by Yo-Yo Ma along with Japanese-inspired recipes by Martha Stewart.
Recommended cooking classes:
Haru Cooking Class Taro-san is the consummate ambassador for Kyoto and Japanese cuisine; he went to school in the US and speaks beautiful English. Classes are held in his traditional Kyoto townhouse (machiya). His wife and daughter are frequent helpers. Taro is extremely accommodating and happy to customize the menu to meet your interests / dietary needs: http://www.kyoto-cooking-class.com/
Uzuki Japanese Cooking Emi is a wonderful guide through the world of Kyoto homestyle cuisine; classes are held in her home and you truly feel like part of her family. http://www.kyotouzuki.com/
A Taste of Culture
Cookbook author and cultural ambassador Elizabeth Andoh offers half- and multi-day intensive workshops at her Taste of Culture school in Tokyo. Andoh-san is an excellent instructor with a wealth of knowledge about ingredients, kitchen culture, and historical perspective. Hands-on classes range from Japanese pickles to seafood, holiday foods, traditional washoku and vegan cuisine. Payment must be made in advance, and it is best to book as far ahead as possible. http://www.tasteofculture.com/taste-of-culture-programs.php
Japanese tableware, kitchenware and knives:
One absolute must-do splurge in Kyoto: Shiraume, the top-rated ryokan on TripAdvisor (see my review here: http://bit.ly/1rrnegG). A former teahouse with a history that dates back centuries, expect to spend $250 a night and up (add an extra $100 per night if you will have the kaiseki ryori dinner). Some rooms have private tubs; for smaller rooms like the one I stayed in, you can reserve one of two natural hinoki (cypress) tubs. The ryokan only has six rooms and books up many months in advance, so book as early as possible. Truly an unforgettable experience in the heart of Gion: http://www.shiraume-kyoto.jp/en/