Over the years, Kuraoka went to great extremes and constantly challenged himself by asking questions about what would fulfill his vision of making Japanese food the world-treasured cuisine it is today. After attending graduate school in the U.S. as an exchange student, Kuraoka felt compelled to spread the word about real Japanese cuisine to Americans. But he wanted to do it right -- with experienced chefs from Japan, an extensive menu, dedicated sushi and tempura counters -- and opened Restaurant Nippon in 1963 as one of the first truly authentic Japanese restaurants in New York City, if not the U.S.
Over the years, Kuraoka went to great extremes to fulfill his vision of making Japanese food the world-treasured cuisine it is today. Not satisfied with the quality of buckwheat available in the U.S. to make good soba? Buy a farm in Quebec to see what Japanese soba varieties grow best there, and develop special methods of refining and processing his freshly-grown buckwheat to make the best and freshest ni-hachi soba imaginable. Not happy with the tofu in NYC? Introduce equipment to produce fresh homemade tofu directly on the premises. Disappointed that his customers here cannot partake in the pleasures of dining on the tastiest pufferfish -- the highly toxic but delightful Torafugu? Take it up with the FDA for five years to become the designated importer under strict guidelines (we still chuckle at hearing a former FDA regulator describe Kuraoka as a "highly determined man" in a Japanese documentary outlining the travails). The list goes on.
Being obsessive has its rewards: first and foremost the satisfaction of our customers, but others as well. After receiving various accolades from a variety of industry groups and New York City, in 2009 the Japanese government awarded Kuraoka The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, for his “outstanding contributions to the promotion of Japanese Culture through Japanese food.” Although Kuraoka passed away in 2018, we at Restaurant Nippon are obsessed with carrying on his legacy, and hope to serve you soon.