Eating out / Cooking that delightfully makes the medicine go down

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Kenkozen lunch set at Yakuto, a restaurant run by the Ikedaya Yasubei Shoten apothecary in Toyama city

By Toru Asano / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterTOYAMA — Taking the steps to the second floor of Ikedaya Yasubei Shoten, a well-known dealer in traditional Japanese herbal medicines in Toyama, one arrives at a restaurant called Yakuto, which seats about 40 people.

“The black rice used for this okowa [steamed glutinous rice], which is mixed with edible wild vegetables, is unpolished, so please chew carefully,” a staff member said when explaining one of the various dishes made with medicinal ingredients.

Black rice is chock full of anthocyanin, a type of polyphenol believed to be beneficial for the eyes. Along with a chicken ball soup with boiled Korean ginseng, the okowa is part of the Kenkozen healthy set meal served at lunchtime. The pleasant aroma of herbal medicines wafting in the steam stimulates the appetite. The set is priced at ¥2,160, or ¥2,700 with dessert.

Ikedaya Yasubei Shoten was established in 1936, and the restaurant opened in 1995. “An apothecary is where people who aren’t feeling well come,” company President Yasutaka Ikeda said. “Our idea is that we want healthy people to know about the world of Toyama’s traditional herbal medicines.”

The restaurant has received a growing number of tourists from outside Toyama Prefecture since the Hokuriku Shinkansen bullet train service was extended to Kanazawa in 2015, he added.

Ikeda devised the menu himself. In the summer, a simmered dish features seasonal vegetables such as togan wax gourds, while the winter menu includes simmered beef with the roots of kikyo bellflower, as well as pickled dandelion roots.

“We put great importance on fresh ingredients in season,” Ikeda said. “During the frigid winter, root vegetables grown in the cold soil serve the purpose of warming the body.”

While ingredients of traditional herbal medicines may be unfamiliar to many, the restaurant turns them into easy-to-eat dishes by finely chopping them or simmering them for a long time.

The Kenkozen set meal requires reservations at least a day in advance. In our busy daily lives, we have a tendency to neglect our health. So it would be good to comfort our bodies with this healthy Toyama lunch, based on Chinese medicine that dates back to the Edo period (1603-1867).


Open: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Ikedaya Yasubei Shoten on 1st floor open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

Closed Wednesdays (The apothecary remains open)

Address: 1-3-5 Tsutsumicho-dori, Toyama

Phone: (076) 425-1871

Credit cards accepted

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