Kimatni D. Rawlins
"The true sage is concerned not with the cure of disease but with its prevention." Often times the road least traveled is the road that leads to enlightenment and nutritional freedom. During our time in Fukuoka, Japan my wife Misa and I -- who was born and raised in the region -- visited the top vegan, macrobiotic restaurants including Haze Rouge which sits an hour outside of the city in the Mino Mountain Range. Applying balance to foods that heal is the core principle of the macrobiotic lifestyle.
We discovered Haze Rouge by searching the Happy Cow app for vegan places while visiting family in Fukuoka. With only four brands to decipher between it was a no-brainer to venture out on a day trip to the 120-year-old traditional Japanese house turned macrobiotic restaurant. Tucked away in the countryside, Kurume, Kyushu was both a culinary and cultural adventure through a land where locals grow their own foods from Wheatgrass and rice to cabbage and persimmons. The sunny Sunday morning excursion brought us beauty and serenity in route to some of the most delectable plant foods we have tasted to date.
Opened from 11:30 am to 3:00 pm (the last order is at 2:30 pm) Wednesday through Sunday for lunch, then from 6 pm to 8 pm for dinner (reservations required), Haze Rouge is run by macrobiotic chef Hirata Atsushi. Originally based in Tokyo, Hirata explained during our brief conversation that he relocated to Kyushu for the fresh vegetation after the nuclear disaster. Macrobiotics (health, food and energy) was originated by Dr. Sagen Ishizuka and spearheaded by George Ohsawa with the underlying philosophy incorporating locally grown whole grains as the core dietary staple along with veggies, fermented soy, legumes, seaweed and fruit intermixed with the Chinese principle of yin and yang. These grains could be brown rice, soba (buckwheat), millet, oats, quinoa, spelt, rye or teff to name a few.
We decided to travel by public transportation opposed to fetching a ride from Misa’s relatives. The trip took approximately 75 minutes kicking off from the Nishitetsu Fukuoka Station on the Nishitetsu Tenjin Omuta Line towards Omuta. This express train sees only three stops and in 30 minutes you will get off at the Kurme Station and walk downstairs to the bus terminal. Stand in Kiosk 3 for bus 20 towards Yoshii Eigyosho and ride it roughly 17 minutes and 13 stops until you reach the Dairobaru stop. Or you could take bus 25, which drops you off closer to Haze and reduce the trip time by 10 to 15 minutes However, we wanted the extra workout and opted for the 1-mile walk. I'm always looking for extra activity when traveling and actually enjoyed the exercise. Plus, the country views and landscape were meditative and naturalistic.
Ahead of time, we arrived before our reservation slot and hung out front snapping photos and guessing the names of plants and fruits. Upon entering, our shoes came off and the host seated us at a table next to a sliding door/wall which opens to the pristine courtyard. Misa began speaking Japanese, though our host was fluent in English. However, the menu is written in Kanji which she doesn’t read. The various dining rooms are laden with Tatami (bamboo) floors and separated by traditional rice paper doors that slide open/close. Soft Jazz reverberated throughout the venue to set the congenial dining mood. Furthermore, Haze sells a cadre of macrobiotic foods such as Farro, seaweed and oats.
Since I didn’t foresee another visit in the near future all three featured meals were selected to experience a wider variety of their offerings. The surprise was how favorable the portions were in comparison to other macrobiotics restaurants such as Evah with very miniscule servings. Our ensemble consisted of the following and costs ¥5500 which was roughly $55 to $60:
• My first dish was a homemade soy yogurt with veggies and fruits (tomato, mushrooms, okra, oranges, peas, pears and flaxseed) and her dish was a green salad with tomatoes and peas topped with a fermented soy dressing.
• The second dish was corn and brown rice soup before the three aforementioned main courses were served.
• Main Dishes:
o Ancient Farro pesto pasta simmered in tomato sauce.
o Tofu burger layered with zucchini, tomato and smothered in a bean sauce (no bread).
o Spicy chili curry over brown rice that was reminiscent of cumin or turmeric. The waiter later confirmed it was indeed turmeric.
• After the tofu, pasta and curry, an ensemble of brown, rice, miso soup and Tsukemono (Japanese preserved veggies) were served.
• Lastly, Haze presented a macrobiotic dessert of coconut ice cream over peaches and berries.
• Green tea is replenished throughout the dining experience.
After lunch feel free to discover more of the mountain area by visiting Kurume Forest Azalea Park for a hike on any of nine nature trails while intoxicating yourself from the 100 varieties and 61,000 bulbs of Kurume azaleas, maple trees and cherry blossoms in the park. Misa and I decided to head back to Fukuoka and meet up with the family for planned activities instead. Indeed, this was not just another vegan visit, but more of a permanent marker in our catalogue of nomadic journeys for life enhancement and uplifting our conscience. Enjoy!
Pros: Pure, healthful foods that enhance life. Cultural countryside experience offers escape from city life. Decent pricing