Modernity marries tradition. For many in Yamagata City, Chitosekan is a perfect encapsulation of the spirit of the Meiji Restoration, a tremendous pivot in Japanese history where Japan sought to rapidly catch up with the rest of the world by integrating Western culture into their own. However while fashion, technology, and architecture all shifted West, The traditions and hearts of the Japanese people have always remained distinctly Japanese and the culture continues to retain its essence even today.

Chitosekan was founded as a restaurant in 1876, just nine years after the Meiji Restoration, and was largely influenced by the Neo-renaissance style as to integrate Western architecture into the Japanese landscape. It was created by famed architect Shinnosuke Tahara of who also designed the Bunshokan museum of which is one of the most iconic sites here in Yamagata City.

While the outside of the building itself retains much of its distinct Western-style, the cooking itself remains Japanese at heart and upon walking through the pale blue foyer, you are greeted by the warm nostalgic waft of what can only be true Japanese food cooked with passion, excellence, and pride.

With recipes passed down for now close to 140 years, the menu changes with the season with nature as the inspiration while innovation meets tradition.

During this experience, work alongside Chef Kichibei Sawatari, the head chef and owner of Chitosekan. Together in this culinary workshop, you will learn how to prepare takikomi gohan, a versatile rice dish that benefits from the high-quality rice and bountiful vegetables found across Yamagata. While this dish is not commonly found on menus in many Japanese restaurants abroad, takikomi gohan is a staple in Japan and for many, it is the dish that is associated with the feeling of returning home.

Takikomi gohan combines rice, dashi, and various vegetables and meats together to form a delicious and healthy dish with rich flavors and delicious texture. The flavor can best be described as umami or “earthy” however the delicate balance of ingredients creates subtle intricacies that bring out deep and complex flavors.

Rather than using a typical electric rice cooker, Chef Sawatari will teach you how to prepare this dish using a traditional ceramic pot as to make the most out of the high-grade Yamagata rice. This technique has been around for centuries, however in recent times has been lost to the conveniences of modern technology.

Upon completing the dish, sit down and enjoy your creation while relaxing in the magnificent ambiance of the historic building. Chitosekan is quite expansive and has beautiful gardens and so after you finish your meal take time to explore to fully appreciate the heart and soul of this magnificent historic cornerstone of Yamagata City.

LOCATION Chitosekan
Event Date(s) Year Round
Activity Time Flexible
Activity Length Approximately 2 hours
Price 10,000 yen/person 

Note that a minimum of two people is required to run this experience.

This program starts and ends at Chitosekan, a Japanese restaurant in Yamagata City.

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