Odds are you’ve never heard of Tsugaru, a small region in northwest Aomori Prefecture. But its centuries-old cuisine has drawn the attention of Japan’s culinary notables such as Mackey Makimoto, and today it’s carefully preserved and passed on by a passionate group of farmers calling themselves the Akatsuki no Kai (Dawn Club), led by Tsugaru native Ryoko Kudo.

In 1995, Kudo was hunting for ways to make the most of her excess produce, rather than simply selling it at a discount.

“I remembered the old recipes of Tsugaru,” she says. “When a few other farmers and I made and ate some of the dishes, I realized they were very healthy and unique to this place.”