To pass down the cultures that have been continued by our ancestors, I would like to create an environment where Japanese people can communicate the attractiveness of Japanese cuisine.

Yoshihiro Takahashi

Hyotei Yoshihiro Takahashi

“My own cooking” that I was able to discern while filling up the gaps between apprenticeship restaurant and my own restaurant.

So that’s what made you come back to Hyotei after the three-year apprenticeship at Tsurukou.

Mr. Takahashi :
The place where I started my career was at Kanazawa so I felt some differences when I came back. I struggled to understand how different things were in Kyoto, But on the other hand, it was probably the best time for me to be able to be conscious of Hyotei’s cooking. By comparing things from others and Hyotei, I had a chance to think again about what Hyotei food really was. In addition to the ingredients, there are so many differences when it comes to seasonings, servings, colors, the usage of serving dishes and how we serve customers.
I think it is different in each industry, but at Hyotei, we had a very precise ratio of ingredients and cooking times. Therefore, we needed to build a system for new staff to be able to make the same quality food.
As we have more chefs involved, there are many position changes so we need to have a firm system – otherwise we can’t serve the same plates.

 There were certainly differences in that kind of situation. After coming back from your apprenticeship as an heir of the restaurant, did you have any problems with people who were working in the kitchen?

Mr. Takahashi :
I was very fortunate to have a good environment after coming back. There was a head chef who had worked in the kitchen since I was six years old, and he is such a flexible and friendly person. There was one more chef who was like a colleague, and he taught me from zero about the way of Hyotei cooking, including things like cleaning fish,

So you started from the beginning, You must have been in a good position at Tsurukou.

Mr. Takahashi :
I was probably in an intermediate position at that time. I started being able to understand the work in the kitchen and helping with boiled dishes  and such.
What I always kept in mind was not to insist on my opinions and say “This is how I did it at Tsurukou.”
There are times when I talk about Tsurukou but I tried to learn the originality of Hyotei. For example, even the process of cleaning fish is different. By knowing the differences of the restaurants, I was able to understand the reasons how and why we do this in Hyotei, and Hyotei`s other characteristics.

Hyotei Yoshihiro Takahashi

His mission to protect tradition as the 15th generation. Changing so as not to change

You became the CEO two years ago after working as a young restaurant owner. There must be a balance between both protecting the tradition to pass it down as-is to the next generation, and changing it little by little for the better. Can you tell us about that?

Mr. Takahashi :
We mainly use dried tuna flakes to make soup at Hyotei. Actually, my father’s generation is the one that started using dried tuna flakes. I think we are the only restaurant which uses only tuna flakes to make soup. I think this is one of the unique features of my restaurant. In the time when fish preserved in miso or Yuan-style grilled fish were most common, my father started Yuan-style grilled fish in miso. It is the standard Yuan-style fish nowadays. I think things are changed naturally in cooking. The ratio of vinegar or miso is changed compared to before.

I understand that food habits also change. However, what do you think regular customers of traditional restaurants like Hyotei would think about the change of taste?

Mr. Takahashi :
We don`t change things drastically. Dishes which are to unique would disappear soon.
Even the soy sauce for sashimi – we use Tosa soy sauce and our original tomato soy sauce. Tosa soy sauce tastes less unique so people tend to like it; so we give our customers choices and do not only choose new things. However, it is very difficult to remain completely unchanged. For example, it is so hard not to change the taste of dishes such as traditional Hyotei eggs.
Our suppliers don’t have enough people who can take over the business so in that case, we need to find a new supplier when they can’t continue their business because of the lack of new owners.
However, it is very difficult to find our ideal eggs easily. Even eggs from the same area – there are some that can be good with soy sauce and some that could taste better with salt.

To keep the traditional taste unchanged, you need to struggle to adjust ingredients which are different from the old days.

Mr. Takahashi :
Even vegetables are different from before. Bamboo sprouts are now popular but they were very difficult to eat because they used to be very sinewy. They have become tasty and easy to eat thanks to the massive effort of their producers. For example, we used grated turnips and pour hot water to get rid of skin and sour smell to make dough from it. However, we use grated turnips because they are tasty as it is. Therefore, we don`t need that process and if we get rid of the skin and smell, their sweet taste may also vanish. So we only use the soup from grated turnips to make dough. To keep things unchanged, changes are necessary.

Hyotei Yoshihiro Takahashi

There should be many examples of such things, well organized in a pyramid that gives all generations the right roles to pass down traditional skills to next generations.

My impression of Hyotei is that each staff has their role, from young cooks to experts, and it is very well organized in a pyramid hierarchy.

Mr. Takahashi :
Now there are a lot of restaurants which are run by young people. There are many young workers and we have hired entry-level workers at Hyotei since my father’s generation. We also have experts who have worked more than ten years, and intermediate workers who have worked about five to six years.
If we comprise the team of young workers only, some old techniques or mindsets may be forgotten. So we need to learn traditional skills from our seniors and experts pass down the skills to the next generations.
Also, it means a lot for young people to work with expert chefs. Young people can give impact on each other but they should lay out their goals to their seniors or experts. In addition to that, Hyotei goes to many different places, such as the Imperial Household Agency, the state guest house, tea restaurants, and even temples. In such situations, we always make a team that consists of young people and experts.
At the moment, we have a total of 15 chefs, including those in the other building. We make hundreds of meals packed in wooden boxes, called orizume, so we need to have that many people.
However, if there are too many experts, people may complain about who will do errands… Because we have a wide age range of people, their roles become clear and we can look forward to their growth.

It may be the ideal business management style that every restaurant aspires to. I saw a press release on Hibiya Midtown the other day; you are thinking of expanding your business in Tokyo. Do you have any feelings about giving work opportunities to many different generations?

Mr. Takahashi :
Yes, the kitchen staff are independent in a good way so it is a bit saturated. So, I decided to do so because I wanted some of them to get experience in Tokyo and it could be good stimulation for them.
In Tokyo, I am thinking about making a counter-centered restaurant. Maybe some small tables and a tea room. In the main restaurant, there are only tatami rooms so it will have a bit of a closed atmosphere. Some customers feel nervous about tatami-room-only restaurants. For young people to be comfortable with them, I would like to change the menu, lower the cost, and make the restaurant a place where people can still enjoy Kyoto cuisine.

You actively accept foreign apprenticeships in each restaurant in Kyoto. What kind of meaning does this have to you?

Mr. Takahashi :
In my restaurant’s kitchen, there are female workers from Taiwan who have been working since last year. We have apprenticeships from France too. I accept some apprenticeships from many different countries every year. Japanese cuisine is very attractive and one of the reasons why I accept people from abroad is so that they get to know that. Also, it is a great learning opportunity for our Japanese staff too, which is a big reason. We get a chance to think hard about how we could teach foreign chefs who don’t know much about Japanese culture or cuisine. Therefore, it can be a great opportunity for us to think again about “what is Japanese food?”

Hyotei appearance


35 Kusakawa-cho, Nanzenji, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto

10-minute walk from Keage Station on the Kyoto Subway Tozai Line

Hours: Open from 11:00 (last order at 19:30)

Breakfast: 8:00-10:00 (July 1 – August 31 only)