Living in a foreign country comes with many trials. One is the search for comfort through food. Cheese, for some, is the perfect antidote.
One day, like serendipity, a Seijo Ishii (Japan-based import shop) appeared with a pre-fab cheese set: a brie, a blue, and something unrecognisable but, without a doubt, cheese. While the senses were nourished, questions also surfaced: Is cheese in Japan all imports? Or have the Japanese entered the world of cheese with same sense of perfection and potential dominance that they did whisky or haute cuisine? What does the world of cheese look like in Japan?
Why a love of Cheese?
After years of vagabonding around Europe and Asia, with stints on goat farms and sheep stations, a love for artisan-made foods naturally developed. However, from Poland to Australia, cheese always held the most allure.
Cheese only attracts people who are inclusive, supportive, and proud of what they make. From the loveable animals and the purity of the product, it takes long hours of hard work to nourish each delectable piece. After witnessing this passion, another turophile was born.
Turophile: a connoisseur or lover of cheese
Cheese in Japan
Continuing research in English and Japanese on cheese in Japan, produced domestically and imported, indicates that cheese holds an important place in Japanese cuisine. Cheese and dairy products in general are a growing part of the average Japanese person’s diet, however small compared to the four pillars of rice, fish, seaweed, and soy.
Artisan producers are winning awards internationally, numerous Japanese professionals have been inducted into the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers, and the Japanese on a whole consume more and more cheese each year. The import cheese market is growing with the leadership of amazing shops such as Fermier and Hisada, showcasing some of the best imported cheeses from Europe. And yet, outside of the Japan Dairy Council, there is limited English information on the cheese produced in Japan. Who makes the good cheese, and where is it sold?
This is what “The Geography of Cheese: Tokyo Edition” hopes to be: an adventure through the stinkiest, gooiest, most umami cheese places of Japan. It will be a showcase of Japanese cheese for the rest of the world, in way that is accessible and approachable.
Starting from Tokyo, The Geography of Cheese will feature cheese shops, restaurants with inspired cheese plates, and Japanese cheese producers. There will be a whole lot of cheese tastings, interviews with cheese professionals, and some history on cheese in Japan. On the side, other artisan-produced foods from around the country will be highlighted. Also noted will be some exceptional imported cheeses found in Japan. Every product will be worth the space on a cheese board.
In so many ways, food is not simply nourishment for the body. It is a connection to time and place that can be visited and revisited through the senses. Let’s experience some of Japan through cheese.