Orize Restaurant in Omachi City, Nagano, is owned by farmer/chef Ken Tamaki and his chef partner, so it doesn’t get fresher than farm gate to restaurant plate!
Autumn is a beautiful time of year in Nagano’s Hakuba Valley as the peaks catch their first dustings of snow and the foliage colours are at the best. It’s also harvest time, and at Orize Restaurant you can sample the best autumn offerings straight from the farm.
Restaurant founder Ken Tamaki left the bustle of Tokyo after working in a vegetable market and deciding instead of selling other people’s produce he wanted to grow his own.
So he moved to Omachi City at the eastern end of the Hakuba Valley.
He started to work as a farmer in Spring to Autumn, and work at a local sake brewery in winter.
As he worked at both jobs he began to realize how deep the Japanese food culture was. Especially, he became inspired by the role of rice through sake making.
He also began to think about how to create a market for rice he grows.
One of Japan’s top restaurants, Kicho, is in Omachi. So Tomaki started to work there to learn about Japanese food culture.
He learned about Sake, Miso, Shoyu (soy sauce), Mirin and Koji (rice malt).
He became a good friend of the chef in Kicho. The chef has been working in Kicho for 30 years. Eventually the two of them decided to open a restaurant together.
The name of the restaurant is ORIZE, a name honouring the scientist who discovered Koji, Aspergillus Oryzae.
So now Ken’s dream is complete: he grows his own rice and serves it at his own local restaurant, accompanied by a range of other local seasonal specialties.
Next time you are in the Hakuba area drop in and see the difference farm gate-to-plate makes. And say hello to Ken!
– Mariko Hyland
Staying in Omachi City is a good way to start or finish the spectacular Tateyama – Kurobe Alpine Route as below. It’s also close to Matsumoto and the famous castle there. You can continue on to Gifu and the Hida Mountains as well.