Food Sake Tokyo
Born in Tokyo and raised on the shores of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, Yukari Sakamoto’s love of food began early.
Growing up as a latchkey kid, she began cooking dinner at 8 and says she loved looking through cookbooks and cooking magazines and trying new recipes.
After graduating from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, with a B.A. in music, Yukari joined the Carlson Marketing Group in its travel division, where she conducted incentive trips and business meetings around the world. Many of her clients were automotive companies, Japanese and American.
“I got spoiled eating at so many great restaurants,” Yukari said. ”I lived in Brussels for one year, and that time in Europe convinced me that I should learn the classic cooking techniques of French cuisine.”
She was 35 when she enrolled in the French Culinary Institute in New York City, where she trained as a chef and baker. She also became a sommelier at the American Sommelier Association, then worked as a sommelier at the Park Hyatt Tokyo and Takashimaya department store. She was the first non-Japanese to pass the rigorous exam to become a "shochu advisor," a sommelier of the distilled spirit native to Japan.
“Japanese is not my first language, so training as a shochu advisor was especially difficult as the classes and testing were all in Japanese,” Yukari said.
Yukari is married to Shinji. A former buyer at the world-famous Tsukiji Market, he helps her conduct Japanese cooking classes in client homes. They also host food tours throughout Tokyo to areas like Tsukiji Market, depachikas (department store food floors) and other areas off the beaten path.
Yukari started hosting the tours about 10 years ago.
“At first, it was part-time work on my off days when I was a sommelier in Tokyo. Last year, we started our own company, Food Sake Tokyo, which offers food tours and cooking classes.”
“If people really want to experience Japanese cuisine, it is worth taking a food tour in Tokyo. Of course, visitors will be able to take in many great meals, etc. but there are many fine details that will be missed,” Yukari said. “So, a visit to Tsukiji Market or a depachika will open up a whole new understanding to the food scene here.”
Yukari says it’s great to do what she loves every day and to be her own boss.
“We meet passionate foodies, and the clients are so knowledgeable and curious about Japanese food. Sharing Japanese food culture is a great job. We have found our calling.”
The couple is building a private kitchen so visitors to Japan can take classes in their home.
The couple also cooks a lot at home.
Multi-talented, Yukari’s writing has been featured in such publications as Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, Time, The Japan Times and Metropolis. And she is the author of Food Sake Tokyo, in the Terroir Guides series by The Little Bookroom.
“I loved writing the book,” Yukari said. “I had been collecting the information for the book for about five years, so it was great to finally bring it all together. The publisher, The Little Bookroom, is a great team to work with.”
She would like to write at least one Japanese cookbook.
She started her food blog, Food Sake Tokyo, when her book was published in May 2010.
“Tokyo is a very hard city to navigate,” Yukari said. “It is a big city, and even harder to find your way around if you don’t speak Japanese. The blog is our way to share the great food finds in one of the world's greatest dining cities.”
To read more about Yukari, visit her Food Sake Tokyo blog at http://foodsaketokyo.wordpress.com
For more about her book, Food Sake Tokyo, go to http://www.littlebookroom.com/products/food-sake-tokyo