Should you ever find yourself in Japan and become homesick for blueberry pancakes or clam chowder, no worries. You can find Maine food even in the home of slurpy noodle shops, izakaya pubs and sushi bars.

Just make your way to Karuizawa, a resort town in the mountains near Nagano, where the 1998 Winter Olympics were held. There you’ll discover Cabot Cove, a 26-seat, Maine-themed restaurant pouring real maple syrup and baking Jordan Pond House-style popovers more than 6,000 miles away from the state it celebrates.

Yes, this Asian outpost of Maine food and culture is named after that Cabot Cove. The one where the fictitious mystery writer Jessica Fletcher (played by Angela Lansbury from 1984 to 1996 on CBS) solved so many crimes that in 2012 researchers declared if the town were real, it would have the world’s highest murder rate.

It turns out that re-runs of “Murder, She Wrote” – or “Jessica Obasan no Jikenbo,” which translates to “Auntie Jessica’s Case Files” – were also must-see TV in Japan. Kiyoto and Keiko Deguchi, the owners of Cabot Cove restaurant, are big fans. “We loved it,” Keiko Deguchi said in an email interview. “That program was very popular in Japan.”


The Deguchis also love Maine. They visit the Portland area every year to get ideas for the food and decor of their restaurant, and to visit with friends they’ve made here.


How did a restaurant with a Maine motif end up halfway around the world?

Kiyoto Deguchi attended the Portland School of Art in the 1970s, and after graduation returned to Japan to start a small inn with his older brother in Kiyosato, a town in the Yamanashi Prefecture. Keiko Deguchi attended college in Japan, graduating with a degree in business English. She then worked as a front desk clerk at the famous Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Imperial Hotel in Tokyo for two years, and as a secretary at a Swedish company for three years. After she and Kiyoto married – they met when she stayed at his inn – they honeymooned in Maine. The couple worked together at the Kiyosato inn for seven years, then agreed it was time to start another business. They came to Maine for three months, and decided at that time that a breakfast restaurant might go over well back home.

“We could see many good breakfast restaurants in Maine,” Keiko Deguchi said. “At that time, we could not see any breakfast restaurants in Japan.”

When they returned to Japan, they worked at the U.S. Air Force base in Yokota, near Tokyo, for 15 years, all the time saving money for their dream restaurant.

Cabot Cove opened on Aug. 11, 2008. Nestled in the forest, the restaurant is open year-round from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday through Tuesday. It closes for two to three weeks at the end of May through the beginning of June for the Deguchis’ annual trip to Maine. Cabot Cove serves American-style food, breakfast and brunch, with forks, spoons and knives – no chopsticks.

Inside, the design is basically western, Keiko says, “but we are putting some Japanese furniture.” The decor includes lighting, lobster buoys and decoys from L.L. Bean.


Cabot Cove’s decor contains Maine elements like these lobster buoys.

The restaurant gets mostly “very good” and “excellent” ratings on Trip Advisor. Who are its customers? Consider this comment from an online review: “This restaurant is popular with Japanese that crave and/or do not know how to make American breakfast dishes. Also popular with gaijin (foreigners) that miss American home-made cooking. Cozy atmosphere, dog friendly and very busy on weekends and holidays.”

Keiko Deguchi says although they do occasionally serve some Japanese who have traveled to New York or Boston for work, or who have visited Maine, most of her Japanese customers would not be able to find the state on a map. “If we can work to introduce Maine to many Japanese,” she says, “it will be our pleasure.”

She says, as far as she knows, no Maine travelers visiting Japan have ever turned up at her restaurant.


Cabot Cove has no formally trained chef, which is just the way Jessica Fletcher would probably like it. (Wasn’t the fictional diner in Cabot Cove one of her favorite hangouts?) Keiko Deguchi does “everything,” she says. She’s learned the culinary skills she needs from cooking classes and American friends and co-workers. No American-Asian fusion dishes come out of the kitchen, no seaweed garnishes or ramen side dishes. The menu is filled with American-style food, all the time.

The Deguchis serve American-style breakfast and brunch food, including popovers, blueberry pancakes, maple syrup and coffee. The restaurant has its own coffee blend, which comes from Portland’s Coffee By Design.

The most popular dishes, Keiko says, are clam chowder (made with Japanese clams), eggs Benedict, pancakes (including blueberries), and strawberry waffles. The pancakes and waffles are served with Maine maple syrup, “which is rare in Japan,” according to the restaurant’s website. Bottles of Maine syrup are also sold through Cabot Cove’s online shop for 2,500 yen, or about $22, a pint.


The blueberries in the Cabot Cove pancakes are not from Maine – at least not yet.

“In summertime, we can have local blueberries from local farmers,” Keiko Deguchi said. “They are very tasty. In other seasons, we are using blueberries from other countries. We have some blueberries from the U.S., but not from Maine, most of them are from Oregon. I do hope to have the ones from Maine.”

Kiyoto Deguchi at Jordan Pond House on a visit to Maine.

Many of Cabot Cove’s online reviews mention the restaurant’s popovers (served with a house jam and butter), which are a tribute to the famous popovers served at the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park. Keiko says she and her husband were introduced to them by an American friend 20 years ago. That friend suggested that they sell them at Cabot Cove.

The Deguchis always try to keep on top of American trends, and this year is no different. On Father’s Day, they offered their customers a special popular with American millennials – avocado toast with bacon and eggs. Price: 1,200 yen. That’s about $11. (Last year in Portland, most restaurants were charging $6-$11 for avocado toast, with one or two places going as high as $12.)

One thing you won’t find on the Cabot Cove menu is lobster. It’s not commonly served in Japanese restaurants, Keiko Deguchi said, the exception being a lobster roll restaurant that recently opened in downtown Tokyo. (That restaurant is Luke’s Lobster, founded by Cape Elizabeth native Luke Holden.)



You can’t have an American breakfast without coffee, and at Cabot Cove that coffee comes from Portland’s own Coffee By Design. The Deguchis have been visiting Maine for 35 years. During one visit, they had Coffee By Design make a special blend for them called the “Cabot Cove Blend.” This year, they asked the roasters to make them a 10th Anniversary Blend to celebrate a decade of Cabot Cove dining. Customers can buy bags of the Portland coffee at the restaurant or from the online shop on the Cabot Cove website.

Many high-quality coffees can be found in Japan, Keiko Deguchi said, but their “coffee is very popular among our customers. We are very appreciative of their kind support for us.”

Deguchi says she and her husband keep coming back to Maine because of the people, and because “we can relax every time, like home town.”

The couple usually visit Maine in spring because summer is Cabot Cove’s busiest time, just as it is for Maine restaurants. The resort area where the restaurant is located has mild summers, and is a popular spot for second homes, just like Maine. Tourists go there to hike, bike and play golf – and eat.

The Deguchis wrote about this year’s visit to Maine in their restaurant’s blog, explaining to their customers in Japanese how the “cozy regional city” of Portland attracts “high level” restaurants “and it is known as a very popular city in recent years. The history of the city is old, and you can see historical buildings and brick cityscapes everywhere. The city name of Portland, Oregon is derived from Portland of this Maine State. Also, because it is a port city, there are many sightseeing spots nearby and it is also a summer resort.”

They posted photos of the Portland Head lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Fore Street and Central Provisions in Portland, and David’s 388 restaurant in South Portland. Another post focused on American breakfasts, and included photos of the bagel bin and pastry counter at Scratch Baking in South Portland, and a shot of Becky’s Diner.


Keiko and Kiyoto Deguchi outside Portland’s Fore Street restaurant.

“Many people go out for breakfast in the neighborhood and downtown,” the couple wrote. “Especially in this area, there are plenty of breakfast specialty restaurants and cafes and it is one of the pleasures during your stay to have an American breakfast that you can not eat normally.”

Keiko Deguchi says her favorite food to eat when she comes to Maine is clam chowder. Although Portland has some good Japanese restaurants, the couple tries to stay away from them.

“I would like to enjoy local foods as much as we can,” she said. “We ate ramen once. It was very good and it was as good as it tastes in Japan.”

She said they are always searching for “nice restaurants like the Well at Jordan’s Farm or Fore Street.” This year, they tried to get into The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, “but we could not make it” – just like most of the 20,000 people who tried but failed to get a reservation through the restaurant’s new lottery system.

The couple invariably visits L.L. Bean and Stonewall Kitchen while they are here, always on the hunt for new ideas, whether it be for new menu items or new decor for Cabot Cove.

What would Jessica Fletcher think? It’s no mystery. She would probably meet the local sheriff, Amos Tupper, in the Cabot Cove cafe for a cup of coffee while they try to solve the latest murder.

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad

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