Kawajin
food

Japanese restaurant from the Edo Period to close due to coronavirus

9 Comments
By Oona McGee, SoraNews24

It’s been a year since coronavirus was first detected in Japan. Since then, people around the country have ridden the rollercoaster of the worst pandemic of our times, with no end in sight as Tokyo and a number of other prefectures buckle down under a second state of emergency amid a third wave, with record numbers now infected.

The year has hit everyone hard, and with diners refraining from eating out like they used to, people working in the restaurant industry have been badly affected, forcing many to shut up shop. One such business made news recently, as the drop in local and international customers has now spelled the end for Kawajin, a restaurant in Tokyo’s historic Shibamata district, which has been serving diners for 231 years.

Founded in 1790, during the Edo period (1603-1868) when samurai clans were scattered around Japan and the country was ruled by feudal lords, Kawajin boasts a long list of famous diners. Japanese writer Natsume Soseki was one of them, even mentioning the restaurant by name in his 1912 novel, To the Spring Equinox, as did fellow fan Seicho Matsumoto in his 1962 novel "Kaze no Shisen" (The Wind’s Gaze).

It even served as the wedding banquet location for a scene in "Otoko wa Tsurai Yo" – a popular Japanese film series commonly known as “Tora-san” after the name of its leading character–which ran from 1969-1995. With such a long and revered history, the closure came as sad news for many when it was announced.

Screen Shot 2021-01-19 at 8.57.22.png

Famous for freshwater fish cuisine, including carp and eel dishes like kabayaki, butterflied eel with a sweet sauce served on a bed of rice in a rectangular box, Kawajin’s closure has some people expressing their concerns over the future of Japanese food culture. Not many restaurants can boast such a long history of expertise in serving up these freshwater delicacies, which came into popularity during the Edo period.

▼ Kawajin, serving eel and carp since the 18th century.

Screen Shot 2021-01-19 at 8.58.14.png

However, the eighth-generation president of the restaurant, Kazuki Amamiya, says he had no choice but to close the restaurant due to the drop in customers brought about by the pandemic. The 69-year-old said he regretted the closure, but even after cutting down on utility costs and making full use of government support entitlements, they were at their absolute limit and nothing could help them out of their dire financial situation.

Speaking to the media, Amamiya said: “It’s a pity that I couldn’t keep the baton going from the previous generation; it ended with my generation.”

He went on to say he has no grudge against the coronavirus, and though he regrets having to close, he doesn’t regret the decision as it was one that had to be made. However, many others were filled with remorse for him, leaving comments online like:

“Whaaa? I can’t believe this!”

“Such a shame–I always wanted to go there!”

“So sad to hear even Kawajin couldn’t survive this tough period.”

“Centuries of history now gone forever.”

“As a lover of Shibamata, I’m so sad to hear this.”

“Without tourists and tour groups, it’s tough for businesses like this to survive.”

Kawajin has been popular not only with tourists but also locals, who used to hold big events like weddings and memorial services at the restaurant. However, the coronavirus pandemic has caused local customers to decrease as well, due to advisories from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to stay home as much as possible.

The historic restaurant will close its doors for good on 31 January, sadly joining Fujimiso, a longstanding hot spring resort ryokan in Aichi Prefecture, as two of the country’s oldest coronavirus business casualties.

Sources: Kawajin, Tokyo Shimbun via Hachima Kiko

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Oldest ryokan at Japanese onsen resort goes bankrupt due to coronavirus

-- We visit a new Tokyo bar where nobody speaks and writing is the only way to communicate

-- Drink with a Japanese geisha at an online drinking party

© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

9 Comments
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"Distribution of domestic and foreign tourism's contribution to the gross domestic product in Japan in 2019"

What is Japan's contribution of travel and tourism to GDP (% of GDP)?

"In 2020, contribution of travel and tourism to GDP (% of GDP) for Japan was 7.6 %. Contribution of travel and tourism to GDP (% of GDP) of Japan fell gradually from 9.3 % in 2001 to 7.6 % in 2020."

 "Tourism expenditure of foreign visitors experienced considerable growth in recent years, yet domestic tourism still accounts for the lion’s share of Japan’s travel and tourism expenditure."

You only need to able to read;

DOMESTIC. i.e. it's definitely NOT Chinese.

All 7.6% of GDP is tourism "yet domestic tourism still accounts for the lion’s share of Japan’s travel and tourism expenditure."

"https://knoema.com/atlas/Japan/topics/Tourism/Travel-and-Tourism-Total-Contribution-to-GDP/Contribution-of-travel-and-tourism-to-GDP-percent-of-GDP"

"The correct answer for the current depression in the Japanese service industry is the absence of Chinese tourism."

Clearly, someone thinks tourism represents the totality of Japan's Services sector; and even stated it categorically, "with no impunity"

I would recommend quick learning of what Services are and tourism's % within it.

You can use Wiki, as it seems is the only tool one knows how to use.

With "no impunity".

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

Always a shame when a cultural icon disappears, where ever it might be. No doubt it will be replaced with a burger bar!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Surely there are enough wealthy Japanese people who could donate to keep the restaurant going for another year or so until the pandemic is under control.

The restaurants like this are very elite, yet they don't survive the test of the pandemic. It is one thing quite clear: Even Japanese elites are not in a good position either, so there won't be any funding from native elites. I would bet that any Western elite or Chinese elite, who has Japanese fever, is willing to spend their pocket changes to save the old restaurants across Japan.

Well it doesn't feel like Edo period anymore, but really so many pure "Only in Japan' things are going down the hill.

The problem is not "Only in Japan". It is the lack of hospitality coordination and experiences. Japan's 1990s bubble collapse forced the country to rapidly de-industrialize to transit from a physical economy into a rentier economy. The sudden shift into the service economy was too surprising for many Japanese people who aren't prepared enough to compete against those in the Southeast Asia at tourism.

In recent years, it does getting better not because Japanese people have adapted. It is the tourist companies and local Japanese governments successfully begged the Chinese tourists into the country. A massive boom in tourism around 2010s was solely reliant on the Chinese, and the boom became a today depression in 2020 because there is no Chinese coming even if Japan is willing to lower down barriers - the Chinese government won't allow citizens traveling aboard. Thailand as a world's tourist haven is never solely reliant on Chinese tourism alone, and it has been largely prosperous until the Pandemic hit.

The correct answer for the current depression in the Japanese service industry is the absence of Chinese tourism.

I wonder how the previous generations survived the many wars, pandemics, and economic downturns that occurred over the last 230 years.

Unlike previous generations, this one bet all of it upon Chinese consumerism and tourism. Recently, China overtook the US as Japan's biggest trading partner.

https://asia.nikkei.com/Economy/Trade/China-passes-US-as-top-Japanese-export-buyer-topping-20

When there are no Chinese tourism, the whole things fall apart as the cash crunches hit Japanese service businesses. The biggest killer is the cash crunch!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Well it doesn't feel like Edo period anymore, but really so many pure "Only in Japan' things are going down the hill.

Modern Japanese Generation have changed to Western lifestyle. In fact, all the young Asians. The world will be the same in the end. It was different good feel long time ago.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I wonder how the previous generations survived the many wars, pandemics, and economic downturns that occurred over the last 230 years.

Did they, as Serendipitous1 suggested, rely on the kindness of wealthy patrons (daimyo, samurai, and merchants), close down for a period only to reopen with renewed fervor, or even reduce operations. Perhaps become a catering restaurant that served only the rich in their homes?

If only Amamiya had their diaries; perhaps they could provide some hints and lessons.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

How about some clever crowdfunding? Surely there are enough wealthy Japanese people who could donate to keep the restaurant going for another year or so until the pandemic is under

I would happily give some money .

3 ( +3 / -0 )

How about some clever crowdfunding? Surely there are enough wealthy Japanese people who could donate to keep the restaurant going for another year or so until the pandemic is under control.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Open everything is enough! It is dying the economy, with the obvious consequence of the loss of thousands of jobs!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

This is so sad ..end of an era .. I have eaten there about 10 times, the first being in 1988 ..I always took my family members who visited Japan from abroad,too

Such a wonderful place, steeped in history, amazing food and wonderful staff . Thank you Kawajin x

3 ( +3 / -0 )

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