It has 230 years of roots in Kyoto. The value offered by the old restaurants of Kyoto lies in their constancy.
I heard that Toriyasa has an extremely long history.
Yes. My ancestor was originally a warrior who fought in the Battle of Sekigahara(*). After the war ended, the business selling chicken and fish which they started in Kyoto’s Nishiki Market was the beginning of Toriyasa. The building is even older, with about 270 years of history, and we are still using it today after repeated repairs. Since our establishment we have been cooking only mizutaki, and nothing else.
* Battle on October 21, 1600 that preceded the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate.
Have you thought about doing anything different?
About ten years after I started, there was a time when I thought I’d like to add my own touches, but in the end, that isn’t what the customers want. You can eat new foods in Tokyo or Osaka. The reason customers come to Kyoto is because they want things that have not changed since long ago. Recently a customer who had been brought as a child by his grandfather came bringing his own grandchild, and was relieved to see that the restaurant had not changed, and seeing his grandchild playing in the same place reminded him of the old days. I think I have to keep it as that kind of restaurant.
Inheriting the history of Toriyasa, which goes back to the Edo period
The ownership of Toriyasa has been hereditary, but did you decide from a young age that you would enter the world of cooking?
Yes. I was brought up being told that I would inherit the restaurant, so since I was a junior high school student I would often come by to observe and help out. Of course, there were other things I wanted to do, and for a time I rebelled against taking over the restaurant. It is easy to close a long-established restaurant, but I had been chosen for the role of keeping the shop, so I thought I really needed to do my best and take it on. But I followed a customer’s advice that in order not to be left behind in the coming age, I should study in school and observe all different worlds, then come home to the world of cooking, so I started on the road to cooking after graduating from university. It was normal for the heir to enter the cooking world right after finishing junior high school, so compared to that, I was late.
How were your student days?
My stance was to get done what I wanted to do during my student days, but also to take responsibility myself, so I often enjoyed traveling overseas with the money I earned at my part-time job. I think I visited most of the major cities. But even at my destinations, I unconsciously noticed people in the food and service industries. I looked at what foreign people wanted from their food, and observed doormen at first-class hotels…
Is there any method to choosing the next generation’s heir of Toriyasa?
Well, the shopkeeper of Toriyasa has the positions of both owner and chef, so we train as a chef when we are young until we have mastered it. Also, the inheritance skips a generation. If the generations are close, there is the dependence of the parent-child relationship. So I learned my know-how not from my father, but from my grandfather. In some ways, our restaurant has come so far through the strength of family and relatives, so those before me in my father’s and grandfather’s generations teach the future generations how to link the restaurant to the coming years.
What things are important for inheriting the restaurant?
I think it is humanity. I am not keeping the restaurant going all by myself: I can keep going only because I have the help of various workers in various areas. Workers in Kyoto will not help out if they don’t like the work, even if they are paid. So you need humanity to be able to get the support of your workers.