“Undiscovered Gems of Japan” (UGJ), a project that incorporates innovation with Japanese food, is coming to the United States (US) for the first time. More than 1,000 artisans participate in this event every year, supported by local governments, banks and even TV stations. Supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Japan), this project aims to introduce our revolutionary grassroots movement around 6 major cities in USA between January-March 2019.


New York

JAN 10

San Jose

JAN 19


JAN 21


FEB 19




MAR 10

Exquisite products are commonly found in the rural areas of Japan. Tea gardens and sake brews that last for generations are some fine examples. However, these producers face the problems of aging and a lack of successors. The wisdom of older generations who have stood strong is at risk of being lost with the changes time brings about.


To prevent this loss, the project "Undiscovered Gems of Japan” was started in 2009. The aim was to support businesses in rural areas in the form of open innovation. Farmers and designers, hotels and fishermen etc. come together in unprecedented partnerships to produce interesting and innovative products and recipes. We presented these items at the competition, awarded prizes, and eventually the crown "Undiscovered Gems of Japan Grand Prix". We followed up with sales support thereafter. As a result, some businesses have even increased sales by 100 times through this project. Starting in 2016 with Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, a world championship (collaborating with chefs from Asian countries) has been ongoing yearly. This project has been critically acclaimed by renowned chefs worldwide who have also joined our efforts to reinvent their own recipes.

This time, these products and their producers who have won the Grand Prix will first arrive in the USA, visiting 6 cities from January to March 2019. In addition, famous chefs such as Chikara Yamada, who practiced at the restaurant, El Bulli, Spain (which was the best in the world) and Shota Nakajima, who also appeared in Iron Chef, US, also participated in the event. You can try samples from their "Special Menus" that will undoubtedly remain in the minds of all participants.

"Undiscovered Gems of Japan", an initiative backed by universities, public institutions, banks, television stations, etc., is now expanding to Singapore and other Asian countries as well. We believe there are "hidden treasures" everywhere. With the power of open innovation, we protect human assets and to produce a newer version to all. Not only can you use the innovations of our project, we also want to create a trend to discover and reinvent the treasures of each US city. At "Undiscovered Gems of Japan", I will impart the methods to do so. Having interacted with such treasures, I am sure you would want to protect them and pass on the baton to the next generations. So please, join us to discover the treasures of this world and I look forward to meeting you.   

Takuya Hane, Producer of Undiscovered Gems of Japan

About Takuya Hane

He taught at Harvard University and Pennsylvania University in the 1990s. In 1994, he was awarded the Certificate of Distinction in Teaching by Harvard University. In 1997, Active Learning Co., Ltd. (hereinafter AL) was established in Tokyo. He incorporated US style education in Japanese schools (From 2020 the Ministry of Education decided to fully introduce AL in all schools in Japan. Hane was said to be the pioneer of Active Learning in Japan - Wikipedia). In addition to academic support, it supports human resource development and business development of major companies such as Sony and Panasonic. The method of making employees active and creating an evolving organization has received high praise from the business world and been adopted by companies and government related organizations around Asia. We are also involved in project planning and facilitating collaboration between people from different fields to create new products with the power of open innovation. "Undiscovered Gems of Japan" was started by Professor Takuya Hane in 2009, while he was teaching in National Yamaguchi University.

Japan's finest tea made in the 1000 year-old tea plantation with a flavor richer than wine

Seiichi Kawakami

& Yamato Kawakami

World GP Champion(2017)

- New York -

~Kawakami Tea Factory~

Best tofu, produced at the foot of Kawabe River (known for its pristine quality of water). Collaborating with Yoichi, a technique to ensure the freshness of soy milk longer was invented.

Yasutomo Makino

Japan GP Runner UP· (Cooking category) (2017)

- New York -

~Ganko Fofu~

He manufactures juice and jelly using the renown fruits of Miyazaki prefecture, its specialty due to its milder climate. With new technology that allows for longer preservation, we can now bring it to the US to share his inventions with you.

Yoichi Tanaka

Japan GP Special Jury Award· (2017)

- New York -


The homemade salt is made from drying seawater under the sun and even Michelin star chefs compete to use it.

Enjiro Tanoya

Japan GP Champion (2016), World Salt Competition Champion (2009)

- San Jose & Seattle -

~Enjiro Tanoya~

Collaborating with Enjiro, he sold $1,000,000 worth of hit products annually within two years and is flourishing.

Seishi Haruta

Japan GP Champion (2016), Japan Souvenir Competition Champion (2018)

- San Jose & Seattle -

~Sweets co.,ltd~

Using Kosihikari (Japan’s No.1 rice brand) feed so that the goats’ milk smelled finer, he created a healthier gelato.

Yoshihito Yano

Japan GP Champion (Sweets category) (2017)

- San Jose & Seattle -

~Dolce Kagami~

Cooking up natural AYU (sweetfish), seasoned with salt koji and frozen within that day. You can taste the authenticity and uniqueness of the fish as if made in an exclusive Japanese restaurant throughout the year now.

Hiroya Okazaki
& Shinobu Okazaki

 Japan GP Champion (Cooking category) (2018)

- Honolulu -


Developed a yogurt that is said to be the most delicious in Japan now, with a processing technique that cannot be employed in mass production.

Yusuke Oyabu

 Japan GP Overall Champion (2018)

- Honolulu -

~Oyabu Dairy Farms~

Within 30 years, he devised a new way to rear cattle, risen to the pinnacle and been backed internationally.

Muneharu Ozaki

UGJ Honorary Member, Ministry of Agriculture award (1997)

- Honolulu & Miami & Austin-

~Ozaki Farm Co., Ltd.~

One of only six remaining producers using the traditional way of making sake in a time when modern Amazake (fermented rice drink) is popular.

Yoshiaki Yoshida

 World GP Champion (2018)

- Miami & Austin -


The third generation of Tofu artisan, he produces "edible" soy milk which tasts rich, incorporating secret technique.

Yukihiko Taniwaki

 Japan GP Overall Champion (2017)

- tasting only-


With more than 30 years of experience fishing in the oceans around the world, the fishermen are experienced in the art of fishing and processing of sardines and mackerel, fresh from Japanese waters.

Takeo Kanetaka

 World GP Champion (2016)

- tasting only -


Chikara Yamada

Guest Chef

NYC, Honolulu, Miami

Chef Chikara Yamada artfully combines elements of Japanese, French and Spanish cuisines to create an elegant dining experience for his guests. His culinary career began with an introduction to French cuisine by renowned Chef Genshiro Saito of Shunkoutei in Shizuoka before developing his career as a chef in Tokyo. Afterwards, Chikara spent time at several Italian eateries and traditional Japanese ryokan restaurant, Shigetsu in Yugawara, before moving to Spain. Over the course of seven years, Chikara lived in Barcelona, where he owned two eateries before joining the team of Michelin 3-star restaurant, El Bulli – where he trained under Chef ‎Ferran Adrià.


Taking elements and knowledge of each cuisine, Chikara returned to Japan as the Head Chef at Shukoutei Grill Mercado, and in 2007 opened his namesake restaurant, Yamada Chikara, in Tokyo to express his unique and boundary-less cuisine. The New York location specializes in high-end omakase with a menu of kushiage – a deep-fried Japanese skewer. Here, Chikara incorporates his unique molecular gastronomy techniques into his cooking by using practices such as espumas and liquid nitrogen.


Chikara is a member of Japan Airlines’ Dream Team of star chefs curating premium in-flight meals for JAL BEDD SKY AUBERGE – JAL’s “exclusive restaurant in the sky”, which are served to first and business class travelers. Chef has attended the annual World Cuisine Academic Meeting in Hakodate since its kick off in 2009, served as the representative chef from Japan at CIA’s World of Flavors Conference 2013, and has been appointed as the Japanese ambassador for Champagne Krug since 2015.

Shota Nakajima

Guest Chef

San Jose(Palo Alto), Seattle

Chef Shota began his culinary journey at the age of sixteen, working for a well-acclaimed sushi restaurant in his hometown of Seattle, WA. At the age of eighteen, Nakajima moved to Osaka, Japan to learn about the art of Japanese cuisine. In Japan, Nakajima had the opportunity to work for Michelin Star rated Chef Yasuhiko Sakamoto. As one would expect, this experience changed Chef Shota’s perspective on cooking.
Since returning to Seattle, it has been Nakajima’s dream to convey Chef Sakamoto’s approach to hospitality and Japanese cuisine in the United States.
In 2017 competed on Iron Chef Gauntlet and in 2018 semi finalist for the James Beard Award.


James Beard Semi Finalist Rising Star 2018

Beat Bobby Flay (Winner) Food Network

Food and Wine best bites of the year 2018

Competitor on Iron Chef Gauntlet Season 1 (Food Network)

Top 20 Dishes (Star Chefs)

Best New Restaurant  (Seattle Times)

Top 10 restaurants (Seattle Magazine)

Best Japanese Chef for US Itadakimasu Day 2014 (UNESCO)

Top 25 dishes of 2015 (Seattle Times)

30 under 30 Eater

30 under 30 Zagat


Would you like to


Undiscovered Gems of Japan Office

Active Learning Corporation

official page ( Japanese ) : https://www.undiscovered.jp/

official page ( Japanese ) : http://www.als.co.jp/

With Cooperation from

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Japan)

Japanese Consulate (Aforementioned States)