14 November 2023

From Lotus Cuisine to Beautiful Pottery: Story of Usami Yuka

Amid the serene ambiance of the USUKIYAKI gallery, the scent of Chinese tea perfumed the air, hinting at a deep story waiting to be unraveled. Our host, Usami Yuka, wife of Usami Hiroyuki, founder of USUKIYAKI, gracefully poured the tea, revealing the tale of USUKIYAKI and her personal journey intertwined with this art.


  • Fascination with Chinese Tea: A Journey Beyond Taste
  • A Blend of Pottery Passion and Culinary Heritage
  • The Charm of Usuki City

Fascination with Chinese Tea: A Journey Beyond Taste

The allure of Chinese tea first attracted Yuka not just because of its taste but also due to a captivating encounter at a tea event. While she had always been fond of tea, it was Chinese tea, in particular, that truly mesmerized her. The teacher at the event, Horiguchi-sensei, especially struck a chord with her. She describes the sensation of Chinese tea as something that is brewed perfectly, with a taste so delicious that it moved her deeply. Although not trained in the Japanese tea ceremony, Yuka appreciates its formality. Her husband, Usami Hiroyuki, the founder of USUKIYAKI and a potter himself, is familiar with the Japanese tea ceremony. He regards the Japanese tea ceremony as classical music, entrenched in tradition and somewhat rigid. On the other hand, he perceives Chinese tea, with its daily consumption, as symbolizing more casual encounters and shared moments.

The USAMI restaurant offers dishes like the Yaki Nasu Eggplant paired with a rich Dengaku miso sauce, refreshing tomatoes soaked in an umami-rich dashi soup, and sweet Ao Ume plum jelly. The standout quality of these dishes is the use of fresh vegetables and fruits sourced directly from Usuki city, which not only elevates the natural flavors but also pays homage to the authenticity of local produce. 

A Blend of Pottery Passion and Culinary Heritage

In the café of the USUKIYAKI gallery, the primary objective is to showcase the exquisite craftsmanship of USUKIYAKI pottery. Guests are treated to Chinese tea while Yuka shares her childhood memories of growing up in a family that traded mandarins in Arita City, Wakayama Prefecture. Drawing inspiration from her grandmother, a Japanese painter, and her father's dream of sending her to an art university, Yuka's background is deeply rooted in artistic appreciation.

Besides displaying ceramics, the gallery also functions as a culinary school. Yuka draws inspiration from a renowned Edinburgh-based chef, famous for her cookies. Having been raised in the countryside, Yuka has always preferred open spaces to cramped, dark rooms. This preference for natural, airy environments is evident in the gallery's design, where a focus on health, space, and light is paramount. The walls, coated with shikkui plaster, enhance this aesthetic.

The Charm of Usuki City

While sipping Chinese tea, she described its calming effect, saying it made her feel as if time had stood still. She wants visitors to enjoy this tranquil experience in harmony with the beauty of USUKIYAKI pottery.

Usuki City is a natural oasis, blessed with stunning mountains and rivers, and ethereal morning mists that create scenes reminiscent of ink-wash paintings. Despite the pitch darkness at night, the town's landscape has a magical allure. Yuka is eager to promote the beauty of Usuki both domestically and internationally. With its abundance of beautiful temples, the city also hosts violin concerts organized by her daughter, contributing to its enchanting atmosphere.

The subtle elegance and understated beauty of USUKIYAKI's designs capture the essence of this entire journey. As Yuka warmly expresses, the future is full of promise, and she hopes that more people will come to know about the charm of the town and USUKIYAKI.