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

His mind to respect beautiful behaviors and other learnings from tea ceremonies

Is there anything you care about when hiring staff members or cultivating new staff?

Mr. Takahashi :
Of course there aren’t always people who have skills; some need time to learn.
On the other hand, it is interesting that people try to help these new staff who are slow to learn and create the atmosphere to cover up. Strong teamwork can be built up by understanding everyone`s strengths and weaknesses and asking him his role and all that… I don’t think it is a good idea to fire people because they don’t have skills or knowledge. It is important to understand each one’s character and improve them. Therefore, I usually accept people who come and knock the door of our restaurant.

So there is a workplace culture where people help each other.

Mr. Takahashi :
Living together in a dormitory is one of the important elements. They live together under the same roof and when someone faces problems, other people give them advice from their point of view. I think this is a very good thing for them to be able to build up a good relationship like a family.
I have met many people and I think people who can tell others their struggles and concerns, and ask for advice, tend to continue to work for a long time. On the other hand, some who can’t really express their feelings inside themselves and talk out their problems cannot overcome these difficulties.

Do you do anything special to educate people?

Mr. Takahashi :
Everyone including kitchen staff, service staff and administrative workers take tea ceremony lessons every month from a professional tea ceremony teacher. We began this during my father’s generation. Every time we ask five people to join the lesson as customers and everyone takes a role as a host once every two or three months.

 I can imagine that service staff can learn behaviors throughout the lessons but what is the meaning of having kitchen staff take these lessons?

Mr. Takahashi :
By experiencing tea ceremony, they get used to thinking deeply about why we do this, down to the tiny little things.
There is always a reason for each tea ceremony behavior. For example, if you move a tea cup with one hand, it is very bad manners and you may damage the tray or the tatami mats.
You need to lift it up with your right hand and support it with your left hand. In tea ceremonies, you also take care of the procedure and behavior of placing on the tea cup without making any noise. There isn’t any waste of movement and it is beautiful. People can cultivate the attitude of treating things carefully.
A tea ceremony is the place where you can understand this behavior but you can actually utilize the mindset in kitchen work, too. You can learn things from tea ceremonies such as placement of ingredients or dishes, or working productively without wasting time. You can face cooking while thinking deeply so this is a great learning opportunity. In that way, it is a good study opportunity for them to cater tea ceremonies.
Usually, our staff do zengumi – choosing and deciding the number or kinds of food to be prepared on the tra – by themselves. Usually it’s service staff members that do it at our restaurant. They go to a lot of different people’s houses so they need to look neat, too. Recently, there are many people who try to learn new things and are not keen on learning the basics; I think you can utilize the advanced skills only after realizing the core idea of why basics are important.

Hyotei Yoshihiro Takahashi

I would like Japanese people to be able to talk about Japanese cuisine or culture.

You are just 43 years old and are in your prime. What do you imagine your future to be 10 or 20 years from now?

Mr. Takahashi :
I know it is not easy but I would like to train more people who are able to talk about Japanese cuisine, as opposed to people who bring it overseas. For example, there was a Japanese sake which became extremely popular before. When I saw it in New York, I thought I didn’t see it in Japan but it became very popular in Japan through a foreign filter. I think this is a good circle of product becoming popular first in foreign countries and reimported in Japan and becoming popular there. On the other hand, I think it is very important to assess them in Japan first before consuming. Now I do some activities related to dietary education at elementary schools. I give students an opportunity to make soup and do tastings.
I am hoping that it becomes normal for young people to talk like, “I make soup using this and that at my house.” In the past we used to have dried food shops and they chose different ingredients to match each household’s tastes. We don’t see such things anymore. Young people will make the next food culture. If they continue to use knives and forks and sit at the table, they won’t be able to build traditions such as making soup from individual ingredients. People also tend to eat more meat and tend not to eat rice.

The culture which has been created over 2000 years has been disappearing. I think it may be too late when people realize it.

Mr. Takahashi :
I do a lot of food-related activities but I think dietary education is the most important one.
Not only learning at school – it is very important to learn at home. This custom will create the next culture. I would like to be a part of more activities to create those cultures.

(Interview: Osamu Saito Text: Satoko Tanaka Photography: Ryuji Oka)

Hyotei appearance

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)