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.

2015-08-20 14:58:00

西原理人(にしはらまさと) 1977年生まれ。 高校卒業後、「京都嵐山吉兆」の門を叩き料理人としての道が始まる。 
京都には卓越した多くの職人が各々の分野で専心している。そうした方々のお力添えを受け、蕎麦打ちや作陶にも尽力し野菜に関しては京野菜伝統農家の14代目が作りだす野菜に出合い、土作りから学んだ。京都修行の後2年間を軽井沢にあった蕎麦懐石の名店「東間」で働く。ここでは季節観をはじめ風土、土地柄、歴史などの背景をもとに献立を構成し、その土地ならではの料理を自らの手で創造し提供するという喜びを知る。 2009年、京生麩の老舗「麩嘉」の7代目に見出されニューヨークで初となる精進料理店「嘉日」の初代料理長を任され3年の任期を務め上げる。  
在職期間の2010年にはアメリカのRising star chefに選出、2011・12年度のミシュランNYでは2つ星を獲得、2012年にはスペインで行われる世界的な料理学会Madrid fusionから招待を受ける。その後、予てからの願いであった吉兆時代からの師と共に働く。その為にLondonへ渡り日本料理店「UMU」で3年を過ごす。海外で得た貴重な経験が、現在の西原の料理に大きく影響を与えている。 海外から日本へと料理を表現する場を移し、選んだ場所が日本最古の都、奈良である。 古の文化と雄大な自然とが渾然一体となっており、シルクロードを伝い異国文化を取り入れながらも日本独自の感性を表現している。それは西原の目指す料理哲学と一致した。 

2015-08-19 15:03:00

Chef Masato Nishihara, born in 1977, started his career after graduating from high school when he knocked at the door looking for work at the famous Kitcho restaurant in the district of Arashiyama, Kyoto. There he trained for 10 years under the supervision of Teiichi Yuki, establishing his skill in the kitchen, but also learning many other complementary skills in the sphere of arts and crafts which can enhance the dining experience; flower arranging, tea ceremony and calligraphy to name a few. 
While those early years at Kitcho allowed Masato to become a competent chef, they inspired him to develop his own attitude and sensitivity towards Japanese cuisine. 
In Kyoto there are a great many distinguished craftsman each devoted to a particular field. Following their example, Masato strove to perfect the skill of making not only buckwheat ‘soba’ noodles but also pottery to be used to present his food. Furthermore Kyoto is renowned for its quality locally-grown vegetables thus enabling him to learn much from local farmers about the importance of the soil and of quality ingredients. 
From Kyoto, Masato spent 2 years working at a restaurant called Touma, in Karuizawa which specialises in soba ‘kaiseki’ or haute cuisine. There his personal flair continued to evolve; relishing the freedom of creating his own style of food in which he represented the locality’s seasons, geography and history.   
In 2009, Masato moved to New York to be the first executive chef of Kajitsu – a new restaurant specialising in Japanese vegetarian or ‘shojin’ cooking. The owner of this restaurant was also the owner of a famous shop in Kyoto called Fuka whose history stretches back over 7 generations in the artisanal production of fu – a bread-like gluten. 
In 2010 Masato was chosen as America’s Rising Star chef. In 2011 and 2012 respectively, the restaurant was awarded 2 Michelin stars. And in 2012 he was invited to attend Madrid Fusion – a 3-day gastronomic summit. 
One of Masato’s earliest mentor’s at Kitcho had asked him that if there would ever be a chance to work together again, he would consider it. As a result, after 3 years in New York he moved to London where his mentor was working at a Japanese restaurant called Umu. 3 years were spent there, reunited. 
Those valuable years spent abroad have significantly influenced the food that he prepares at the present time. With the journey back to Japan now complete, Masato has chosen to settle down in the oldest city of Japan – Nara. Where ancient culture and majestic natural surroundings are in complete harmony. Where the Silk Road has introduced foreign cultures from afar. The resulting culture known today is one that remains recognisably Japanese while subtly original at the same time. This is consistent with Masato’s aim for his philosophy of cooking. 

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