A Saga Worth Telling, and Visiting

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We love locavore stories, but for our travel issue we go father afield—sometimes much farther. In fact our writer Nancy Matsumoto just returned from Japan, where she was reporting a story about Union Square Café’s Tokyo outpost. She also spent a few days in Saga City, the capital of Saga prefecture, on Japan’s southernmost island of Kyushu, visiting people who make ingredients both traditional and innovative. She reports:

“I toured the production facilities of seven artisanal producers, from the most high-tech, beautifully designed homes and factories to the most rustic, which bore the patina of age and tradition. I sampled among the best nori and yuzukosho (yuzu-chili) products in Japan and dropped by the distillery of the oldest sake maker in Saga, run by a 13th-generation brewer. I met a man who makes noodles out of nori and asparagus, tried some subtly delicious sesame shortbread cookies, and beautiful seafood suspended in umami-rich saké lees and shiokoji (fermented koji mold, salt and water).

“I also learned about the 18th-century Saga-born monk-turned green tea peddler Baisao, who is credited with popularizing sencha over the powdered matcha that was more common back then. Oh, and along the way, I dined on super-fatty and (in Japan) famous Saga beef, and slurped on fresh rice noodles at the outdoor restaurant of a woman in a tiny rural hamlet who forages for her own mugwort, rapeseed blossoms and mountain vegetables.”

Stay tuned for Nancy’s full story, which will appear in the September/October issue of Edible Manhattan!