Rarely does an establishment trek both the modern and traditional as seamlessly as Suigian — a multidisciplinary theater, restaurant and bar lounge adjacent to Nihonbashi’s famed Fukutoku Shrine. The stunning brainchild of Hidetomo Kimura, founder and designer of the neighboring Art Aquarium exhibit, Suigian has become a major foothold in the area’s recent renaissance from washed-out office town to revitalized cultural hub. It’s also the place where one man’s love of traditional Japanese performing arts, cuisine and design intersect to form an intimate and visually exciting space for everyone to enjoy.
Before opening the eclectic venue last year, Kimura’s Art Aquarium project had risen to the top of millions of summer to-do lists, becoming a seasonal focal point in the capital. A fascinating exhibit showcasing thousands of ornate fish within exquisite aquariums at Coredo Muromachi’s Nihonbashi Mitsui Hall, Art Aquarium is Kimura’s homage to the district’s rich history and intrinsic ties to Japan’s goldfish boom. A keen sense of place, culture and cutting-edge design take centerstage in all of Kimura’s endeavors, and his next project, Suigian, takes this philosophy to new heights.
“There’s only so much that I can express about Japanese culture through Art Aquarium,” Kimura says. “In a way, it only scratches the surface. For over ten years, I’ve worked to create an opportunity for people to come in contact with and truly experience Japan’s cultural heritage. Suigian goes one step further and makes it possible to dig deeper into that world.”
Indeed, Suigian is a deep dive into what most people consider irretrievable scenes from the past. Japan’s golden age of performance comes alive in the 21st century through Kimura’s thoughtfully designed interior, which features an original Edo period oimatsu (old pine tree) kagamiita (panel) drawing in Kano -ha (Kano school) style from Kyoto. Goldfish are a motif throughout, and a panel of theater masks from Kimura’s personal collection of Japanese artifacts and crafts decorates one wall. Minus some bold modern touches to ground its guests in reality, the space is a totally immersive step back in time.
The real treat is Suigian’s program of traditional Japanese performances, including noh, kyogen, bunraku (puppet theater) and Nihonbuyo (dance). While this kind of entertainment tends to be pricey, very long and highly difficult to understand at most other venues, Suigian makes it simple and affordable. A brief video installation explains the 650-year history of noh — a mystical form of theater blending dance, music and drama — before each performance, and audience members even get to see the performers without their masks on, an act that is strictly forbidden in more traditional spaces. Suigian is also the only venue in Japan to house different schools of noh, kyogen and other performance styles under the same roof.
In addition to having close-up access to coveted shows within a relaxed setting, Suigian offers first-rate Japanese fare from long-established restaurants in the Nihonbashi area. Guests can try an array of authentic dishes from some of the most well-known local establishments while drinking from a carefully selected alcohol menu. Celebrity food and wine connoisseur Takuro Tatsumi handpicked the drinks. A name any Japanese person would recognize, Tatsumi has appeared on countless TV programs for his culinary expertise, and was knighted by Japan Sommelier Association as well as other wine tasting organizations.
“If you want to experience the real Japan, come to Suigian,” Kimura says. Despite being a new face on the block, Suigian has established itself as a singular hub for residents and travelers, first timers and theater goers, foodies and aficionados from all walks of life. Above all, it’s a decadent portal into a moment in history when unparalleled entertainment, art and cuisine hailed from none other than the country’s so-called “zero point” — a moment that, when recreated within a modern mindscape, makes way for a truly spectacular experience.
Sun & Public holidays 11am – 9pm, L.O. 8:30pm
B1F, 2-5-10, Nihonbashi-Muromachi, Chuo-ku