Mr. Takuji Takahashi is the third-generation owner of Ryotei Kinobu. He has been promoting Shojin-ryori together with the members of Kyoto Cuisine Mebaekai Association since 2015, when the association launched a program called "To the World of Shojin-ryori" on the 60th anniversary of its establishment. He strives to make Shojin-ryori according to his customer's request at his Ryotei. He is going to tell us about Shojin-ryori through five features including "What is his idea of Shojin-ryori?" "How did Shojin-ryori develop and what did he feel about Shojin-ryori?".
*Kyoto Cuisine Mebaekai Association The association was established in 1955 to hand down sophisticated and traditional Kyoto-style food culture to the next generation. Many young Ryotei owners have been devoting themselves to studying and researching Kyoto cuisine. They also have been trying a variety of new ideas putting into Kyoto cuisine.
From SHOUJIN to KAISHIN (conversion)
Reservations for Shojinryori courses at my restaurant has increased year over year as well as at other restaurants. To be exact, we have more customers who request vegan and halal food and we prepare food based on the idea of Shojinryori to them. So, they can enjoy meals without concern.
As we receive such request at least one group each day, it is essential to always keep rich-flavored kelp broth made with my special technique mentioned in the previous feature and homemade blended miso called Tama Miso (usually made with miso, egg yolk and various nuts) that is made without using eggs in stock.
On the other hand, what I'm mentioning now is food, in other words, just "outline". I think that Shojinryori spirit hasn't included here yet.
Most international customers somehow understand that SHOUJIN is made with only vegetables and doesn't use any meat and fish. However, that is almost the same way as when they understand SUSHI and TEMPURA.
As I have been making Shojinryori for several years, I keenly aware that I haven't understood the background of Shojinryori, including Zen and Buddhism, well. Therefore, I keep leaning Zen and Buddhism even little by little.
In Buddhism, there is a word called Kaishin (conversion). It is said that this word combines wisdom and compassion. Wisdom is subjective. Although you know the outline of Buddhism, just knowing the outline means subjective. On the other hand, compassion is objective. It means that you can logically describe stories by using your wisdom.
I believe that utilizing wisdom and compassion derived from Kaishin to dishes is very important when you prepare Shojinryori. Kaishin must be deeply connected when you feel something delicious and think of its background, such as what kind of ingredients were used in the dish, what idea the chef had about the dish, how to explain his idea.
Importance of "replacement"
I think that it is okay to start understanding SHOUJIN at the level of this somehow understanding. After the level of understanding goes up little by little, what will be the final level we should achieve? That will be the level of Tenzo.
When not only those who cook dishes but also those who eat these dishes can understand Tenzo attitude towards Shojinryori, wisdom and compassion can be combined. For example, this is like that people from other countries seriously try to make yuba (bean curd skin) in their countries. Only after such attempts occur, even though just one, we can say that we make people from other countries understand Shojinryori, not SHOUJIN.
What those who serve Shojinryori at a restaurant should do to help customers understand Shojinryori?
Of course, they cannot achieve the level of Tenzo only once they had Shojinryori. When they visit us again, we teach them little by little. For example, on their second visit, we tell a story about Tenzo. On their third visit, we introduce them a Zen temple to experience meditation and serve Shojinryori after the experience. I think that it will take decades to offer such approaches to make our customers understand Shojinryori. Making people from other countries understand Shojinryori may accomplish on our next generation. But, Shojinryori definitely goes across the sea now. I feel it from my daily experiences.
Shojinryori: Peaceful food that anyone can enjoy together.
I believe that if we keep telling something about Shojinryori to our customers, they can certainly experience a little awareness or understanding. You may be surprised when I say that I had supernatural experiences, but I experienced awareness as if I had received revelations several times while I was making Shojinryori. I suddenly felt "Yes, that's it!"
Whenever I'm confused about what to do, I try to replace my work to Tenzo's work. Nowadays, this step become a kind of my daily habit.
Once I took this replacement step, I could smoothly get out of my dead end or unexpectedly find hints. Perhaps, I'm a little come closer to the level of Tenzo. Actually, I cannot reach Tenzo's level while I'm thinking of such thing.
When I was asked to provide dishes at an embassy reception, where people from various countries and religions are seated on the same table, thinking what to be served gave me a headache before, such as this and that can't be used, or if I use that, I cannot use this, etc. However, if I prepare dishes based on the idea of Shojinryori, things are going well for me. Everyone, including Muslims, Hindus, and Vegans, can enjoy Shojinryori together. In that sense, Shojinryori is peaceful food. I think that is really fantastic.
In this chaotic era, although I felt that globalization has achieved as far as it can get, Shojinryori might become a breakthrough of globalization.
The next feature will be the last of Shojinryori series. I want to speak about Shojinryori's potential.
416 Iwatoyama-cho, Shinmachi-dori Bukkoji-sagaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
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