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Tofuya Ukai

Review excerpt: The core of Tofuya Ukai's premises is a 200-year-old sake brewery transplanted from Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture, massive polished beams, thick-walled warehouse, and all. You are greeted by kimono-clad staff, then ushered through winding passages, past a miniature sake museum with ancient vats and a wooden sake press, to your private dining room.

There are 55 rooms in total, enough to seat over 500 people. Apart from a few chambers at the front of the house that are equipped with tables and chairs for wheelchair-friendly access, the rooms are in traditional zashiki-style, with simple, spare furnishings, tatami floors and leg wells. The layout is carefully designed so that all rooms have views over the inner garden, with its thatched grill house and wooden waterwheel turning lazily. Tokyo Tower remains totally out of sight.

Given such remarkable surroundings, it would be easy to surmise that the food here is perhaps of secondary importance. Not so. As the name suggests, the menu revolves around tofu, incorporated into refined kaiseki cuisine.

What distinguishes Tofuya Ukai from other restaurants of this ilk is that they produce all their own tofu. It’s made at their own in-house workshop in Owadamachi, in the foothills of the Okutama mountains behind Hachioji. The beans are grown in Hokkaido; the local water is famous for its purity; the tofu is made and delivered daily.