Hidetomo Kimura is a man on the move. When we catch up with him at his Maison Culturelle Suigian on a weekday morning, he has just returned from a business trip to meet with an artist in Italy. Although the lounge in the daytime is without the usual thrum from the evening interplay between performers and spectators, the space still buzzes with dynamic energy as Kimura discusses his passion for his craft and his lifework.
Why did you open a store in Nihonbashi?
Nihonbashi was the cultural center of Japan during the Edo period, where people, goods and culture traveled. It was also the starting point for the five highways fanning out across the country. Today, it still retains remnants of that time and is a rare place where you can feel the old cultural charm of the city. Like the highways, Tokyo is now a starting point that spreads to the world. So from this perspective, Nihonbashi is the perfect cultural base for guests to come spend an evening at the Maison Culturelle Suigian to experience the profound world of Noh theater, including shows by esteemed performers who are known as living national treasures. The location of Suigian is on the grounds of the Fukutoku Shrine, which is very auspicious. It is also the site of “Momokawaro,” a famous restaurant that was celebrated as one of the top five restaurants of the Edo era. This was where the Perry expedition was entertained when it came to Japan, symbolizing the catalyst for the country’s opening to the world. The wonderful performances and the stories behind them at this location are endless when you start talking about them.
I feel that you are particular about your food and beverage menu. Please tell us about that.
Yes, that’s right. In Japan, there is a unique practice of dividing the year into a total of 72 seasons that shift in five-day increments. We offer seasonal dishes and cocktails that resonate with the particular seasons at hand. Although providing a new menu every five days is not realistic, we do change the menu every 15 days while still reflecting all of the microseasons within that period. For example, if it is from March 20th to April 3rd, you can enjoy the seasonal division of “Sparrows begin to nest,” “Cherry Blossoms Begin to Bloom,” “Cherry Blossoms Begin to Fall,” and “First Thunder.” I don’t think there are many other restaurants offering this level of attention to seasonal detail.
There are also not many places to see Noh performed while enjoying a seasonal meal, correct?
That’s right. I believe that Suigian is the only place in Japan and in the world where you can see real traditional Japanese performing arts every day. It’s strange that until now, there haven’t been facilities in Japan where you can do this, but at Suigian you can even have a meal at the same seat from which you watch the performance. Typically, there is no interaction between performers and the audience in a regular Noh theater, but here at Suigian, the performers come out to the restaurant after the show and interact with the audience, showing them their masks and props and taking pictures, which is very unique. Another special point is that traditional performing arts are usually performed during the daytime, but at Suigian, they are performed at night.
I also understand there’s a tea house on the premises.
Yes, there is. The worlds of Noh and tea ceremony arts originally developed at the same time, so I want our guests to experience the ambiance of this worldview. Many of our guests are familiar with tea ceremonies, and so we offer them an opportunity to perform the ceremony together with their party when they come here to dine and see a Noh performance. If requested at the time of reservation, we are also happy to offer tea ceremony demonstrations for those who are new to the art. This is another unique experience that sets us apart from other places.
If you could sum up Suigian in a word or a phrase, what would that be?
The first thing is that it is a maison, and the second is the concepts of authenticity and evolution. There are many places that try to promote and incorporate Japanese culture and change it in various ways, but they lack that authentic element. Here at Suigian, we’re a place evolving real culture by always showing performances with traditional, genuine elements through collaboration with the original source— not only through the regular stage performances, but also the recently launched “TECHNOH LAB.” We have created a new club scene in Tokyo, collaborating with world-renowned DJs and top runners in the traditional performing arts world, including those designated as important intangible cultural properties representing Japan. Suigian is a place where genuine Japanese cultural figures gather and can try out various diverse creative experimentations.
Click here for more information about Suigian.