"Japan has always imported high-level opera productions from Italy, Vienna or Paris and I thought its about time we create one here," Ozawa told AFP.
"It is really the first time in Japan," he said with pride, a beer in his hand, in the hallowed halls of Tokyo's Bunka Kaikan.
Dressed in a yukata, a casual kimono, Ozawa, the music director of the Vienna State Opera, has reason to relax. He has just finished the fourth and final performance of Richard Strauss' "Elektra," the first production of the Tokyo Opera Nomori.
The company's name literally means "the Tokyo forest opera," as it is based in the huge historic park of Ueno. The name came from Tokyo's populist governor, Shintaro Ishihara, as the metropolitan government sponsors the opera project born four years ago.
The inaugural season, which ran from March 13 to 22, was dedicated to Richard Strauss, with performances of "Elektra" but also lieder and orchestral works by the German composer.
Ozawa, who is the company's artistic director, put together a dazzling collection of stars for "Elektra," which was co-produced by Florence's Maggio Musicale.
In Tokyo, the American soprano Deborah Polaski, reputed to be "the greatest Elektra of the post-war period", interpreted the title role of Agamemnon's daughter for the 138th time.
The Greek mezzo-soprano Agnes Baltsa performed as the conniving mother Clytemnestra, the American soprano Christine Goerke played daughter Chrysothemis and the German baritone Franz Grundheber was the banished brother Orestes.
The Canadian Robert Carsen directed an "Elektra" which is "conceptual" but accessible, with the minimalist stage mostly dark reflecting Elektra's tortured soul, a set-up which will be brought to Florence in 2008.
"It's a beautiful and moving project because it was born here," said Carsen's assistant, the Frenchman Jean-Michel Criqui, hailing the extreme professionalism and enthusiasm of the Japanese.
For Seiji Ozawa, the Tokyo Opera Nomori is "a dream become reality."
"We're lucky in Tokyo that great opera companies like the Vienna State Opera and the Metropolitan Opera come here to perform," he said.
"My goal with Tokyo Opera Nomori is to create a company comprised of Japanese musicians, together with world-class singers, where the productions would originate in Japan," Ozawa said.
"Then these productions would be exported to other countries and festivals, instead of Japan always importing productions from elsewhere."
For now, the Tokyo Opera Nomori will have only one major production each year, but Ozawa "hopes someday we can expand the season".
The schedule is set until 2008. Next year, the Nomori will have Verdi on its repertoire, putting on "Otello" in collaboration with the Vienna State Opera, and The Requiem.
In 2007, the Nomori will turn to Wagner. Ozawa will direct "Tannhauser," a co-production with the Paris Opera and the Vienna State Opera. The following year the Nomori will perform Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin."
Ozawa, who remains energetic even though he turns 70 this year, has been a prophet of sorts in Japan where he has been at the forefront of the national passion for Western classical music.
Ozawa has had a long international career, spending nearly three decades at the Boston Symphony Orchestra before moving to Vienna in 2002, but he remains deeply attached to Japan.
In 1984, he founded the Saito Kinen orchestra in tribute to his mentor and professor Hideo Saito.
And each summer since 1992, he has brought together the best Japanese musicians and leading Western names to Matsumoto in the Japanese Alps for the Saito Kinen festival, the first international classical music festival in Japan.
After the adventure of launching the Tokyo Opera Nomori, Ozawa, who was born in China during the Japanese occupation, will in October direct "The Barber of Seville" in Shanghai.
"I love working in China," Ozawa said. "That's where I was born, you know."