After I get off at Tokunaga Station, Nagaragawa Railyway and take a taxi to “Oku-no-oku”, a tofu restaurant. Seeing flowers are in a bloom from the car window, it seems like paradise! Oh, I just arrive at “Oku-no-oku” when I am enjoying the scenery.

It is written “Dead end beyond this point” on a leaflet I got before coming here. It is quite true that at the end of the beautiful view, “Oku-no-oku” is right here waiting for me.

Oku-no-oku Tofu cuisine4
Oku-no-oku Tofu cuisine5

Ms Noriko Kakehi welcomes me with a warm smile and leads me to the innermost part of the restaurant. After entering the tatami room, I can see a clear stream from the window.

Ms Kakehi brings me tea from the hearth and says, “We are ready, please come with me”. I am wondering what is ready and keep following her. Finally, I see steam coming out!

Oku-no-oku Tofu cuisine6
Oku-no-oku Tofu cuisine7
Oku-no-oku Tofu cuisine8
Oku-no-oku Tofu cuisine9

OOpen the lid of a large wooden box, all inside is soy milk! You can make and taste fresh yuba (Tofu skin). Even I am a yuba lover, this is my first time making my own yuba. Using your chopsticks to pick a pinch of yuba is so much fun! Pick a thin layer of yuba and dip in some ponzu sauce (a kind of soy sauce with citrus juice), it is so yummy!
“We still have lots to come, please don’t eat too much.” owner says with a smile.

There are lots of smaller square wooden boxes. You can pick one-bite size yuba at one time. Pick one in front of you and the one next to you is going to be ready. After having one round of fresh yuba, you can pick another round. It is too delicious that I forgot what the owner just advised me.

It seems the owner noticed that we are having too much yuba, she invites us back to the tatami room, and a full table of dishes is waiting for us!

Oku-no-oku Tofu cuisine10

Fried ayu (Sweetfish) with a lovely 3 layers box containing all kinds of tofu. The most famous food here in “Oku-no-oku” is “Iburi-dofu (Smoked tofu)”, together with local Takayama-shi’s “Komo-dofu (Wrapped tofu)” with miso sauce and deep fried “Shimi-dofu (Frozen tofu)” in curry favor, and also egg rolls with vegetables. You can taste them with sweet “Gujo miso” paste.

Oku-no-oku Tofu cuisine11
Oku-no-oku Tofu cuisine12
Oku-no-oku Tofu cuisine13
Oku-no-oku Tofu cuisine14

You definitely need alcohol for these delicious tofu cuisines. Here in “Oku-no-oku”, you can find the most famous “Doburoku (Home-brewed sake)”. They use traditional way to make this sake, so it tastes heavy and rich. There are white and red colors, depend on the type of Koji (Malted rice) used. The red one tastes sweeter than the white one.

Oku-no-oku Tofu cuisine15

I am wondering how the first owner created these nice dishes and this restaurant. I start asking the current owner here. He liked being happy and grew so much with the help from surroundings. He was so pleased to be here. “Iburi -dofu” in this Motai district, Yamato-cho, making from soybeans crushed by stone mill and placing it on a net to get smoked. During ceremonial occasions and new year, they use it for boiled food. “Iburi-dofu” contains little moisture so it is a good preserved food too.

The first owner wanted to keep this local food and provide jobs during winter, so he opened this tofu restaurant. They paste a thin layer of miso on top of the tofu overnight and smoke it for 3 days. The original type of tofu they call it “Motai Tofu” which is very suitable for boiled food.

“Doburoku” is made from koji which produced by a koji store in town. They make it with their own rice and groundwater. 100% made in Gujo. The first owner passed his skills to his apprentices making 3 stores selling their own “Dobukuro”.

Oku-no-oku Tofu cuisine16
Oku-no-oku Tofu cuisine17

After that, tofu cuisines continue to come. Simple taste Motai Tofu, yuba, steam soy milk and more.

Oku-no-oku Tofu cuisine18
Oku-no-oku Tofu cuisine19

Last dish is rice with wild sesame and Gujo miso soup, made by the mother of the second generation.
Don’t forget this soymilk dessert too. I am so full!!

Oku-no-oku Tofu cuisine20
Oku-no-oku Tofu cuisine21

It is a paradise of tofu cuisine with the murmur of the stream nearby. It worth travelling a long way to “Oku-no-oku. It is so good that you will definitely want to keep it for yourself but eventually you cannot help telling others how wonderful it is! I heard a new guesthouse just opened lately. Maybe staying there for one night after having dinner at “Oku-no-oku” will be great!

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minokamo(Akiko Nagao)

minokamo (Akiko Nagao)

Come from Minokamo-shi, Gifu-ken. Local food researcher, photographer, illustrator. Bases on her memory of making food with her grandma, she starts holding events and producing menus using local ingredients to connect food with people. She also produces receipts which can be found in all kinds of media, makes menus for local stations, collects local food data throughout Japan, takes pictures and do writings. As a photographer, she also designs new menus and provides styling. She uses food as a conductor to make happiness. She is running a serial about seasonal food on Gifu Shimbun.

Photographs by minokamo