While the world has been evolving to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, women have continued to break down barriers all around the world. Tennis player Naomi Osaka was selected as the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year for her superior tennis performance and for her activism against police brutality. Journalist and Filmmaker Shiori Ito has been included in the Times 100 Most Influential People of 2020 for protesting sexual harassment and for boldly sharing her story.
Alongside these incredible women, we’d like to highlight some more amazing women making history within the culinary field of Japan in honor of Women’s History Month this year.
Included in BBC’s 100 Women of 2020 list, Miho Imada is making strides for women in the Sake brewery industry. She is one of the few female toji (brewing masters) who is also the head of her family brewery, Imada Shuzo. When Miho Imada became a toji, there were only 5 women toji in the entire country including herself. Her Sake, born out of Hiroshima, is internationally recognized as some of the best.
Owning the world’s first all-female staffed sushi restaurant, Yuki Chizui is also Japan’s first female sushi chef. In the past, male chefs had to buy fish on her behalf because vendors at the Tsukiji Fish Market would refuse to sell to her. She had to put in a lot of hard work to get where she is today and because of that, she offers opportunities for young women to learn and does a lot of business with female vendors so that they can follow their dreams too.
As one of the world’s few female tea grandmasters, Fuyuko Kobori considers herself a Japanese tea ceremony artist. She also teaches the art of the tea ceremony at her family’s school that has been passed down for 17 generations. Fuyuko has said that the most important thing to do during a tea ceremony is to focus on the moment and be present. Tea ceremonies will awaken all of the senses and it’s important to feel everything that the ceremony has to offer.
Nanakusa, located in Shibuya, Tokyo, has one MICHELIN star and is home to the cooking of Rika Maezawa. She specializes in using seasonal foods to create flavorful dishes that draw out the best tastes. Though born into a family that owned an eel shop, she first worked for a fashion company after college before stepping into the world of cooking herself. Now, she owns her own restaurant, teaches cooking classes, and provides menus for inflight meals.
Near the Imperial Palace of Kyoto, one MICHELIN starred restaurant Hokkoriya serves up traditional obanzai cuisine made by Michiyo Matsumoto. Her food is popular because she doesn’t use a fixed set of ingredients or a fixed menu. She creates it based on what is in season so it is constantly changing. Hokkoriya seats 10 people, giving it a homey vibe. However, the cherry on top is Michiyo’s hospitality.
Having earned one MICHELIN star every year since 2018, Nishitemma Nakamura is built on the cooking skills of Chef Akemi Nakamura. With a team of all female staff members, Akemi has been building upon traditional Japanese cuisine. She focuses not only on taste, but also on its presentation as well by adding seasonal ingredients. Before opening her own restaurant, Akemi worked as an apprentice chef for 22 years. Her hard work has paid off because she received her first MICHELIN star only two years after opening.
All of these women have made a huge difference in the culinary field of Japan and are determined to keep making strides. Next time you’re in Japan, be sure to check out Miho Imada’s Sake, Yuki Chizui’s sushi, Fuyuko Kobori’s tea ceremony workshops, and the one MICHELIN starred restaurants owned by Rika Maezawa, Michiyo Matsumoto, and Akemi Nakamura.