Dine in the Woods in Sanzoku, Iwakuni
Easily the most beautiful restaurant that I have visited in Japan so far is the Sanzoku restaurant in Iwakuni. The entire complex is owned by a family who bought it many years ago, and who turned the surrounding forest into a restaurant, a small temple, and the most delicious BBQ chicken that you can lay your hands on.
The restaurant is located on the side of the road to Iwakuni and it is impossible to miss. As you approach it from a distance it almost looks like a pirate hideout because of its many flags, high structures, wooden build, and very rustic appearance. Not only can you expect to find absolutely delicious food here at all times of the year, but there will also be many events and exhibitions to see on your way in.
Although you can of course choose to sit inside the restaurant (which will likely require you to make a reservation beforehand), the outside area is the part that really offers you an adventurous experience. Regardless of whether you are coming in the hot or cold season, the outside area is provide with the perfect amenities and food to keep you very comfortable in any temperature. In summer you will be surrounded by blooming nature and wonderful smells, and in winter you can cozy up to their blankets and have a delicious nabe pot with your friends. You are also free to explore the surroundings as much as possible, and you can also freely take pictures of anything that seems interesting.
The variety of food is fantastic, but what is truly beautiful about it is that it is based entirely on traditional Japanese recipes from the area. This is also found in the plates and cutlery that you will eat with, showing you an experience of how people used to live in the area a long time ago. Even the BBQ chicken is grilled on a bamboo stick, which comes very useful when you start to eat. The desserts are all great, but of course I would recommend the ice cream as the most delicious. Also, the restaurant is open until 2 am, which is very rare and is also the reason why it is so beautiful to visit during night time when all the lanterns light up.
If you are in Iwakuni, or are passing next to it, absolutely make a stop here because it will be an adventure that you remember for a lifetime.
Family Restaurant Daigaku Corporation
1380-1, Kugamachi, Iwakuni City, Yamaguchi Prefecture 742-0314