French restaurant connects cuisine with society

Utsunomiya, the capital of Tochigi Prefecture and the home of Otowa Restaurant, can be reached in 50 minutes from Tokyo Station on the Tohoku Shinkansen line. The city is best known for its gyoza, fried dumplings. In a city famous for gyoza, the presence of a French restaurant is surprising, and the fact that this restaurant has been passed through generations seems almost miraculous.

Founder Kazunori Otowa continues to demonstrate his skills as the restaurant’s owner-chef. Otowa trained with the late Alain Chapel (a three-Michelin-star French chef and leading figure of the 1970s culinary scene), Michel Guerard and others. Otowa said, “The restaurants where I trained were, of course, outstanding — but what impressed me equally was seeing the local residents taking pride in their towns, so I decided to open a restaurant in Utsunomiya, the city where I was born and raised.”

Starting with the bistro-style restaurant he launched in 1981, Otowa expanded his business with a deli and restaurant weddings. In 2007 he opened Otowa Restaurant, the guiding principle of which is “local gastronomy.” Having grown up watching their father, Otowa’s children decided to follow in his footsteps and join the world of French cuisine. Thus, the entire family is involved in offering French cuisine that conveys a sense of Japan’s identity. While traveling around Japan and sometimes collaborating with chefs from other countries, the family showcases the appeal of food products from Tochigi Prefecture, and contributes actively to society through food-related projects including food education in elementary schools. Nonetheless, Kazunori Otowa said, “We need three generations’ worth of time to do more of the things we want to do.” With a view to passing the baton to the generation to come, Otowa Restaurant continues on its chosen path.

Nihonryori Yukimoto
2-43 Towa-cho, Iida, Nagano Pref. 395-0086

Tomikazu Fukuda
Governor of Tochigi Prefecture

I am immensely proud to have Otowa Restaurant selected for Destination Restaurants 2023. Tochigi Prefecture has many kinds of delicious produce, such as strawberries, of which it is the largest producer in Japan, and Tochigi wagyu beef, one of the best brands nationwide. Otowa Restaurant has been loved by the locals for its specialties made with these local ingredients.

I hope that this will be an opportunity for more people to visit Tochigi Prefecture and enjoy its delicious cuisine and beautiful tourist attractions.

Eiichi Sato

I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Otowa Restaurant for being selected as one of The Japan Times’ Destination Restaurants 2023. Thank you for the hospitality you continue to provide to the beloved visitors of Utsunomiya city with your excellent cuisine. Besides dumplings, jazz and cocktails, Utsunomiya has many fascinating tourist attractions, such as the Oya “stone village,” which has been recognized as a Japan Heritage site. I hope that guests are able to enjoy the beauty of our city as well as the wonderful food at your restaurant.

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