I finally posted some photos from my friend's Aki Sawauchi's Italian restaurant in the north of Japan. It was an amazing meal, and probably one of the more unique dining experiences I have had anywhere. To have a real, authentic, Italian meal so far from home - and not to be thinking "this is a miss" or "this isn't right" (like I did in the couple of western food places I ate at in Shanghai).
Almost everything Aki serves is home made - he makes all his own cold cuts, bread, pasta, etc. And what he can't make, he imports from Italy, and also has been extremely lucky to have two great farms near him - an herb garden and a vegetable farm, that grow authentic Italian herbs and vegetables organically. The place could not be better - and Aki's friend Taku is in the kitchen with him. Taku worked in a restaurant in Panzano for two years. You probably can not find a better Italian meal in all of Japan, including Tokyo. They are doing something special. More photos on Flickr - Ristorante Sawauchi.