In the Yatai menu: when the youkai grates

Today we are talking about an ongoing crowdfunding campaign on Ulule on the theme of cooking and yôkai. In the Yatai menu in fact, he offers to make recipes for Japanese dishes, in the company of these popular spirits of Japan. To find out more about this project, we interviewed the two designers: Aki and Justine.

In the yatai menu

On the Yatai menu © Touzot Justine 2022

Hi Aki and Justine, and thanks for this interview. First of all tell us about yourself: what are your respective backgrounds and your relationship with Japanese culture?

Aki: Hi, I got interested in Japan in 2001, thanks to the anime fruit basket. What really immersed me in Japanese culture and its gastronomy was the way Amelie Nothomb described in his books Amazement and tremors And Neither Eve nor Adam. As for cooking, I like to share this passion with my children and post my recipes on my internet page, for the pleasure of the little ones as well as the older ones. I love to cook and create a bridge between France and Japan in my creations.

Justina: I am a graphic designer, illustrator and marketing consultant. I illustrate in the fields of publishing, visual communication and interior decoration (framed illustrations) in a universe inspired by Japan. I was immersed in Japanese culture very early on thanks to parents who were open to animated films. For example, it has always been a vocation. I wanted to be rough man (mastery of alcoholic markers), this job was no longer available in the school I wanted, so I hired a CAP designer in graphic communication at La Joliverie to become a graphic designer. I continued my studies at the Ecole Supérieure Brassart (Campus Nantes) obtaining the diploma of multimedia graphic. It was in 2019 that I decided to open my business in Saint-Nazaire and develop my universe around Japan.

What led you to meet on this project?

Aki: We met when Justine shared a drawing on a Facebook group on the Internet. It was a mutual crush. In the beginning, we worked together on the concept of a tea room on the youkai. Justine developed the graphic universe and the logo. It was after a difficult period and after receiving her book “Les Popotes de Saison” that I suggested that Justine work together. We have decided to overcome the barrier of the client’s order to create together a project in which each enhances the work of the other. We have been working together for more than 2 years.

Where does this passion for youkai come from?

Aki: For youkai, I discovered and appreciated them thanks to the works of Shigeru Mizuki whose souls Gegege no Kitarō and his numerous books on the subject: The youkai dictionary, Inside the youkai. I have always been passionate about mythology and ancient legends. It is quite natural that Japanese folklore won me over.

In the double page yatai menu

An example of a double page you will find in the book © Touzot Justine 2022

This cookbook is somewhat conceptual: in addition to the recipes, the gourmet reader collects life points by making the dishes. How is the book’s journey designed?

Aki: We decided with Justine to create a book in which the reader is involved in her story. In the yatai menu it is a journey in which readers will have to confront the youkai to gain experience in the kitchen. It’s a fun way to encourage the person to make recipes from the book and then take on a challenge. At the end of our book, he is rewarded with a bestiary of stories and anecdotes for discovering youkai.

Some levels are dedicated to the association In pursuit of the stars, such as the Yosei pack (€ 2 collected for the book, € 10 for the association), and part of the funding will be donated to this association. Tell us about this association.

Aki: Located in 31 (Ponlat-Taillebourg), this association aims to bring some sweetness and happiness to sick and hospitalized children. In connection with the CHU of Purpan, the CH of Tarbes and the IGR of Villejuif, it regularly brings stuffed animals, board games, books, school supplies and creative hobbies.
The association helps families from time to time to purchase specific equipment for a handicap, an altered state of health, or to make the dreams of little warriors come true. It also sends toy packs across France to children battling various serious childhood diseases. Through demonstrations, the association raises funds for research against pediatric cancers.

In the yatai association menu

The Yosei level tribute recipe © Touzot Justine 2022

Justine, with the book The meals of the seasonsyou made illustrations of dishes and with In the Yatai menu we move on to full-page illustrations of characters with backgrounds. Was it a challenge to deliver so many drawings while switching registers for this project?

Justina: It was less complicated for me to do the youkai, even though it was out of my comfort zone, than to do the dishes in the book. Seasonal meals who asked to imagine the chef’s dishes. In the book In the Yatai menu are my graphic creations, both from the choice of the color of the youkai to the design of the creatures. Valérie wanted me to fully develop and maintain freedom in my creations, because she enjoys my work. Which surprised her with some of the youkai’s final projects.

Are you also doing the graphic paper for the book?

Justina: As the designer of the book, I am in charge of the total composition of the book. The layout, the graphic elements, the consistency in the graphic paper, the choice of photos and the retouching. Thanks to my work, Valérie trusts me to highlight our work and that the book is coherent as a whole. It is a real pleasure for me to make the model and the choice of colors / composition.

Did you already have a passion for Japanese folklore before this project? Do you have a work linked to the Japanese imagination that you care about as an artist?

Justina: Japanese folklore already interested me through Japanese culture (kitsune). I started looking into it even more when I took a month-long solo trip to Japan in 2020. It was seeing the Inari shrines and the stories told to tourists that I enjoyed learning the most. I really enjoyed the movies Miyazaki such as Princess Mononoke, Spirited away, my neighbor Totoro, pompom. I find this universe inspiring.

How did the selection of dishes go in the book?

Aki: In France we are used to knowing sushi, maki, yakitori and okonomiyaki. I wanted to present dishes that we were less used to knowing. I’ve done a lot of research to think outside the box and find easy-to-access recipes for everyone. Whether the person is a beginner or confirmed.

Can we expect fusion cuisine or more traditional dishes?

Aki: In the Yatai menu is inspired by Japanese street food with a French twist. We find some dishes that can come from an izakaya such as that of a yatai or even from a street restaurant. For example, for the Nikuman you will find a mixture with rougail sausages, typical of the island of Reunion. In more traditional dishes is our kappa ramen, which is made up of an onsen tamago and pickled cucumbers.

In the yatai recipe menu

One of the recipes in the book © Touzot Justine 2022

What can we read in the section dedicated to the Yôkai bestiary?

Aki: In the bestiary you will discover legends revisited, sometimes there is romance like the legend of Kitsune and Oiran or life lessons taught by youkai. For the anecdotal part, you will discover the hidden face of the yôkai, it is a funny content that makes them almost human and captivating. We can consider the bestiary as a stop at the counter of our Yatai, where while we eat we let ourselves be told stories …

Many very varied goodies come to glaze the tiers and counterparts. Between the sponsors of the lottery lots, the artisans who design some goodies or the guest illustrators, we feel that there is a coherent group around the project. Are these artists already known?

Aki: We looked for artists around us to consolidate the project. Each person had a direct link with our counterparts so that it was consistent with what Justine had been working on on our Ulule. We already knew Lady Litchi and Hell’O Kawaii (who had also worked for Seasonal meals) as well as the Graphicom and Goubault printers. We were lucky enough to attract artists who wanted to follow us in our project.

As you will have understood, if the project of this book interests you and you want to read it, there is only one solution left: to participate in its creation and make it real. The fundraising campaign ends on May 7, 2022, so don’t wait!