The Origins of Minokichi

The origins of “Minokichi” are said to begin in the Kyoho period (1716-36), the reign of eighth Shogun Yoshimune, when it moved from the Ogaki domain of the Mino region to Kyoto to set up a koshikake-jaya (folding stool teahouse) below Yamato-oji Sanjo, nearby present-day Sanjo Keihan Station.
Minokichi as a Freshwater Fish Restaurant: Thereafter, Minokichi established itself as a freshwater fish restaurant, and by the late Edo period, it had become one of eight freshwater fish restaurants officially authorized by the Shogunate’s administration in Kyoto. Owing particularly to its location along the Kamo River, it has carried on freshwater fish cuisine for generations, and freshwater fish has become a famous specialty of Minokichi. The freshwater fish Minokichi uses include, ayu, carp, crucian,  minnow (a fish beloved by the Emperor Meiji), gudgeon, goby, sagishirazu, (a railroad song from the Meiji period sings of the Kamo River’s sagishigrazu as being a specail Kyoto delicacy). We also serve eel, loach, and softshell turtle. Originally, it appears that, for many generations, the restaurant was called Kichibe, the restaurant founder who hailed from Mino, and only during the Meiji period were the two names combined to become “Minokichi.”
Minokichi Becomes One of the Leading Freshwater Fish Restaurants,Even in Kyoto: During the Meiji period, many travel guides of Kyoto were published, and Minokichi’s name was listed in these guides. In 1889, the Kyoto Hinode Shinbun Newspaper Company (today’s Kyoto Shinbun News) printed a popularity ranking of Kyoto businesses, with Minokichi topping the list for freshwater fish restaurants. This shows just how highly people regarded Minokichi as a freshwater fish restaurant. Telephones were still not widely used in Japan during the Meiji and Taisho periods. The Sanjo Ohashi area was so quiet that customers could literally shout out their orders from neighboring Ponto-cho. A girl with a large voice would call out “Minokichi!” and a Minokichi employee would then reply, “Yes!” and take her order. Such was the relaxed pace of the times back then.
Minokichi’s Rro-active Attitude Towards Doing New Things: In 1928, as many guests from in and outside Japan came to the accesison ceremony of the emperor, many Kyoto restaurants, including Minokichi, renovated and expanded their establishments. This expansion added new dining utensils and other implements and built up its appearance as a restaurant. Moreover, Minokichi engaged in new efforts such as modernizing its kitchen, starting takeout deliveries as early as the 1920s. And, in 1932,  it began printing its own monthly newspaper “The Taste Times.” However, as World War II intensified, Minokichi shut its doors in 1943 and was temporarily closed until it reopened in 1950.
A New Start for Minokichi: Minokichi closed in 1943, following the intensification of World War II. Selling all of its land, buildings and kitchenware and using them as capital, Kichibe Satake embarked upon a lunch delivery service. However, this business was left behind by the changes in the times after the end of World War II and by 1949, it was forced to close down.  In 1950,   Minokichi reopened a small restaurant in (present-day) Awataguchi, Nanzenji, which is said to have once been the second home of Ariwara no Narihira, the Japanese poet.
The Origins of Minokichi’s Multiple Restaurants: In 1958, Minokichi opened in the restaurant section of Hanshin Department Store. At the time, buildings in Japan were still few in number, and it was quite rare for a famous restaurant to open up an establishment inside a building. These factors made the plan a success, and Minokichi a pioneer in an epoch-making change that brought popular restaurants into office buildings. Minokichi flourished and opened up Japanese-style restaurants featuring Kyoto cuisine in  Kyoto’s Daimaru Department Store in 1963, in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Keio Department Store in 1964, and in Ikebukuro’s Tobu Department Store in 1971. This was the beginning of Minokichi’s opening of multiple restaurants.
Minokichi Builds Up Its Appearance as a Restaurant: From 1967-69, the main restaurant was expanded and renovated. The buildings at the center was left as a high-class restaurant, and a three-floor building built in a traditional folk style and a 250-year old gassho-zukuri building transferred from Gokayama in Toyama Prefecture and redesigned as a Japanese restaurant now operating for general patrons. This restaurant was an attempt to allow customers to eat Kyoto cuisine at reasonable prices; considerations having been given to pricing categories, including by adding Kyoto-style bento lunches to the menu, and we received positive responses from customers. However, from around 1980, the number of customers at the main restaurant declined. As society advanced, in Japanese cuisine too, customers came to demand not just affordable prices, but high quality and authentic cuisine, even if that meant a somewhat more expensive price. We promoted a company-wide effort to raise quality not just at the main restaurant, but throughout our entire establishment.  We rethought everything related to our establishment; not just cuisine, but properly assembling artistic craft products, and good dining utensils.We also upgraded our technique by creating a vigorous education curriculum and by training our staff in a very high level of food preparation technique.Through the success of these efforts, customer support of Minokichi rose. In response, we invested 2.2 billion yen to broadly renovate our main restaurant.
From Kyoto Minokichi Main Restaurant toKyo-Kaiseki Minokichi Main Restaurant: Takeshigero: In April 1992, Kyoto Minokichi Main Restaurant was reborn as “Kyo-Kaiseki Minokichi Main Restaruant: Takeshigero,” Comprised of a sukiya-zukuri main restaurant and gassho-zukuri annex designed by the eminent Japanese architect, Takashi Imazato (Sugiyama). Ichiroku Iwaya, the native of Omi domain who was renowned as an author and who was also a member of the House of Peers, was fond of Minokichi. One night in 1892, he gave this restaurant, which has been run by the Satake family ever since the Kyoho period, one of his books with an inscription by the author reading “Takeshigero,” a reflection of his wish that the restaurant prosper forever. On the centennial of the “Takeshigero” inscription received from the great master Iwaya, the name of the restaurant was changed to “Takeshigero,” and bamboo trees were planted to reflect this name.In this moss covered bamboo forest garden, a small waterfall and spring were installed, giving it the feeling of a quiet mountain village, and the view from the sitting room that changes with the four seasons is a landscape that inspires serenity. In 1994, we won the Kyoto Landscape Award. At Takeshigero, we hope to create and provide a comprehensive Japanese culture based on Kyoto cuisine from within the cultural climate of Kyoto.