Ichinoseki City has been running a project studying how the area can grow vegetables found in the west, which Aimi Bell wrote a piece for THE KITAKAMI TIMES about in March of this year.

Many of these vegetables are just about ripe for the picking, so we decided to take a visit to the Ichinoseki City Southern Agricultural Technology Development Center where they’ve been growing these veggies, as well as the Asahiya Restaurant which held a tasting using these vegetables last year.

Entrance to the Southern Agricultural Technology Development Center
It says, “A New Challenge – Western Vegetables”

We first dropped by the agricultural center to see the fields as well as interview the people involved. Western veggies were growing even at the front entrance by the road, showing off their project to the people who pass by.

Deputy director Chiba (right) and Ms. Furuuchi who showed us the fields

Including the fields and the greenhouse, they have about 10 ares* with which to try growing these vegetables. They change out the types of vegetables depending on the season, and this year alone they will try growing around 80 types of vegetables.

*Are – A unit of area equal to 100 square meters.

An interview with Chiba Hiroshi, deputy director of the Ichinoseki City Southern Agricultural Technology Development Center


  1. Are you able to grow these western vegetables in Ichinoseki City (Japan)? How are they different from traditionally Japanese vegetables?
    We’re at about the same latitude as Europe, so I think we’ll be able to grow the majority of these vegetables. Compared to Japanese vegetables, I feel like western vegetables have been cultivated in order to improve their shape and color.
  1. What can a typical person do to promote the cultivation of western vegetables?
    Demand won’t grow for these vegetables if people just think of them as a rare product. It will take a persistent effort, but it’s most important to show consumers how to eat these vegetables. If we can grow demand as well as match the timing and amount of supply, it will lead to sales for a long period of time. We don’t have to stop at simply producing and then selling – creating a system for accepting/sending orders, along with production and supply, could lead to a rejuvenation of industry for the region.
  1. What initiatives are you running in order to get local farmers to grow these vegetables?
    This year, we supplied 6 young farmers with shallot seeds in order to have them experiment with growing them. In addition, we also have an initiative to supply those shallots to local hotels and restaurants. Shallots aren’t really produced domestically, so we selected a type of shallot that would keep well in storage after harvest, leading to a long-term supply. I hope that we use this as one pillar of our project and increase our scope to many other types of vegetables.
  1. How about initiatives to increase cultivation of western vegetables in Ichinoseki in the future?
    There are a lot of young farmers interested in growing western vegetables, with the skills to grow them to boot. However, there’s not a lot of demand, and even smaller individual supply, so it’s difficult to grow it into a business. I hope that, more than anything else, these farmers can see the fruits of their harvest being consumed and praised right in front of them. It’s a challenge to be overcome, but I will continue to closely gather information on the current status of consumption and production, as well as people’s hopes for the future. I hope to make Ichinoseki recognized by everybody as a place that grows western vegetables.

Biquinho peppers

These cute little peppers are a type of chili. They’re quite mild, so you can eat them as is, but I did detect a tiny bit of a zip while eating them. You can eat them pickled.


Kale is famous in Japan as the ingredient in green juice. You can use it in salads and stir-fry dishes.


This aromatic plant is used as an herb. You can use the stem in salads and soups.

Vegetables we received as souvenirs

Due to COVID-19, this year the center hasn’t been able to hold any open days, but they are still continuing to take reservations for people who want to visit the field. They told us that they always give vegetables out to people who tour the center, so we also got a bunch of souvenirs.

Around 40-50 minutes away from the city center by car is an area called Senmaya. In the center of Senmaya is “Restaurant Asahiya” which is a Western cuisine* restaurant that has been running for over 40 years. We had lunch here as well as interviewed the chef.

*In Japan, a common type of restaurant you’ll find is called “Yoshoku” which literally means Western cuisine. This is typically French-inspired food but also includes things like curry, fried cutlets, and other types of food that became popular after the country opened its borders in the 19th century. There are many popular dishes here that aren’t actually found in the “west” – at least not in these forms. You could say it’s Western food modified for Japanese tastes.

Chef Harada who served us

An interview with Chef Harada Ryoichi of Restaurant Asahiya


  1. Where do you typically get the western vegetables that you use?
    I buy from farmers in Kitakami City or frozen from Hokkaido. I also get wares from within Ichinoseki and farmers markets.
  1. How do you feel about Ichinoseki City’s initiative to grow western vegetables?
    I think it’s great. We don’t have many Western-style restaurants in Ichinoseki, but I think these could be on the menu on places that serve other types of cuisine. I hope they work hard to have Ichinoseki become like Kahoku in Yamagata Prefecture (*The town of Kahoku in Yamagata has an initiative to grow Italian vegetables).
  1. Are there any kind of western vegetables you’d like to try?
    I’ve been involved with western cuisine for many years, so I’ve tried most things. Iwate is rich in the bounties of both the sea and land, so I’d like to work on some sort of new dish that uses these ingredients.

When I mentioned that we sometimes have international conferences here regarding the ILC, he said that he hopes all of the chefs of Iwate can come together to welcome our guests. Chef Harada has received many awards, including the Disciples Award from the Association des Disciples d’Escoffier du Japon. He’s also very passionate about teaching about food.

Eggplant and leek fritters

We brought Chef Harada a bunch of vegetables from the Ichinoseki center, and he cooked them right there for us. These eggplants and leeks are much softer and creamier than normal eggplants grown in Japan.

White eggplant sauté

You can see some fennel herbs on top. These eggplants were melt-in-your-mouth tasty, and the aromatic fennel matched quite nicely.

Homemade pickles

Chilled broth from a certain vegetable

He also brought us some homemade pickles and a chilled broth. The pickles were very mild, and really showcased the flavor and texture of each vegetable. The chilled broth looked quite clear, like white wine. Can you guess what vegetable this soup was made out of?

It’s actually tomato! Chef Harada said he developed this soup to make use of tomatoes that weren’t quite beautiful enough to sell at the market (they taste the same – just a little funny-looking). The broth looks clear, but it’s made out of 100% tomatoes. With one sip, we realized just how amazing and subtle this tomato dish was. By the way, the skin of these tomatoes is used in sauces, so the chef doesn’t let anything go to waste.

Asahiya’s famous curry pilaf

Crab pilaf

“Stamina Rice”

This is what the three of us ordered. As a French restaurant, they also have a course menu, but they also have the common dishes found in “Yoshoku” restaurants throughout Japan. They were all phenomenal!

(*“Stamina rice” is the name for any rice dish with high caloric value – the goal being to give you stamina to get through the day)

In conclusion

When you go somewhere on vacation, you tend to want to eat the local cuisine as much as possible. But if you go somewhere to live, you’ll want to eat food from your home as well. If the ILC is built in the Kitakami site, scientists will come to live in the area, and I’m sure there will be times that they’ll want meals just like what they can get at home. I hope we can continue working to fit in all perspectives as we try to make the area comfortable for people of all walks of life.

Ichinoseki City Southern Agricultural Technology Development Center

Address: Iwate-ken, Ichinoseki-shi, Hanaizumi-cho, Kanezawa, Aza Yuukabezawa 19-4
Japanese address: 岩手県一関市花泉町金沢字有壁沢19-4

Restaurant Asahiya

Address: Iwate-ken, Ichinoseki-shi, Senmaya-cho, Senmaya Aza Miyashiki 43-8
Japanese address: 岩手県一関市千厩町千厩字宮敷43-8








一関市南部農業技術開発センター 副所長 千葉 広 様へのインタビュー














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