How Akira Hayama Rose From Poverty to Spice Master

In Food Wars!, Akira Hayama rose from poverty to prominence – and it was all thanks to Jun Shiomi.

In the story of Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, some students at the famed Totsuki academy were born into greatness, such as Erina Nakiri, the bearer of the God Tongue, which she inherited from her mother Mana. Other students had to claw their way to the top in the kitchen, and that includes Akira Hayama, the master of spice and fragrance.

By the end of Food Wars!, Akira is among the best at what he does, but his quest to the top was a lengthy one, and he started off with very little except for a strong nose that could rival the God Tongue in sheer sensitivity. Akira Hayama was practically a nobody — until he was offered a helping hand one fateful day.

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Akira Hayama, The Oscure But Gifted Youth

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Erina Nakiri was born into greatness, and to a lesser extent, so was Alice Nakiri, who was a part of Nakiri International. By contrast, Akira’s backstory is a humble one. He was a ragged, lonely orphan on the streets of an unknown country until one fateful day, when professor Jun Shiomi of Totsuki happened by, approaching a street vendor to buy some exotic spices. Akira, with his gifted olfactory senses, hurried onto the scene and warned Jun that she was about to buy sub-par spices for a premium price. While the street vendor was annoyed, Jun was deeply impressed, and she knew that she had a special boy on her hands. She formally adopted him and brought him back home with her.

Akira was cleaned up and given new clothes and a new life, and he was even given the last name of a certain Mr. Hayama, who also recognized the young Akira’s abilities. Akira was formally trained in the kitchen, and before long, he was enrolled at Totsuki’s middle school and easily passed all his classes. During this time, Akira worked generously as Jun’s assistant in her lab while experimenting with spice and fragrance — a field that Jun specializes in. Jun feared that she was exploiting the young Akira and taking advantage of his talents. However, Akira was deeply grateful for everything Jun had given him, and he swore his loyalty to her. He then moved on to Totuki’s high school in the 92nd class, where he had a lot more competition.

Akira Hayama’s Culinary Career At Totsuki

akira hayama

By the time Soma Yukihira enrolled at Totsuki, Akira Hayama had already established himself as a power player in his year, outstripping even the likes of Takumi Aldini and the seafood-loving Megumi Tadokoro. Akira knew better than to take everything here for granted — he was determined to repay Jun by reaching for the top, and now, as a high school first-year, he could use his sharp nose to detect the faintest details in any spice or fragrance, producing perfectly balanced flavors to make his dishes appeal to the nose and tongue alike.

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Akira qualified for the Autumn Elections, and he first defeated Erina’s friend and assistant Hisako Arato in a battle of hamburgers. Unlike Hisako, Akira was fiercely driven to improve himself and become #1, not unlike Ryo Kurokiba. Next, Akira tied against the fearsome Ryo, then faced both Ryo and Soma in the three-way final match, where he scored a narrow but clear victory against his two powerhouse opponents. His mastery of flavor allowed him to cook Pacific saury that even exceeded what Ryo, a seafood expert, had made.

Akira then joined Azami Nakiri’s Central, mainly because Azami promised to build a better lab for Jun in exchange for Akira’s loyalty. Akira helped wipe out students who opposed Azami before facing Soma during the end-of-year exams. The theme ingredient was bear meat — a fragrant sort of meat that Soma wasn’t sure how to handle. Akira had a distinct advantage and cooked his bear meat in the style of American fried chicken. He very nearly won, but Soma, who had undergone extensive training with Terunori Kuga, narrowly defeated him. Akira’s problem was that without Jun by his side, he lost his desire to hear people compliment his cooking.

Finally, Akira joined the new Council of Ten when Azami was thrown out, earning the rank of fourth. By this time, Akira was totally devoted to cooking for friends and family to make them happy, which fits the theme of the overall story. He also helped Ryo and other Council members ambush a platoon of Noir chefs and overwhelm them with his ultra-fragrant dishes, proving that he is a chef who will only step into the kitchen for the right reasons. He won’t let himself be manipulated or used again.

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