About us

2015-08-22 13:25:00

Our restaurant is called Tsukumo. 
The Chinese character (‘kanji’) adopted is 白, which primarily means ‘white’. But to a Japanese ear ‘tsukumo’ means ‘ninety-nine’. How can this be? 
We have chosen a simple kanji but infused it with both an unusual reading (‘tsukumo’) and with more complex meanings than everyday usage would allow. Let us try to explain. 
Kanji are an essential part of the Japanese language. They are difficult to learn because they often have several readings and several meanings. Furthermore there is great poetic licence to be had with endowing one kanji with the reading and meaning of another. 
To reiterate, 白means ‘white’ and is usually read as ‘shiro’ in Japanese, not ‘tsukumo’. But this kanji also has other related meanings, including ‘pure’, ‘clear’, ‘holy’ and ‘a spiritual state of nothingness’. Therefore the meaning of the kanji chosen for our restaurant invokes an image of simplicity and purity. 
But there is more to it than that, because the unusual reading of ‘tsukumo’ – ninety-nine – remains unexplained. We wanted to appeal to a widespread esteemed essence of Japanese culture, that of the beauty of incompleteness. And for this, we have to turn to numbers. 
‘One hundred’ has a sense of completion; of perfection. ‘Ninety-nine’, on the other hand, is very close to completion and perfection, but not quite. In our restaurant, we strive for these qualities every day, but there is always room for improvement and we never fully achieve a perfect hundred. This is a cherished notion in Japanese culture, one that values a modicum of modesty in our daily efforts. So ‘tsukumo’ means ‘ninety-nine’; ‘incompleteness’. The final step in the puzzle is to explain how ‘tsukumo’ can be transplanted onto a kanji which we know represents ‘whiteness’, ‘simplicity’ and ‘purity’. 
The answer lies in playing with the shape or form of kanji. ‘One hundred’ is written as百; (number) ‘one’ is written as 一. The latter looks like a dash, or an extended index finger. Notice the pictorial similarity between our chosen kanji – 白 and 百. The difference in form is just the presence or absence of the top line – the dash symbolising ‘one’. 
Removing the top line of 百, is, in effect, to be playing with numbers while simultaneously arriving at a different kanji – 白 – with a completely different meaning. It is in effect suggesting the basic calculation of 100 minus 1 equalling 99. ‘Tsukumo’ is 99. And here lie the complex fusion of meanings with the unusual reading of the name of our restaurant: the whiteness and purity combined with the beauty of incompleteness; the Japanese essence of ninety-nine. spiritual state of nothingness.