It's Lunch Time

Japan Hour

Japan Hour - Summer
It's Lunch Time


Japan Hour:

It's Lunch Time

This week, we embark on a culinary adventure around Japan. Our first destination is Machida City in Tokyo. It is known as a "city-countryside" and its most famous dish is Naruse dumpling. Made by a meat shop near Naruse Station, it is a sausage-shaped dumpling featuring stuffed pork intestines.

We begin by talking to 95-year-old Yae Shimano, who is harvesting vegetables in a field with her daughter Ms Nae. Ms Yae has been farming for 80 years. Both mother and daughter grow vegetables in a field spanning 3,960 sqm. The vegetables are distributed among their friends and family. We request to see what they are having for lunch and they gladly oblige. So after they are done with harvesting, they drive us to their home in Kawasaki, which is 20 minutes away from the field.

Ms Nae prepares their meals every day after returning from the field. The first dish is taro root croquette. Pork belly and carrots are finely chopped after which salt, pepper, grated garlic and a vegetable called kakina are added. The taro root is steamed, mashed and mixed with all the ingredients. It is battered and then fried. Other dishes include spinach mixed with sesame seeds and miso soup with onions.  

After this, we head to the “Children’s Centre, Maachi”, a municipal facility for kids. It has areas for reading and studying, and a gymnasium where the children can play sports or dance. We meet members of Machida’s Kiso Junior High School’s wind instrument orchestra. We watch them play eight songs at the Spring Music Gathering held at the facility's gymnasium. They perform “Goya” and the theme song of the popular anime movie, "Your Name". 

After the performance, an after-show party is held. The orchestra members first head to a nearby supermarket to buy ingredients and later cook at a place called Tada ON. The cooking tasks are divided among them and enough food is prepared for over 20 people. The dishes include salad, pizza, curry rice and dessert. The pizza is made of dumpling skin and is topped with ketchup, cheese, sliced sausages and onions, after which it is baked in the oven for 10 minutes. The main curry dish uses a sweet and mildly spicy roux. It features lots of boiled corn and minced meat. Chocolate, a secret ingredient, is added as a final touch to the dish.

Next up is a trip to Hinokagecho in Miyazaki Prefecture. This town lies at the border of Oita Prefecture. A thick forest covers about 91% of the town, with residents occupying only 9%. It is surrounded by several mountains and hills. The town is famous for its “Tama Tama” brand of kumquat. The first person we meet is Mr Kai, who is preparing logs for winter. He lets us visit his 17th-century home to see what he is eating for lunch. His wife Ms Kuniko prepares an organic meal for him.

One of the items is a cake made from fried soybean curd, egg and arum root jelly. There is also homemade rye bread; candy syrup made of steamed mochi rice and barley; red rice with black-eyed peas; and toasted rice with dried corn.

We then head back to town where a train converted into a lodging facility catches our eye. The Hinokage Train Inn was previously part of the Takachiho Line. The railway line stopped operating about 12 years ago when the river overflowed due to a typhoon. But the train was kept intact and only its interior was renovated. The former Hinokage-Onsen Station is adjacent to it. It was also part of the Takachiho Line and now houses a local food shop and restaurant. The restaurant's southern-style chicken is popular with the locals.

We go to the restaurant to find out what its employees usually eat for lunch. Their meals are prepared by Mr Sato, who has been cooking for 20 years. He was trained as a chef at a restaurant in Fukuoka. He became a professional chef and returned to his hometown Miyazaki about 12 years ago. He cooks different dishes for the restaurant employees every day. For example, on this particular day, he makes steamed tofu and Japanese-style fried rice with a special sauce for the staff. He begins by finely dicing pork and carrots, which are then sauteed with rice. A partially fried scrambled egg is poured over the fried rice. He then makes a starch sauce made of kelp, bonito broth and soy sauce to have with the rice. 

1) Try Naruse dumplings when visiting Machida City
2) Railway fans should visit the Hinokage Train Inn, featuring a train which has been converted into a lodging facility