It is not so much ironic as inevitable that the shichirin — the basic, mass-produced, charcoal-fired clay stove so widely used in Japan in the austere postwar reconstruction days — has now been reinvented as the favorite cooking accessory for recession- chic dining out.

The appeal is obvious: They’re simple, convivial and give off a wonderful warming glow when temperatures drop. You cook your food yourself, as if at an inside barbecue, with all the attendant aromas and imperfections. And, as with nabe and okonomiyaki, the grill acts as a focus (or even substitute) for conversation.

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