The Kamogawa Food Detectives

The Kamogawa Food Detectives

The Kamogawa Food Detectives

The Kamogawa Food Detectives



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Notes From Your Bookseller

Another immensely successful import from Japan, this fits the trend of being warm and welcoming, odd and off-beat. It’s a whole lot of feel-good in a small package.

The Kamogawa Food Detectives is the first book in the bestselling, mouth-watering Japanese series, for fans of Before the Coffee Gets Cold.

What’s the one dish you’d do anything to taste just one more time?

Down a quiet backstreet in Kyoto exists a very special restaurant. Run by Koishi Kamogawa and her father Nagare, the Kamogawa Diner serves up deliciously extravagant meals. But that's not the main reason customers stop by . . .

The father-daughter duo are 'food detectives'. Through ingenious investigations, they are able to recreate dishes from a person’s treasured memories – dishes that may well hold the keys to their forgotten past and future happiness. The restaurant of lost recipes provides a link to vanished moments, creating a present full of possibility.

A bestseller in Japan, The Kamogawa Food Detectives is a celebration of good company and the power of a delicious meal.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593717721
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/13/2024
Series: A Kamogawa Food Detectives Novel , #3
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: eBook
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 7,750
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Hisashi Kashiwai was born in 1952 and was raised in Kyoto. He graduated from Osaka Dental University. After graduating, he returned to Kyoto and worked as a dentist. He has written extensively about his native city and has collaborated in TV programs and magazines.

Jesse Kirkwood is a literary translator working from Japanese into English. The recipient of the 2020 Harvill Secker Young Translators’ Prize, his translations include The Kamogawa Food Detectives by Hisashi Kashiwai, Tokyo Express by Seicho Matsumoto and A Perfect Day to Be Alone by Nanae Aoyama.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1


Walking away from Higashi Honganji temple, Hideji Kuboyama instinctively turned up the collar on his trench coat.

Dead leaves swirled in the chilly air. That must be the famous Mount Hiei wind, he thought to himself, knitting his brows as he waited for the signal to change.

It was just like people said: in Kyoto, the cold cuts to the bone. In midwinter, freezing air rushes down from the mountains that surround the city on three sides. In Kobe, where Hideji had been born and raised, the winds that blew down from Mount Rokko were formidable too. But here, the quality of the cold was somehow different. As he made his way down Shomen-dori, he cast his gaze towards the snow-capped peaks of the Higashiyama mountains in the distance.

Hideji stopped a postman sitting astride a red scooter and asked for directions. 'Excuse me. I'm looking for a restaurant round here. The Kamogawa Diner, I think it's called.'

'If  it's Mr Kamogawa you're after, his is the second building after that corner,' replied the postman in an extremely matter-of-fact tone, pointing down the right-hand side of the street.

Hideji crossed the street and stood in front of the two-storey structure. It didn't look much like a restaurant, though traces of a former sign and a display window remained. Two squares of white paint had been scruffily applied to the exterior wall. However, it had none of the gloominess of a vacant building, instead radiating a human warmth that suggested it was still very much a working restaurant. While its appearance might have been off-putting to the average tourist, the smells drifting out were enticing, and from inside came the sound of cheerful banter.

'This place has Nagare written all over it,' muttered Hideji, casting his mind back to the days he'd spent with Nagare Kamogawa, his former colleague. The two of them had both moved on to other things now. Despite being Hideji's junior, Nagare had been the first to quit the police.

He looked up at the restaurant, then opened the sliding aluminium door.

'Welcome to - oh! If it isn't Hideji!' Koishi Kamogawa, a round tray in her hands, froze with surprise. Koishi was Nagare's only daughter, and Hideji had known her since she was a baby.

'Koishi! Well, aren't you all grown up,' said Hideji, removing his coat.

'Hideji? Is that you?' called Nagare as he emerged from the kitchen in his white apron.

'So this is your place, after all,' said Hideji, grinning broadly at Nagare.

'I can't believe you found us. Please, take a seat. Sorry the place isn't much to look at.' Nagare wiped down the red cushion of one of the chairs.

'I guess I haven't lost my intuition yet,' said Hideji, blowing into his numb hands to warm them as he sat down.

'How many years has it been, you reckon?' asked Nagare as he removed his chef's hat.

'I suppose the last time was your wife's funeral.'

'You were a real help that day,' said Nagare, bowing in gratitude. Koishi followed suit.

'I don't suppose you could rustle something up for me? I'm ravenous,' said Hideji, glancing sideways at a young man who was shovelling down a bowl of katsudon.

'I usually ask first-time customers to leave it up to the chef,' said Nagare.

'Sounds good to me,' said Hideji, meeting Nagare's gaze.

'Coming right up, then. Just give me a moment,' said Nagare, donning his hat again as he turned away.

'Oh - and no mackerel, please!' said Hideji, before taking a sip of his tea.

'Don't worry - I remember. We've known each other long enough!' replied Nagare over his shoulder.

Hideji looked around the restaurant. Apart from the young man, the five counter seats by the kitchen were unoccupied. There was no one else sitting at the four tables either, and nothing resembling a menu in sight. The clock on the wall showed ten past one.

'Koishi, can I get some tea?' said the man eating katsudon, setting his now-empty bowl down on the counter.

'You shouldn't wolf your food down like that, Hiroshi. It's bad for your digestion,' said Koishi, pouring tea from a small Kiyomizu-ware teapot. Meanwhile, Nagare brought out Hideji's food on a tray.

'Looks like quite the feast!' said Hideji, his eyes widening.

'Not really. They call it "Kyoto comfort food" these days, but in the past no one would have dreamed of charging people money for simple fare like this. Still, I thought it might be the sort of thing you'd enjoy.' Nagare was unloading various dishes and small bowls from the tray, arranging them one by one on the table.

'You're not wrong. Looks like your intuition hasn't faded either.'

As Hideji's gaze skipped between the various dishes, Nagare went on:

'Stewed arame and deep-fried tofu. Okara croquettes. Kikuna leaves dressed with sesame and miso. Kurama-style sardine. Hirosu tofu ball in broth. Pork belly simmered in Kyobancha tea. Fresh tofu curd with sour plum paste. Oh, and Koishi's rice-bran-pickled cucumbers. Nothing too extravagant. If anything, the highlights are probably the firmly cooked Goshu rice and the miso soup with ebi-imo taro. Anyway, enjoy the meal. Oh, and make sure you put a good sprinkle of sansho pepper on the soup - it'll warm you right up.'

His eyes gleaming, Hideji nodded along to Nagare's every word.

'Tuck in while it's hot!' urged Koishi. Hideji sprinkled the sansho pepper and picked up the bowl of miso soup. When he sipped it one of the chunks of taro tumbled into his mouth. Chewing on it slowly, he nodded once, twice, and then a third time.

'This miso soup's fantastic. What rich flavours!'

With the thin-rimmed rice bowl in his left hand, his chopsticks danced back and forth between the dishes, reaching towards each in turn. He took a piece of the pork belly, dripping with sauce, and set it on top of the white rice before transporting it to his mouth. As he carefully bit into the meat, a smile began to spread across his face. Next he crunched through the coating of the okara croquette, savouring the soy pulp filling. When he placed the hirosu tofu ball on his tongue, the delicately flavoured broth oozed out, some of it spilling from his mouth. Hideji wiped his chin with the hand holding his chopsticks.

'More rice?' asked Koishi, offering him her tray.

'You know, I haven't eaten this well in quite a while,' said Hideji, placing his depleted rice bowl on the tray.

'Well then, better eat your fill!' said Koishi, hurrying off to the kitchen with the tray.

'Is the food alright?' said Nagare, coming over to the table just as Koishi was leaving.

'More than alright. I'm struggling to believe a mere mortal acquaintance of mine could have put this kind of meal together.'

'Oh, no need for that kind of talk. I'm just an old codger who happens to run a restaurant,' said Nagare, looking humbly at the floor.

'So, Hideji, what are you up to these days?' said Koishi, appearing again with the bowl, now piled high with rice.

'I retired from the force last year. I'm on the board of a security company in Osaka now,' said Hideji, gazing eagerly at the glistening white rice before getting to work with his chopsticks.

'Sounds like they've sorted you out with a nice position. I have to say though - you haven't changed a bit. Still got that sharp look in your eyes!' said Nagare, meeting Hideji's gaze.

'The bitterness of these kikuna leaves works very nicely. A real Kyoto flavour, isn't it.' Hideji positioned the rest of the salad on top of his rice before polishing it off. Then he crunched on one of the pickled cucumbers.

'How about steeping your rice in tea? You could mix it with some of the sardine. Koishi, why don't you pour him some hojicha?'

Taking her cue, Koishi poured the hot tea from a Banko teapot.

'So you call it Kurama-style in Kyoto. Where I'm from, if you simmer something with sansho pepper, that's Arima-style.'

'Must be a case of local pride then. Kurama and Arima are both famous for their sansho, aren't they?'

'You learn something new every day!' said Koishi.

When he had finished the steeped rice, Hideji picked his teeth, then settled back in his chair.

To the right of the counter seating, an indigo curtain hung over the entrance to the kitchen. Whenever Nagare passed through the curtain, Hideji caught a glimpse of a tatami-matted living room alongside the kitchen space, where a grand-looking Buddhist altar was set into the wall.

'Mind if I pay my respects?' asked Hideji, peering past the curtain. Koishi led him to the altar.

'You're looking younger, Hideji!' said Koishi, putting her hands on Hideji's shoulders and taking in his features.

'I hope you're not making fun of me. I've passed the sixty mark, you know.' Hideji kneeled and positioned a stick of incense in front of the altar, then set the cushion to one side.

'Thanks for doing this,' said Nagare, glancing over at the portrait on the altar and lowering his head.

'So, Kikuko watches over you while you work?' Still kneeling on the tatami mat, Hideji relaxed into a less formal pose and looked up at Nagare.

'More like keeps an eye on me,' replied Nagare with a chuckle.

'I never would have thought you'd end up running a restaurant, you know.'

'Actually, I've been meaning to ask since you walked in here. How did you find us?' asked Nagare, coming over and sitting by him on the tatami.

'Well, my boss is a bit of a foodie. He likes to read Gourmet Monthly, and keeps a stack of back issues in the boardroom. When I saw your advert in the magazine, I put two and two together.'

'Now see, that's why we called you Hideji the Hawk. I can't believe you knew it was my restaurant from a one-line advert like that. There weren't even any contact details! And yet here you are.' Nagare was shaking his head in admiration.

'Knowing you, I'm sure there's a reason, but couldn't you make that advert a little less mysterious? The way it reads at the moment, I'll probably be the only one to ever find you!'

'Oh, that's alright by me. I'd rather not be swamped with customers.'

'You always were a funny one, Nagare.'

'So, hoping we can track down a dish from your past, by any chance?' asked Koishi, studying Hideji as she stood at Nagare's side.

'Yes, I think I might be,' said Hideji, a smile playing about his lips.

'You still living over in Teramachi?' asked Nagare, getting up and walking over to the sink.

'The same old place by Junenji temple. Every morning I walk along the Kamogawa river to Demachiyanagi, then jump on the Keihan line for my commute to the Osaka office. Phew, all this kneeling is tough. At this age, my legs just can't take it!'

Frowning, Hideji slowly raised himself from the tatami and returned to his seat in the restaurant.

'Oh, tell me about it. It's always a struggle when the priest comes over for Kikuko's death day.'

'Good on you for getting a priest in though,' said Hideji. 'I haven't had one over to pray for my wife for years. Bet she's furious.' He took a cigarette from his breast pocket, then glanced at Koishi as if to gauge her reaction.

'Oh, go ahead,' said Koishi, setting an aluminium ashtray on the table.

'Excuse me,' said Hideji, waving his cigarette in the direction of Hiroshi. 'Mind if I have a quick puff?'

'Be my guest,' replied Hiroshi with a grin, before retrieving a cigarette of his own from his bag.

'Don't you think it's time you gave up? It's one thing smoking when you're young, but at our age . . .' said Nagare across the counter.

'I've been hearing that a lot recently,' said Hideji, then took a long drag on his cigarette.

'You have? Wait - don't tell me you've remarried?'

'Actually, that's what brings me here. See, I need your help recreating a certain . . . flavour,' said Hideji, smiling as he stubbed his cigarette out in the ashtray.

'Thanks for the katsudon - it was delicious,' said Hiroshi, slapping a five-hundred-yen coin on the counter and walking out of the restaurant with his cigarette dangling from his mouth. Hideji, following him with his gaze, turned to Koishi.

'That some sweetheart of yours?'

'Oh, Hideji, shush!' said Koishi, blushing as she thumped Hideji on the back. 'He's just one of our regulars. Runs a sushi place around the corner.'

'Hideji, sorry to be so formal, but it's Koishi who runs the detective agency. Could you fill her in on what it is you're looking for? Our office - if you can call it that - is in the back.'

'Got it. Alright then, Koishi, ready when you are,' said Hideji, making as if to get up.

'I'll just be a moment,' said Koishi, removing her apron and hurrying to the back of the kitchen.

'So, Nagare, how long are you going to keep this widower thing up?' said Hideji, settling back into his chair.

'Well, it's only been five years, hasn't it? If I marry someone else too soon, Kikuko will come back and haunt me, I just know it,' said Nagare, pouring them some tea.

'Still too early for you, eh? It'll be fifteen years ago this year for me. I figure Chieko will be just about ready to forgive me by now.'

'Has it really been that long? Goes quickly, doesn't it. Feels like just the other the day that she was inviting me around for dinner.'

'She had her foibles, but one thing's for sure - no one could cook like her,' said Hideji with a sigh. There was a moment's silence.

'Well, shall we?' said Nagare, getting to his feet. Hideji followed his lead.

At the other end of the counter to the kitchen entrance was a small door. Nagare opened it to reveal a long, narrow corridor which, it seemed, led to the detective agency's office.

'Are these all your creations?' said Hideji, looking at the photos of food plastered along the walls as he followed Nagare down the corridor.

'Not quite all of them, but yes,' replied Nagare over his shoulder.

'And this . . . ?' Hideji had come to a halt.

'I've been drying red chilli peppers in the back garden. Trying to do it the way Kikuko used to. Haven't had much luck, though . . .'

'I remember Chieko drying something or other that way too. It all seemed like a bit of a faff to me, mind . . .' said Hideji, walking again.

'Koishi, your client's here,' said Nagare, opening the door at the end of the corridor.

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