Maneki neko (beckoning cat). © Risa Sekiguchi, 2009
Kirk and Risa at the Linden Gallery, July 2013
Kirk and Risa at the Linden Gallery in Door County, Wisconsin during their 2013 show, "Bringing Jaan Home."


Message from Risa:

I started Savory Japan because I felt there was a need for a place where like-minded people could gather and learn about Japanese food. I'm not a professional chef, but I enjoy making the food of my native country for family and friends. Since I've lived in the US for most of my life, I’ve learned to adapt recipes to take advantage of locally available produce, with adaptations in taste as well. Frequent visits to Japan – particularly to Kyoto – have inspired further investigation and inspiration. This dual-country background gives me the unique perspective of being outside of the culture, yet part of it, and forms the place from which I write. In this way, I hope to serve as your guide and translator for the Japanese culinary world.

The recipes on this site are my own, unless otherwise mentioned. Most are easy, reflecting the Japanese belief that the best food is simple. Hard-to-find ingredients list substitutes, and tips and shortcuts are from my own experience. I am not a purist, but a modern-day home cook, and like you, I understand that time is precious.

Globalization and the resulting worldwide gourmet boom have recently increased the availability of Japanese ingredients in the West. With time-saving ingredients like ground sesame seeds and salted, air-dried fish, preparing authentic multi-course Japanese meals has never been easier. This website will show how simple weekday meals can be prepared in as little as 30 to 60 minutes. And bentos can be created with leftovers as quickly as making a sandwich.

I hope you enjoy the site, and will return often to try new recipes, read about some favorite restaurants in the travel section, learn about tableware, or share your comments on the blog. With practice, you’ll find it easy to cook Japanese food, and the techniques and way of thinking reflected on this site will become second nature. This way, you won't have to rely on recipes. In fact, the hardest part of creating this site was recreating my recipes using precise measurements. Forgoing my love of improvisation, I was forced to measure ingredients carefully when committing them to paper.

Savory Japan has taken on a life if its own since its launch in the Spring of 2009. It has led to inspiring conversations with masters of Japanese cuisine, including Yoshihiro Murata, Elizabeth Andoh and Sachiyo Imai, and to the discovery of seasonal Japanese delicacies such as sansho flowers, kikurage and hotaru-ika (firefly squid). The impulse to share these marvels with you is so strong that I feel the need to go further. I'm now in the process of figuring out what that next step will be.

-Risa Sekiguchi

The red circle represents a hanko (a stone stamp that is used as a signature in Japan). The format is inspired by the distinctive circular hanko that were hallmarks of the Rimpa school of art. The hiragana script says "umami" – which the Japanese consider to be the fifth taste (after salty, sweet, sour, and bitter). Umami is translated into English as "savory," hence the site's name, Savory Japan. For more on umami, read the article The Power of 5.

Savory Japan covered the 13th annual Worlds of Flavor conference, Japan: Flavors of Culture, at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone from November 4-6, 2011. See the blog postings.

Although we no longer produce articles for Kyoto Visitor's Guide, You can find past articles of Savory Kyoto online. Savory Kyoto covered the cuisine and culture of Kyoto from 2010-2013.

About 99% of the photographs on the site are taken by Risa and her husband Kirk. You can see more of their work on their photo database, Hotaru Images.