From Tradition to Innovation.
Neo-traditional Initiatives
from Ishikawa Prefecture

The Appeals of Tradition and Inheritance & Innovations from Settlers and Different Sectors

Alongside Kairaku-en in Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture, and Koraku-en in Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture, Kenroku-en in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture, is one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. The picturesque views of the garden in each of the four seasons have continued to capture the hearts of visitors across generations. On November 22 (Wed), 2023, CJPF Live was hosted in the Gyokusen-an Rest House, which offers stunning views of the Kenroku-en Garden. While bringing together samurai and court cultures and flourishing as the home of many of Japan’s leading traditional crafts and cultural elements, Ishikawa Prefecture today is seeing an influx of personnel with new and interesting perspectives. It has a new culture that perhaps can be called “neo-traditional.” Traditions that change shape over time and that are carried into the present day while continuously evolving and transforming. Innovations that are conceptualized and created by new settlers with new perspectives. In this article we bring to you discussions and observations on neo-traditional from diverse, multi-faceted perspectives on everything from the tea ceremony, art, food, and sake, to technology, regional revitalization, and overseas perspectives.

The Tea Ceremony. Gold Leaf. Sake. Japanese Cuisine.
The Appeals of Tradition and Inheritance.

 In session one, leading figures from various sectors engaged in discussions on the theme “From tradition to innovation—Neo-traditional.” Born in Kanazawa City, Sokyu Nara is an artist, craftsman, and deputy tea master at the Konnichian tea room of the Urasenke school of tea, responsible for communicating the spirit and history of Japanese tea both in Japan and overseas. Nara encountered Japanese art at a young age and is well-versed in the traditions and cultures of Kanazawa. He says, “The tea ceremony is a comprehensive art form in which every moment must be treasured. We handle exquisite handicrafts and focus our thoughts on the tea room and adjoining garden. We experience all four seasons and concentrate on annual events that have continued since long ago. As a comprehensive art form, it is important that we maintain its traditions while innovating processes in line with the times.” Ahead of the discussion, Nara hosted a tea ceremony for those in attendance.
 Kanazawa is by far the largest producer of gold leaf in all of Japan. This gold leaf is used in traditional architecture, lacquerware, pottery, and other handicrafts. Mina Takaoka is the representative director and president of Hakuza, Inc., a company manufacturing and selling modern accessories and cosmetics using gold leaf. Growing up seeing her father’s passion for gold leaf, Takaoka decided to take over the family business as she “couldn’t let the gold leaf industry or the company come to an end.” She is currently developing new and innovative products including an original pure gold and platinum leaf, metal leaf accessories (acrylic bangles), and metal leaf containers. She says, “The best way to carry metal leaf into the next generation is by making attractive products for people today while maintaining the craft’s traditions.”
 The Shata Shuzo brewery was established in 1823 in Bomaru-machi, Hakusan City, Ishikawa Prefecture. The brewery’s leading product is the Tengumai brand of sake made using the Yamahai brewing method, but eighth-generation head of the brewery Kazunari Shata has developed a new product, Gorin, which he is aiming to grow into a new pillar of the business. Shata has helped to open up new overseas markets in China, Korea, and the US, while he also helped to set up the sake category at the UK’s International Wine Challenge competition. Moreover, with the development of the new Sparkling Junmai Daiginjo Awakage to get people interested in sake, and the launch of the mau. Tengumai Craft Sake shop as a hub for information, Shata is initiating various strategies that are suited to the current generation.
 “Carrying forward the culture of Japanese cuisine does not necessarily mean that it will stay in its current form,” says Shinichiro Takagi, second-generation head of Zeniya, a traditional Japanese restaurant established more than 50 years ago. Takagi has been invited to cook at hotels and restaurants around the world, and to date has served his Japanese cuisine in 20 different countries. He continues to implement new ideas and tackle new endeavors in line with changes in the times and in society, and sees food as a key platform for Japanese culture. Takagi says that eating Japanese food can be the ideal starting point for people to get to know Japan’s cultures and different regional climates.
 In the first half of discussions, participants talked about tradition—an element common to all their industries—how they are working to go beyond this tradition, and the new challenges in today’s ever-changing world.
 Nara advocated the need for “protection and creation.” In the tea ceremony, for example, while forms and manners may shift, its spiritual nature will remain unchanged. He says, “I believe it will be important to provide genuine places and things that highlight their authenticity.”
 Takaoka, meanwhile, emphasized the word “material.” Gold leaf is both an ingredient and a raw material. Depending on how it is used, it can either have huge potential or change the way it is perceived. She says, “While we are facing some issues with the rising market price of gold, as a material, gold leaf gives us the flexibility to incorporate contemporary cultures to ensure it is carried forward into future generations.”
 Shata used the word “sluggish” to show his concern for the sake industry. As there is such difficulty in finding the potential for new developments, he is concerned that the industry has become standardized. “Moving forward, it will be key for breweries to brew sake that maximizes their unique characteristics,” says Shata. Today, a wide range of sake varieties are being developed across Japan, and Shata is examining many different ways to brew sake for the next 100 years.
 Cuisine is something created by people handling ingredients and consumed by people. This is precisely why Takagi believes that people are the most important part of the Japanese cuisine industry. “Thinking about how to grow alongside the staff working with you goes hand in hand with the growth of the business. This will no doubt be a source of motivation for carrying traditions forward,” says Takagi.
 In the second half, the theme of the discussions was “how to create the future.” The discussions began with a comment from facilitator Kenichi Watanabe, who said, “I believe that the uniquely Japanese way of thinking can help us discover ways to continuously communicate something’s value.”
 “Like in the tea ceremony, it is important to use a single thing as a starting point to then ponder various other elements, which can be an understanding of the comprehensive art form,” says Nara. “For me, you need to love something to make it sustainable,” says Takaoka. Takaoka has inherited her father’s love for metal leaf, and today loves the craft more than anyone else. She says that “if you love doing something, you can continue to devote yourself to that passion in any way.” Shata, meanwhile, says “I want to create a future for the industry by brewing unique sake that values water.” He says he is driving companywide efforts to develop a new Yamahai brewing method based on the idea of “Returning to the technique’s origins plus something.” Again emphasizing the importance of people, Takagi says “While it is of course important to develop people in Japan, examining how to increase the number of foreign people involved in Japanese cuisine overseas will play a key role in the industry’s future.”

Ishikawa as Seen from the Outside.
Looking at Possibilities in Regions and Their Food Cultures from New Perspectives.

 In session two of this CJPF Live meeting, participants discussed future possibilities from new perspectives. The four panelists were Koji Kinoshita, head of the Kanazawa Maimon Sushi Group; Shota Itoi, a chef at Auberge eaufeu who at the age of 26 became the youngest ever winner of the Grand Prize at RED U-35, a competition for chefs under the age of 35; Benjamin Flatt, chef and owner of Flatt, a guesthouse serving Noto Italian and fermented food; and his wife Chikako Funashita, who is the guesthouse’s landlady.
 In the first half, discussions revolved around what the participants had gained by incorporating new perspectives. Kinoshita was raised in Kanazawa, which enabled him to combine ingredients, techniques, and store designs unique to the city to transform industry conventions. He believes that carrying forward food cultures developed by the former Kaga Domain could hold the key to the future. “My aim is to further refine the cuisine from Kanazawa, which combines the delicacies of court culture with the boldness of samurai culture,” he says. Itoi, who built up experience in Burgundy and Lyon in France and San Francisco in the US, says that “climate and culture” are key to the future of the food industry. Flatt, who moved to Japan from Australia, and Funashita used the phrase “the kingdom of fermentation.” The unique fermented foods of Noto are linked to the area’s environment, traditions, and cultures, and interested chefs from around the world have contacted the guesthouse to find out more. Funashita says, “We want to carry this small part of the area’s long history and pass on to the next generation.”
 The second half of the discussions were about possibilities for the future that Ishikawa Prefecture can communicate to the rest of the world. Kinoshita suggests “the development of skilled workers.” He says that as there are so few Japanese-managed sushi shops outside of Japan, it will be important to develop first-class sushi chefs who can help to spread Japan’s authentic sushi culture worldwide. Meanwhile, Itoi’s aim is to create new value by opening restaurants in underpopulated areas, which are increasingly common in Japan, attracting likeminded chefs to increase the flow of people and in turn drive business growth. His desire is to position food at the center of future initiatives and attract chefs. Flatt and Funashita both say Noto is a chef’s paradise. Together they have initiated various projects that make full use of Noto’s rich range of ingredients, such as the Noto Lab project, which links local food, chefs, and people, as well as popup kitchens.
 Participants then talked about co-creation, which is one of the themes of this CJPF Live meeting. Kinoshita says that “food plays a major role in a sustainable society. I hope to work with fishing businesses to conserve resources and protect the environment.” Itoi adds, “We are all working toward similar goals. As such, in the process of working toward your own goals, co-creation will naturally occur.” Flatt and Funashita, meanwhile, described their strong desire to work with others to keep the wonder of Noto alive.
 After the CJPF Live meeting, we heard stories of people who had been so captivated by the charms of Ishikawa Prefecture that they had ended up relocating. Everyone involved in this meeting was a leading figure in their sector who had worked to improve and communicate their respective region’s appeals. Facilitator Kenichi Watanabe called them cultural ambassadors.
 Since the pandemic, people have increasingly used virtual channels for their activities. However, without visiting a region first-hand, you cannot truly experience its climate, landscapes, and food cultures, for example. Watanabe concluded the CJPF Live meeting with the following message: “Please visit each of these regions yourselves to experience their true charms.”

Answers to questions

CJPF LIVEにつきまして、皆様より頂戴いたしました質問や回答につきましてご回答させていただきます。

  • 実際にAIによるメニュー開発など、テクノロジーを活用した食の事例はあるんでしょうか?
  • 実際にAIによるメニュー開発など、テクノロジーを活用した食の事例はあるんでしょうか?
  • 実際にAIによるメニュー開発など、テクノロジーを活用した食の事例はあるんでしょうか?
  • 実際にAIによるメニュー開発など、テクノロジーを活用した食の事例はあるんでしょうか?
  • 実際にAIによるメニュー開発など、テクノロジーを活用した食の事例はあるんでしょうか?