The peaceful, slow-moving town of Tono lies in the rural heart of Iwate Prefecture, far removed from the more famous, well-visited tourist sites of Tohoku. Surrounded by forested mountains, Iwate is best known for its bucolic landscapes and colorful folkloric heritage — much less so for its hearty, rustic food culture.

And yet, over the past decade, this calm backwater has quietly established a reputation as a dining destination worthy of a special detour. A small but steady trickle of cognoscenti — chefs, restaurateurs, sake mavens and assorted gastronomes — have been making their way there. Their goal: Tonoya Yo, a boutique auberge-restaurant quite unlike any other in the country.

Set unobtrusively on a tranquil residential street, Tonoya Yo is housed in a former rice storehouse that once graced the property of a wealthy farmer in the prefectural hinterland. Transported, refurbished and fitted out in a seamless blend of traditional and contemporary craftsmanship, it makes an atmospheric accommodation that perfectly complements the inventive multicourse meals prepared by owner-chef Yotaro Sasaki.