Yumiko Kano

Yumiko Kano

Chef and owner of Nakaiseki Sen


Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on March 2009

Photo by Masaharu Shirane

Photo by Masaharu Shirane

A self-taught cook who has been behind the stoves since the age of 10, Yumiko Kano is one of Japan’s leading proponents of macrobiotic cuisine. The Tottori native arrived in Tokyo fresh out of university in 1995, only to leave the country from 1999-2001 to open an “eco hotel” in Nepal’s Pokhara region. Since returning to Japan, the spiritually focused Kano has made a name for herself at Nakaiseki Sen, a shojin restaurant in Setagaya where she works as both owner and chef. She’s a prolific author, with 16 cookbooks to her name and regular magazine columns, and also holds a monthly vegetarian cooking class and makes frequent media appearances (including a profile in The New York Times). With Kano’s busy schedule and growing notoriety, it’s no wonder that Sen is open only 9 days a month—or that it attracts an international clientele.

Favorite place to eat in Tokyo

Basically, I prefer home-cooked meals full of healthy vegetables. I only go out occasionally to experience restaurants with an ethereal atmosphere where I can forget about daily life and enjoy a delicately prepared full-course meal. Among the few shojin restaurants in the city I like are Bon, Itosho and Ukai.

I enjoy the ambiance at Bon—it’s a chic, classy and relaxing Japanese space with private rooms where they serve a variety of foods that change by season. Itosho and Ukai also are amazing places, too, where you can take time with your food in an out-of-this world setting. Tofuya Ukai (above) has a few branches around town—all of them are spacious and beautiful, providing a relaxing experience where you can take the time to walk around the quarters.

Favorite café in Tokyo
When I have time, I like to go to cafés in places like Meguro Gajoen or the Miyako Hotel, both of which have airy interiors and beautiful Japanese gardens.

Favorite places to shop

Once a week we have organic vegetables sent from my parent’s farm in Tottori prefecture. I also shop at Tsukiji market for vegetables from Kyoto, as well as traditional veggies and mountain vegetables (sansai). I go to natural foods shops or order vegetables but don’t have much time to do grocery shopping. I use F&F near my home sometimes, but I mainly source produce directly from farms.

Favorite restaurant in the world
I would have to say that my favorite restaurant is my own, Sen. I couldn’t find a restaurant I wanted to go to—so I made one myself. I serve what I want to eat in the best atmosphere that I can provide. It’s completely wabi sabi, showcasing the aesthetic beauty of Japan, and it offers a relaxing private tearoom-like space where you forget about daily cares and time.

Address Book

Nakaiseki Sen 3-35-3-2F Shimouma, Setagaya-ku. Tel: 03-5779-6571. Open Wed-Sat noon-3pm by reservation only. (Closed the third week of every month.) Course meals only, ¥8,400. Nearest stn: Yutenji.

Bon 1-2-11 Ryusen, Taito-ku. Tel: 03-3872-0375. Open Mon-Tue & Thu-Fri noon-3pm and 5:30-9pm, Sat noon-9pm, Sun noon-8pm, closed Wed. Nearest stn: Iriya (Hibiya line). www.fuchabon.co.jp

F&F (Meguro station location) 2-27-3 Kami-Osaki, Shinagawa-ku. Tel: 03-5719-6933. Open daily 10am-9:30pm. www.n-rs.co.jp/brand/ff.html

Itosho 3-4-7 Azabu-Juban, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3454-6538. Open noon-3pm and 5:30-9pm, irregular holidays. Nearest stn: Azabu-Juban.

Pandora (Café-lounge in Meguro Gajoen) 1-8-1 Shimo-Meguro, Meguro-ku. Tel: 03-5434-3858. Open weekdays 10am-10pm, Sat-Sun & hols 9am-10pm. Nearest stn: Meguro.

Sheraton Miyako Hotel Tokyo 1-1-50 Shirokanedai, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3447-3111. Nearest stn: Shirokanedai. www.miyakohotels.ne.jp

Tokyo Shiba Tofuya Ukai
4-4-13 Shiba-Koen, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3436-1028. Open daily 11am-10pm. Nearest stn: Kamiyacho. www.ukai.co.jp