Our team had the opportunity to travel to the Lake Biwa area and, with no surprise, the scenery was breathtaking, BUT not only that. The food was also amazing… which is for us, as foodies, the best part of traveling around Japan.
Today we’re going to introduce you to a wonderful, small, local restaurant named Mutsumian (土鍋ごはん＆CAFE), located in Shigaraki. Please meet Mutsumi Tanaka san, the owner and chef.
Welcome to our blog and thank you for your time today! Can you please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your restaurant?
I was born in 1964 as the oldest of three sisters of a Shigaraki Pottery kiln owner. I have been working as a part-time teacher at a special needs school for 18 years. In 2019, we renovated our house and opened Mutsumian (土鍋ごはん＆CAFE), which mainly serves clay pot rice.
We serve Shigaraki Koshihikari rice grown by my husband and me. We ask the customers to cook the rice themselves using a Shigaraki clay pot and, in the meantime, they choose their own bowls and chopstick rests. The style of eating with tableware that they have chosen has become popular, and many people come from far away.
Have you always wanted to be a chef? How came the idea of opening your own place?
I didn’t want to be a chef. Originally, I thought I wanted to be a cooking class teacher who could convey the merits of clay pots. Mutsumian was opened because we wanted many people to know the value of clay pots by eating rice cooked in clay pots and enjoying other dishes made using clay pots.
What makes your food so unique? And what do you think your area’s best points are regarding food?
A unique point: This is a place where customers cook their own clay pot rice.
Strengths: It is a place where we serve rice that my husband and I have carefully grown in the rich nature of Shigaraki, and customers can choose their own tableware made by Shigaraki kilns and eat with them.
We told you so many times how much we LOVE the food we had at your restaurant but, so our readers know, we had the best ハンバーグ (Japanese Hamburger Steak) of our lives! I am still dreaming about it! How do you decide on the menu?
Thank you! Mutsumian’s menu is home cooking that I have made for my three daughters. Among them, a food that is especially enjoyed was put on Mitsumian’s menu.
The Hamburger Steak is one of my daughters’ favorite menu items!
And the rice… OMG, it was so tasty! Can you please tell us more about it? Why is it so special and unique?
My husband and I inherited the rice fields from our ancestors and the Shigaraki Koshihikari rice we provide are grown there. The rice is made with mountain water that flows from Sasagatake, which is said to be where the gods live.
Is there a particular dish you’d like to recommend to our readers if they visit you?
To no surprise, it’s the Koshihikari rice grown by my husband and I to be cooked in a clay pot. We hope you enjoy freshly cooked rice!
The atmosphere of your restaurant is also amazing and it features local craftsmen. Your customers can choose the chopstick holder and the bowl of their choice for their meal, in a selection from great local pottery studios. How did you come with this idea?
It was my daughter’s idea. She thought it would be fun for the customers during the 20 minutes while the rice was being cooked.
Do a lot of travelers come to eat at your place?
Many customers come from outside Shiga Prefecture. Before the coronavirus pandemic, we sometimes had customers come from overseas.
We always have to ask this question but what is your personal favorite food?
Tōbanyaki (pot roast) hamburger steak! Eating freshly cooked clay pot rice and hamburger steak really makes me feel happy. If I have anything small troubling me, I just eat this and it feels like I can overcome it!
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
We would like you to enjoy the rich natural scenery of Shigaraki’s mountains and breezes, and the Shigaraki earthenware produced by its climate along with the food of Mitsumian.
Thank you for your time and we hope to be able to visit your restaurant again soon!
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Learn more about Shiga’s famous pottery and ceramic arts on our blog!
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