April 12, 2021
When Takayuki Hagiwara opened his new restaurant right across the road from where his father made his name as a chef, he was determined to stick with tradition. Rather than changing to the increasingly popular kappō format, with counter seating and an open kitchen, he kept with the layout that he feels works best: serving guests in individual private rooms.
That didn’t mean he was looking to the past. Quite the opposite: Inside and out, the now 5-year-old Nihonryori Yukimoto in Iida (southern Nagano Prefecture) displays a marriage of traditional aesthetics with contemporary architecture, perfectly reflecting Hagiwara’s style of kaiseki cuisine.
Besides learning under his father, Hagiwara trained at the renowned Shofukuro, both in Shiga Prefecture and at its branch in central Tokyo. He says those three years taught him plenty, not just about cooking but the importance of having close contact with produce suppliers, something he felt was lacking in the metropolis.
He also gained confidence from realizing that guests will come, regardless of how out of the way the location (whether Shiga or Iida), if they know they will eat well. At Nihonryori Yukimoto, Hagiwara’s cuisine is excellent, intricate and assured.
One of his calling cards is his use of mushrooms, sansai (wild plants) and game meat that are foraged and hunted in the nearby mountains. His nabe hotpot of bear meat and wild herbs has become a signature dish, but guests can also expect fish such as ayu (sweetfish) and iwana (char) from the Tenryu River, which runs through the city.
Although the rooms at Nihonryori Yukimoto have traditional tatami mats, for comfort all are fitted with tables and chairs.
2-43 Towa-cho, Iida, Nagano Pref. 395-0086, Japan