Chef Munesuke Kamiya owns an upmarket restaurant, Gyotei Kamiya, near Akebonobashi Station in the eastern part of Shinjuku. He has worked in the five-star Bellevue Palace Hotel, Berne, and also in London.
Tokyo – Been There

Meeting a top-class Tokyo chef

Photo by Ton Koene

Tokyo – Been There Meeting a top-class Tokyo chef

In the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, I meet chef Munesuke Kamiya. His restaurant, Gyotei Kamiya, is in a modern building, its entrance looking like the doorway to an office or apartment in the discreet way of so many Japanese businesses.

Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

It is confusing for a visitor, especially one who does not read Kanji script, to decipher the visual cues to what lies inside a Shinjuku doorway.

“I have been running my restaurant for nearly 30 years and so many of my customers are getting too old to come regularly,” says Kamiya-San. “Young people are not so interested in eating good food. And businessmen are not entertaining like they used too - they do deals on the computer without even meeting. Once, when you did a deal, you went out with your customers to celebrate. Now you stay in your hotel to write a report.”

He was invited to Switzerland to open a Japanese restaurant in the five-star Bellevue Palace Hotel, Bern, when he was 24. “The hardest thing was getting good suppliers. I'd order some nice fish but when it arrived at the restaurant, I'd have to throw it away. There was not the same attention to detail at every stage in the supply chain as there is in Japan. Food has become debased. In many restaurants, all the seasoning is on the tables: salt, pepper, ketchup. The chef does not season the food, only serves it.

“What makes Japanese food so good is that it is always seasonal. Even the fish is seasonal. There are currents like two rivers than run down each side of Japan, from the Russian sea to the Pacific. So the fish are always different and varied during the year. We have special dishes for every season and every celebration, from New Year to the Cherry Blossom season. And every region also has its own specialties.”

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