"A hundred people must have told me it was impossible," said Sarah Cummings as we sipped sake in the stylish Kurabu restaurant in the village of Obuse.

Against the odds, she has turned part of an old sake brewery into a successful new restaurant, while managing to retain its special atmosphere.

The heart of Kurabu is its large open kitchen. When we visited on a busy Friday night, chefs in traditional happi jackets were darting about. Steam wafted from the old-fashioned kamado rice stove, and the fragrance of firewood mingled with food grilling before our eyes.