Inside a thatch-roofed house on the former site of Mariko-juku, one of the many stations of the old Tokaido route, is Chojiya, a restaurant specializing in "tororo" (grated yam) dishes, located about five kilometers southwest of Shizuoka Station.
Although Chojiya, which is said to have been established as the Sengoku period (Age of warring states) was drawing to a close, the building used today is an old traditional-style house that was relocated from nearby in 1970 by the late 12th-generation proprietor, Nobuo Shibayama.
While perusing through the history of Mariko, Nobuo learned that poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) and writer Jippensha Ikku (1765-1831) and others had mentioned the "tororo-jiru" (grated yam soup) in their works.
An ukiyo-e by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) depicting the Mariko-juku also features a thatched house. The sign placed at the entrance says, "Meibutsu tororo-jiru," meaning "Tororo soup, the local specialty." Even today, a few eating places in Mariko serve tororo-jiru, and although we do not know whether Hiroshige had actually depicted Chojiya, the thatched roof reminds us of the scenery from bygone days.
But nearly 50 years have passed since the house was reconstructed, and the thatched roof began to wear and leak. Hoping to pass down the scenery that their predecessor had left them to the next generation, Kaoru, 64, the current proprietor, and his successor, Hiroyuki, 39, decided to raise funds through online crowdfunding in July 2017.
After they communicated their thoughts via social networking sites, hometown friends as well as people who are involved in local revitalization projects of former station towns around Japan, signed up to help. They received 11.22 million yen ($101,160) from a total of 404 people in about three months. The Shibayamas added their own funds to this and were able to rethatch the roof this spring.
The golden brown roof stands out against the background of the mountain that is covered with fresh green. Hoping to capture "instagrammable" scenes, people, including the young and foreign tourists, visit it. In addition to passing down the history of the old Tokaido route, Hiroyuki hopes to revitalize the community with other local shops and residents.
This week, they introduce fried tororo using the "jinenjo" yam, which is a local specialty. It is a filling dish with a fluffy texture yet contains a high nutritional content.
The jinenjo is in season from October through February. Chojiya purchases a batch that will last a year at harvest time and keeps it in temperature-controlled storage to serve it year round. When preparing the dish at home this season, jinenjo may be replaced by "yamatoimo" or "nagaimo" yam.
Chojiya began business in 1596 at the present-day Mariko in Suruga Ward, Shizuoka city. The thatched house was dismantled and reconstructed in the present location in 1970. The father-son pair of the 13th and 14th proprietors Kaoru and Hiroyuki run the business today.
The name Chojiya comes from the clove, a spice that has been used in Japan since olden times. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is closed on Thursdays (Wednesday and Thursday in the last week of the month).
100 grams jinenjo (or yamatoimo, nagaimo)
1/3 tsp soy sauce
Little less than 1 tsp ready-made sauce for grilled eel (unagi no tare)
100 cc milk
Some oil and cabbage
Rinse jinenjo (peel if yamatoimo or nagaimo is used) and grate. Mix with soy sauce and sauce for grilled eel. Add egg, milk and mix further.
Pour some oil in frying pan, pour mixture slowly. Fry and roll as in making "tamagoyaki" or rolled egg. Cut into appropriate size.
Cut cabbage into fine strips, serve with fried yam. Garnish with parsley if available. Dip in Worcester-type sauce or soy sauce to taste.
(This is a recipe intended for home cooking. At Chojiya, sauce of simmered tuna is used instead of sauce for grilled eel. Reduce amount of milk if nagaimo is used.)
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From The Asahi Shimbun’s Watashi no Ryori column