A familiar aroma wafts from Iio Jozo, a vinegar brewery in Miyazu, Kyoto Prefecture, that stands by the seaside near the Amanohashidate sandbar, considered one of Japan's three most scenic views.
Akihiro Iio is the fifth-generation proprietor of the brewery that has been producing vinegar for 125 years. The company makes all of its rice vinegar from pesticide-free rice.
Gentle popping and sizzling sounds greet the ears in the 150-year-old traditional-style house, where visitors are enveloped by the warmth coming from a wood stove. The ceiling rises 10 meters high above the grand shiny-black pillars and beams.
Satoyama Jujo is a hot-spring hotel that opened in 2014 in Minami-Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture, a renowned production area of rice. The hotel, which also welcomes a constant stream of foreign guests, has a restaurant called Sanaburi, whose popular dishes feature vegetables and edible wild plants.
Handling foreign cultures can be difficult yet rewarding, and the same applies in the world of cooking.
Kazuo Yamanaka, proprietor of Kogetsu, a Chinese restaurant in Tokyo's Ikenohata, reflected on the past, saying: "I wonder how deeply I have understood Chinese cuisine. I have kept asking myself this."
Japan Village can claim the title of food anchor for the collection of enterprises that have settled into the Industry City development in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. It's a combination marketplace for food products and group of mostly casual dining spots spread over 20,000 square feet. Japan Village's koi logo is splashed, graffiti-like over the outside of the building facing Third Avenue. Tony Yoshida--who owns the Sunrise Mart Japanese markets and the Michelin-starred Kyo Ya kaiseki restaurant in the East Village, its spinoff Autre Kyo Ya, and other spots, with his son, Takuya, and daughter, Erina--has created this one-stop Japanese culinary destination. You may not need to schlep to Sunset Park for another bowl of ramen, but you just might be drawn first to gawk, then to munch on a bowl of katsu-don or a takoyaki octopus balls before buying freshly made tofu and yuba, sliced lotus root, some imported Japanese Wagyu or a gift-worthy bottle of Japanese whiskey to take home.
Kazuo Yamanaka, owner of Chinese restaurant Kogetsu in Tokyo's Ikenohata district, began his training as a cook at Shisen Hanten in Roppongi, which he joined after studying Chinese history in university.
The Japanese executive chef of the restaurant trained under Kenmin Chen, the late master chef of Chinese cuisine. It was a busy place that offered set menus for lunch and banquet dishes at night.
Chinese restaurant Kogetsu, run by Kazuo Yamanaka, stands quietly at Ikenohata near Ueno Park, its structure witness to the transformation of the capital from Edo to Tokyo.
The wooden building, dating to the early Showa Era (1926-1989), used to be an inn opened by Yamanaka's grandfather late in his life. The combination of a vintage building in the old district and authentic Chinese cuisine may give people pause for thought, but it was born out of the chef's strong wish to turn what he loved into a vocation.
Ichiro Abe, the proprietor of Takumi Kappo, gains inspiration for his menus from the fresh fish and vegetables he sees at the market every morning and even from the dishes he hopes to use.
They include a black bowl produced at the Engoji Kiln in Tottori Prefecture that is simple yet profound, as well as a Yamane Kiln round plate that is a soft opaque white.
Although he was a fast runner, Ichiro Abe failed in his quest to make the Olympic track and field team, and he later ran into business-related debt problems.
But now, for 20 years, he has run Takumi Kappo, a regional-cuisine restaurant that was opened as part of the "mingei" (folk craft) movement in Tottori.
Chef Koji Yamada has been working with the local supermarket Tsuruya in Ueda, Nagano Prefecture, to create healthy recipes for home cooking, which are distributed at all 33 stores of the supermarket in the prefecture.
Yamada, chef of Weisshorn, a restaurant located in Maruko Central Hospital in Ueda, comes up with three or four low-sodium recipes a month that feature in-season ingredients.