What's in a name? Often, for a restaurant, a lot rides on the naming of dishes. There is a science — and a whole consulting industry — devoted to food-item names and their placement on menus. Cooks everywhere, even before it became a science, have labored to find names suitable for their latest creations.

Japanese is a language that lends itself to the subtle naming of dishes. In the late '60s, when chef Toshikatsu Osako was looking for a name for a new nabe (one-pot soup dish) he had created, he turned to one of the oldest pieces of Japanese literature available, the eighth-century collection of poems, "Manyoshu."

Among the poems he found a word, kawatare, which seemed to describe his soymilk-infused soup perfectly. Kawatare, similar in meaning to the word tasogare, is written with the kanji characters that mean "who is he" or "who is that person" ( ). It refers to the twilight, when it is not yet dark but it is difficult to see the faces of even your traveling companions clearly.