PURE AND SIM­PLE

Shinichiro Ogata’s rev­er­ence for tra­di­tional craft and cui­sine shines at his fine-din­ing Tokyo in­sti­tu­tion, Yakumo Saryo.

VOGUE Living Australia - - News - Pho­tographed by PAUL BARBERA By KANAE HASEGAWA

Shinichiro Ogata’s rev­er­ence for tra­di­tional craft shines at Yakumo Saryo, his fine-din­ing in­sti­tu­tion

Part­ing the split white cur­tain that veils the en­trance to Tokyo din­ing in­sti­tu­tion Yakumo Saryo feels like en­ter­ing a shrine. This may sound an ex­ag­ger­a­tion but cer­e­mo­nial quiet­ness and seren­ity sur­rounds this es­tab­lish­ment in the city’s south, which is housed in a re­built 30-year-old res­i­dence sit­u­ated be­hind a stone wall on 800 square me­tres of land. Un­like the flashy din­ing quar­ters of Aoyama or Ginza in cen­tral Tokyo, Yakumo Saryo — Saryo means ‘restau­rant with a room for Ja­panese tea’ — seems right at home in this quiet res­i­den­tial district, 15 min­utes walk from the near­est railway sta­tion. The con­cept is the ge­nius of Shinichiro Ogata, founder of Sim­plic­ity de­sign stu­dio, whose work in­cludes in­te­ri­ors for the An­daz Tokyo ho­tel and col­lab­o­ra­tions with Aē­sop and chef Alain Du­casse. The ex­ten­sive work Sim­plic­ity un­der­takes stems from Ogata’s phi­los­o­phy of nur­tur­ing Ja­panese cul­ture, which he be­lieves can only be achieved when peo­ple come to­gether to mu­tu­ally share their ideas and ex­pe­ri­ences. This cul­ture ex­tends to the appreciation of, and love for, Ja­panese cui­sine, which re­flects re­gional cus­toms. It also en­com­passes the time-hon­oured crafts of Ja­panese ce­ram­ics and lac­quer ware, bam­boo crafts and wood car­pen­try. It’s not just about ad­mir­ing th­ese crafts within a mu­seum set­ting through a glass dis­play case — crafts should be used first-hand, to ap­pre­ci­ate their use­ful­ness in a real-life set­ting. And Ogata thinks din­ing is the pri­mal plat­form where peo­ple gather or­gan­i­cally and use table­ware, uten­sils and fur­ni­ture. “No mat­ter how exquisitely tra­di­tional crafts are made, if those crafts don’t fit our con­tem­po­rary lifestyle, peo­ple will not use them, and that will make the crafts dis­ap­pear,” he says. “Tra­di­tional craft needs to be up­dated with de­sign to demon­strate its us­age in con­tem­po­rary life­styles.” This phi­los­o­phy is the core of Ogata’s vi­sion. Ev­ery­thing he does at Yakumo Saryo is thought- out, de­signed and placed, by the man him­self, for vis­i­tors to touch and use through­out the din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. If they wish, guests can even pur­chase the plates and cups used in the restau­rant and thereby in­tro­duce crafts into their own liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment. We are not talk­ing about a mere restau­rant. Yakumo Saryo is more like a cul­tural in­sti­tu­tion. As food is about sea­sonal of­fer­ings, the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment plays a cru­cial role in con­sum­mat­ing Ogata’s vi­sion. So, when he searched for the ideal lo­ca­tion to es­tab­lish Yakumo Saryo, he looked for a de­tached house where the gar­den was part of the set-up. In­side, the kitchen is de­signed so that the chef ’s huge cut­ting board — all eight me­tres of it — be­comes the main din­ing ta­ble. For­tu­nate din­ers at the ta­ble can reach out for a suc­cu­lent slice of grilled meat as the chef is cook­ing it and sam­ple it. “When you sit at the same ta­ble where the chef slices sashimi fish or chops ››

‹‹ herbs and have your hands on the ta­ble, you even feel the vi­bra­tion of the chef cook­ing,” says Ogata. “Our guests feel like they are part of the cook­ing process.” Dur­ing the four-course kaiseki din­ner, chop­sticks are changed three times. First, nee­dle-thin bam­boo chop­sticks are used to pick up del­i­cate ap­pe­tis­ers, then hard ebony chop­sticks (which func­tion as a knife and fork) are used for flflak­ing and di­vid­ing the fi­fil­let of sub­stan­tial main dishes, and thin cedar chop­sticks help to savour fra­grant rice. Fi­nally, cus­tomers are given young bam­boo chop­sticks for eat­ing soft Ja­panese sweets. All this is done for the pur­pose of mak­ing a speci­fific dish taste the best. You no­tice th­ese changes sim­ply be­cause there is oth­er­wise no fussy dec­o­ra­tion — with less or­na­men­ta­tion, one’s senses be­come more sen­si­tive to tiny de­tails. Look­ing around the Yakumo Saryo in­te­ri­ors, fab­ric veils sub­tly hide din­ers at the kitchen-top ta­ble from din­ers sit­ting by the win­dow, with­out overtly cut­ting the eye­sight with doors or par­ti­tions. The veils are a lit­tle like the eye blin­ders once used by the no­bil­ity in the Ja­panese im­pe­rial court sys­tem to se­cure their pri­vacy. In this rare quiet cor­ner of Tokyo, sim­plic­ity comes in more than name only.

this page: The cre­ator of Yakumo Saryo restau­rant, de­signer Shinichiro Ogata, strives to pre­pare a feast for all the senses. op­po­site page: The restau­rant is a modern take on tra­di­tional kaiseke (multi-course) din­ing.

this page: din­ers en­ter­ing Yakumo Saryo are met by an ar­ray of wa­gashi (tra­di­tional Ja­panese con­fec­tionar­ies) hand­made from the restau­rant’s kitchen and ready for pur­chase, along with porce­lain and other wares. op­po­site page: a palette of stone, wood and con­crete has been used, with some of the con­crete flfloor­ing im­printed with a tatami mat tex­ture.

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