Often referred to as “The Little Kyoto of Iyo”, the lovely Ozu City has a long, rich history.
Situated with a great view of the nearby Ozu Castle and Hijikawa River, where it is possible to go cormorant fishing, there’s a popular robatayaki (open grill) restaurant called Aburaya, which is run by chef and owner, Asao Naganuma.
Asao Naganuma / Owner & Chef at Aburaya
Aburaya is run by Mr. Naganuma, who used to manage the teppanyaki restaurant Bamboo Grassy in Ebisu, Tokyo – a place I used to frequent. When I heard that he had opened a restaurant here in Ozu City, I came as fast as I could.
The restaurant was established in the late Edo Period by a gentleman called Kyuma Aburai, and it was also featured in chapter 14, of the essay series “On the Highways” by Ryotaro Shiba.
The restaurant used to be an inn called Aburaya Ryokan. Prior to being reopened by Mr. Naganuma as a robatayaki restaurant in 2013, it was closed for a period and renovated by the local city government.
Mr. Naganuma now lives here in Ozu with his family, but since Ozu and Ebisu are two very different places, he had a difficult time adapting when he first arrived. Both the flavors of the two places, and what customers want and expect are completely different. Through 4 years of testing, hard work and creativity, he has managed to make Aburaya into a fantastic restaurant that both local customers and travelers love.
At the restaurant, Mr. Naganuma grills food such as fresh seafood and vegetables right in front of customers. Whilst he gets fresh, local Ehime products packed with energy such as vegetables, meat, fish, other ingredients come directly from the nearby natural environment.
Bringing out all the potential of the ingredients he uses, Mr. Naganuma’s cuisine looks and tastes amazing. The volume is just right, and he manages to create a nice balance with the amount of seasoning and the doneness.
The moment you pop a piece into your mouth, a sense of pure happiness flows through you and you can`t stop smiling. It`s hard to put that feeling and sense of gratitude into words, but great food made with sincerity and healthy ingredients certainly puts a smile on a person`s face.
Coming from a first-class establishment in Tokyo, Mr. Naganuma manages to attain a refined, comfortable balance in his service through a synergy of the local and the metropolitan.
It is great that the number of places with a sincere yet refined service for locals to enjoy is increasing in the Setouchi area. Aburaya is most definitely one such place, and one that I sincerely hope to return to someday.
Address: 42 Ozu, Ozu City, Ehime Prefecture
Lunch 11:30 – 14:30 (last orders 14:00)
Dinner 17:00 – 23:00 (last orders 22:00)
Closed: Mondays (When Monday is a public holiday, Tuesday will be closed instead)
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Yoko Sugenami (Rainbow Sake)
Yoko Suganami Rainbow Sake, Inc. After an extended stay in Hawaii, in 2011, I returned to my hometown of Kure, Hiroshima. Having worked at advertising companies in both Japan and Hawaii, I founded Rainbow Sake - a PR company with the goal of spreading Sake abroad. I hope that sake will ""bring the people of the world together"" and that I can be a part of that. I often travel abroad, and mostly to Hawaii and Singapore. Every time I come back home, I rediscover the beauty of my hometown and the happiness the easygoing, calm, fresh and simple sea and mountains of Setouchi bring.
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