Funahashi-ya is a Kyoto institution famous for its Senbei – Japanese rice crackers. And with good reason. They have an excellent range of fine quality savoury and sweet senbei in a beautiful old shop. It is extremely hard to resist popping in for a look each time I walk by.

All shapes and sizes, in plain or a variety of natural seasonings and crisp as could be. Soy glazed, sprinkled with salt or sugar, sometimes shichimi or curry. Some with nuts or roasted soy beans. There are seasonal varieties too  and they have some teensy weensy crackers to garnish cooked dishes and salads – they are quite hard to source and even more difficult to make that size so I always grab a packet for the pantry.

Senbei make a great travel snack (excellent with a martini or a beer – it is common to be served a small bowl of the crunchy critters at hotel bars – believe me, I’ve visited a few and the best ones offered so far are at the new Ritz Carlton hotel – their martini’s aren’t bad either but the best are at the Hyatt Regency! Love the Touzan bar) and make the perfect take home gift for friends and colleagues – just make sure you pack them carefully so they don’t turn to rice dust by the time you get home.

 Chef Peter Gilmore of Quay restaurant nearly bought out the shop when I took him here – I think he was taking them home to his chef’s but I’m not certain they made it that far – they are damn delicious and a little bit addictive!

This is the side view of the store which you look onto if you are standing outside the Starbucks just west of the Sanjo Bridge – it is a popular meeting spot.

If you are in the downtown area this store is just a few minutes walk east from the Sanjo/Kawaramachi intersection. Look for the  mouth of the sanjo arcade on Kawaramachi street and do an about- face – walk directly ahead and if you hit starbucks you have gone about 2 steps too far!

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