"Message to TOMORROW FIELD"
Yukinori Yoshioka and Kyoko Yoshioka (Nawaya, Kyotango, Kyoto)
Office (O): When we were beginning to manifest our project TOMORROW FIELD in Taiza, we visited you early on. For our project, we would like to create a community that focuses on food education for children. We have heard that you give classes to high school students every year. Could you tell us about your classes?
Nawaya (N): The Seishin High School near our restaurant has a major in domestic science, and I give a class to the students there once a year. Last year, I worked with Mr. Iio of Iio Brewing Company to teach a class about why we like or dislike the foods we do. We thought deeply about it, and then we worked together to figure out what are the elements of foods we don't like that make us dislike them and what we can do to make ourselves want to eat them.
Eating is something we do every day, so if we can improve that, eating will become a fun thing, and one more fun thing to do in our daily lives. If we had three meals a day, it would be great to have three more fun things to do in a day, so I teach classes that allow students to think about increasing the number of things that are good in their daily lives.
At first, I brought the dishes and cooking utensils from my restaurant to the high school and had the students try to replicate what I was doing at the restaurant, but I felt that this was too rigid. From the next year, I felt that it would be better to make the food more accessible to the students by having them prepare some of the dishes themselves and then have the children prepare and serve them together. I also teach them how to cook rice, and compare rice cooked with gas or wood kiln.
I want students to not only eat and experience such things, but also to think about what kind of things they are eating in their daily lives. And also, I want them to capture in their mind, even if only vaguely, the taste and feeling of what they are eating.
When we do this, children realize that there are many elements to a negative experience, and we have more options to choose from. If we learn about ourselves, our lives will become richer.
Q: If children say, “This doesn't taste good,” that's the final answer. Or if children say, “I don't understand this art,” that's the end of the story. But if we have a dialogue with them: “What's not delicious?” or "What's not beautiful?” we can get closer to communicating better. They will not say they don't understand because it is different.
As adults, we tend to keep away from things we don't understand, so I hope we create the opportunity for children to form positive memories of good food, joy, and fun, beginning in childhood.
It has been said that water will run out by 2050. How do you think the food environment will change in twenty or thirty years?
N: In my case, I am thinking about the ingredients that are in front of me now, the ingredients that I can harvest [from the restaurant’s vegetable garden]. If they are changing, I will adapt to those changes.
Humanity is having a hard time with the coronavirus, but nature is repeating itself solemnly every year. Especially when I'm picking wild vegetables in the mountains, I become more sensitive to the sounds of birds and changes in nature.
With all the snow we've had this year, it's been very easy to pick wild plants because the dead grass is crushed by the snow and becomes a plain. Last year and the year before, we didn't get much snow, so I had to wade through the dead branches in the mountains to get the wild plants, which was very difficult. Also, if there is no snow, there will be a lot of insects. I have the impression that the number of insects is increasing due to global warming.
I think that Japanese food is the kind of food that is sometimes hard to place because it incorporates many things. Curry, ramen, and fried rice are all Japanese food, and the Japanese are able to handle any kind of food at will. I've never seen a country other than Japan where being able to learn so much about the food culture of so many countries at home. I think we are able to take in a lot of information and incorporate it into our life.
In Kyotango, a fermented and preserved food called heshiko has been produced for a long time. It was originally made by salting mackerel during the spawning season (spring to early summer), when mackerel were plentiful, and then pickling the salted mackerel in rice-bran paste to last through the winter when fishing slows due to rough waters. The name heshiko has been passed down from generation to generation and created by the wisdom of elders. Now people import mackerel all the way from Norway and cook it as a preserved food. I think that's not right. Because it was born from the wisdom to survive, it has the strength to survive until today, and it has been passed down as "culture.” If we fail to recognize its true meaning, it will not continue into the future.
At TOMORROW FIELD, we would like to think about how we can correctly and deliciously communicate these things to children, and how we can make it fun for them to inherit.
The conversation took place in February, 2021 at Nawaya with TOMORROW.
Green beans at Nawaya's garden
Yukinori Yoshioka, owner chef of Nawaya was born in Kyotango City, Kyoto Prefecture
He returned to his hometown in search of the nutritious tastes of nature that he had enjoyed since he was a child, and opened Nawaya in 2006.
More information about Nawaya is on the TOMORROW JOURNEY page of this issue.