Interview & Column


One New Yorker’s mission to spread Japanese “hacco” culture and holistic health philosophy (Part 1)

Hideji Asanuma, or Jay as he likes to be called, was once a highly regarded chef working in various top restaurants. Since then, he has taken a new approach towards food and health. Based in New York City, Jay works as a holistic health coach and is spreading the culture of fermented foods of his home country Japan.

✓You can check out his unique hacco recipes on haccola’s Jay’s Hacco-licious Recipes

When meeting Jay in person, one is immediately struck by his warm and soft spoken nature. I wondered how such a gentle seeming person could survive in the cut-throat city of New York promoting traditional Japanese cuisine, and was curious to know what his vision and goals were.

Understanding what holistic health means

Chef's table_One New Yorker’s mission to spread Japanese “hacco” culture and holistic health philosophy (Part 1):haccola Japanese fermented foods and cuisine

So what exactly does coaching in holistic health mean?

Jay explains: “Simply put, it’s picking out all the good things from various health methods and rolling them into one.”
Sounds simple indeed.

Bio-individuality is the notion that one size does not fit all when it comes to diets, and is one of the conceptual pillars of holistic health philosophy.I won’t devalue any particular health method, or say that one is better than the other. Instead I analyse various health methods by looking at the whole picture. Even if two health methods have completely opposing theories, I’ll keep both of them in mind and apply whichever that may be better suited to the body’s current condition. It’s about understanding health through a wide field of perspectives.”

Jay’s style of health coaching centres around observing various health techniques collectively to create a wholistically balanced condition. He will then offers individualised diet and health advice to his clients.

Every few years, we become awash with updates on the latest health trend or a new diet craze. Whatever that had been touted as “the hottest thing that works” gets replaced by the new hottest thing that also supposedly works. Repeating this cycle again and again surely isn’t what’s going to make us healthy. Let’s not forget also that what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another, depending on individual conditions.

So how did a chef from star restaurants in New York end up as a holistic food coach in New York?

Catering to the customers’ taste buds and health

New York market:haccola Japanese fermented foods and cuisine

“Working in a diverse variety of restaurants in New York was a very interesting experience for me, but at some point I started questioning whether or not this was really the kind of cooking I wanted to be achieving,” explains Jay.

“If the customer’s best interest is on the chef’s mind, obviously the taste should be a high priority. But for me, providing healthy foods sits even higher than that. After several years of questioning myself with this thought, I eventually left the restaurant business and started researching into the traditional fermented foods of Japan. This was also around the time I started studying holistic health management and eventually gained qualification as a health coach.”

Upon deep reflection on how we wanted to cater to his customers, Jay realised that providing food for health was what he wanted to provide. His experience in the Big Apple led him to his realisation, and later his path as an evangelist of food and health.

“I host health seminars and cooking classes, as well as write and give talks on this topic. I’m also continuing my research into fermented foods, and produce and sell high quality organic natto, amazake and koji products.” Thanks to him, New Yorkers have access to freshly fermented natto that hasn’t been frozen and flown across the ocean!

Ask people outside Japan what their idea of Japanese foods are, and they’ll probably mention sushi and ramen…but do they know about hacco foods?
How do New Yorkers perceive fermented Japanese food products?
Watch our for the next part of this article, where we ask more questions to Jay!

Click here to read this article in Japanese

One New Yorker’s mission to spread Japanese “hacco” culture and holistic health philosophy (Part 2) 

Jay Asanuma

Jay Asanuma

Chef, certified holistic health coach, and researcher of health foods. He was selected as a chef for Honmura-an New York branch in 1987, the restaurant a three star recognition from the New York Times. Years later, in order to broaden culinary repertoire, he relocated to Paris also traveled over the world. He has made a cup of miso soup for the Dalai lama in foundation dinner in New York. His focus now lies in unique Japanese fermented foods which will be next "superfood". And as health coach, his knowledge covers a variety of health theories, such as macrobiotics, raw food, Ayurveda, fasting, and juicing etc.   blog:NY Holistic Style