Ahead of the beloved Japanese method of yakitori — skewered chicken grilled over a charcoal fire — chefs were skewering unagi, or eel, over an open flame for centuries. Unagi is available in every river across Japan, and it’s not uncommon for a restaurant to specialize in the delicacy. Take Nodaiwa in the Higashi Azabu area of Tokyo for example, a 200-year-old restaurant that has focused on various preparations of unagi through five generations of chefs.
At its helm today is chef and owner Kanejiro Kanemato, a master of kabayaki (butterflied unagi that is dipped in a sweet sauce and then broiled) who is 90 years old and shows no signs of stopping. “Right now I say that I’ll stay in the business until I’m 100,” says Kanemato. “But 10 years later I might reach for another 10 years, and so on.”