I love any article about cheese and never thought of how cheese goes in Japan. Diversity of cheese is a cultural factor and developed throughout history. It is interesting how quantities consumed in different cultures are high but the variety not always as much. Cheesemaking is a serious craft in some cultures and ordinary in others. Japanese can pick and choose obviously if you can afford to import them all.
After France and homegrown American artisan creations, I most definitely think Spain or Italy as far as cheese is concerned.
As I learned in Recommendations from a Japanese cheese expert (Japan Times, May 2009) there are cheeses worth trying in Japan.
In the piece, cheese sommelier Keiko Kubota shares some of her favorite local cheeses with Winifred Bird.
She starts with the pricier ones
First one is Caseificio’s Mozzarella di buffala is a fresh mozzarella made from the milk of water buffaloes raised in Miyazaki Prefecture which she describes as “Milky and creamy — it’s wonderful to be able to eat mozzarella this good from Japan.”
Very picturesque surroundings as the verdant hills and buffalo picture (above) from their Japanese only site shows.
Second comes Mori no Chizu is a pungent washed-rind cheese from Nagano’s Kiyomizu Bokujo noted as “one of the few Japanese cheeses that pairs well with a strong red wine. This farm truly values the health of the animals and the rhythms of nature.”
For something more affordable she offers Caciocavallo, “a purse-shaped cheese similar to Provolone that has recently enjoyed wild popularity in Japan. Kubota recommends Bocca brand’s Caciocavallo”.
Bocca seems to be the only creamery with an English sitewhere I was able to find out that besides the Caciocavallo they also make a Petit Camembert, Calva Wash Cheese, Mozzarella Cream Cheese and Sakeru (splitting) Cheese (all pictured above).
They also produce 6 flavors of ice cream including ‘black sesame and rice’.
The Shizuoka Gourmet has more on the subject with Hokkaido Raw Milk Cheese Plates and a detailed description of the selection offered by Keiko Kubota at restaurant Gentil.