TOMOYA KAWADA - Sazenka
Updated: Jun 22
"I am a shokunin!"
What is the origin of the word Sazenka?
SA = the meaning of tea which we improved upon
ZEN = spirit
KA = Chinese cuisine
I would like to innovate Chinese cuisine in Japan.
Because I cannot drink so much, I really like tea. And anyway, I believe that tea goes very well with my cuisine. Our mouths are delicate and we can easily appreciate the subtleties of tea. Plus tea is very healthy.
Why did you choose to pursue Chinese food?
When I was five years old I was fascinated by a Chinese restaurant. I lived in Taiwan for two years, in Taipei. You know, there is Japanese technique in Mandarin food.
I had studied in Taiwan, and Szechuan food is what I chose. Where I come from -Tochigi prefecture - there is no sea. The terroir there is similar to Szechuan landscape.
Here in Tokyo I studied at Nihon Ryorui from the age of 18 to 20. Then I studied Chinese food and worked in a Chinese restaurant for ten years - Azabu Choko. I would travel to China for work experience and so I learned even more about China. Then I worked in Ryugin Tokyo again for three years, and then Ryugin Taiwan for two years.
How is your food different from that of other chefs?
My Japanese technique and spirit, plus my
respect for the ingredients make my food different.
Did you feel at home in Taipei?
Yes, very much so, it’s my second home.
To you, what does it mean to be Japanese?
Japan is a a country made up of many islands. During the Jomon period we were all only Japanese, and during this time we hunted and foraged. In the subsequent period, the Yayoi period, many people came from China and we learned to make rice and vegetables. Then in the Asuka Period Japanese also started visiting China, learning about many other things including hashi and kanji - and also tea. And we improved upon all of these things. Kanji evolved into Hiragana, for example. Attention to details equals respect for people. We, as Japanese, have adapted and improved upon influences from other countries. The Japanese spirit is reflected in the lives of shokunin (artisans), which is also connected to Zen spirit. I am a shokunin!
What is your earliest food memory?
I remember the lazy susan in the Chinese restaurant I liked so much as a child. I loved to turn it. I remember Dan Dan noodles: the aroma, the sesame and chili pepper. It was my destiny to become a Chinese chef!
If you could eat with any three people who would they be?
Kukai - a Japanese Buddhist civil servant, engineer, scholar, poet, artist and calligrapher
Dogen - a Japanese Buddhist priest, writer, poet, philosopher during the Kamakura period
I met my business partner, Mr. Hayashi - who is the owner of Sazenka - at Azabu Choko. He was also working there.
Sazenka was designed by Design Studio Crow.
It has been awarded 3 Michelin Stars.
Sazenka 4-7-5 Minami Azabu, Minato, Tokyo +81-3-6874-0970