“This tradition needs protection. I hope to cherish it,” says Masashi Yamada, co-chef and co-owner of Yanagiya, a Japanese restaurant located in Mizunami, Japan.
Chefs at Yanagiya have followed the tradition of irori ever since the restaurant’s opening shortly after World War II. “Irori was the meal gathering place, the cooking place,” says Yamada of the traditional heated sunken earth. “It used to be normal in Japanese homes, but now with modern civilization and convenient times, they’re gone.”
The invitation-only restaurant serves fresh meat and fish supplied by local hunters and fishermen on the same day. “Sometimes we even go fish ourselves,” Yamada adds. Private chefs cook the omakase over charcoal right in front of guests, adhering to irori’s rules. “This is what Japanese style originally looked like,” Yamada says. “Look, feel, smell the aroma.”