野菜の力 精進の時代

Ever since I was in the forefront of food industry as an owner-chef of a Shojin restaurant in the midst of Tokyo, I have seen disorder in the food habits in this country. This disorder not only has not stopped, but is escalating everyday, I just kept grinding sesame to make pudding every day, worrying about what should be done about it, and one day I found an answer. The answer was to reform people’s consciousness about food that is, food education was to be given. How to face food properly and how to prepare food the way it should be is to be aware of. Food preparation is daily practice of life and is a way to live consciously. Is it an exaggeration to say it is a duty that each person –whether of this country or anywhere else in the world-should practice daily?

Looking back at those days of my Shojin restaurant月心居, I feel grateful that it could run for 15 years till its closing on Dec. 2007 thanks to the support of countless people. First of all, why did I have to open a vegetarian Shojin restaurant in the midst of Tokyo? It was genuinely out of my earnest wish I immersed myself in Shojin cuisine at the nunnery月心寺 in Ohtsu, Shiga Prefecture and since that time my goal has been to spread the Shojin cuisine as a traditional culture to as many people as possible. Some 50000 people in total visited 月心居 in 15 years. The space was always fully booked, especially in the last 1-2 years. The earnest interest in healthy lifestyle and to savor vegetables at that time also contributed to the popularity. I have to express my deepest gratitude that so many people from inside and outside Japan came to have my food and I will never forget this.

In those days, I felt that Shojin cuisine finally acquired citizenship in society. And I felt that my first wish to spread the proper understanding of Shojin cuisine-a cuisine that has been transmitted from long ago and transformed into its current aesthetic form had been accomplished, even if more could have been done. I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that Shojin cooking is a unique and straightforward cuisine that crosses all borders and Japan can be proud of internationally.

月心居 has closed its doors, but my mission remains the same. That is, to spread the awareness of the essence of Shojin cuisine worldwide. To share the wonderful potential of Shojin cuinine. Food culture can change our future. I believe that the millions of years of human history are based on food culture. Now, instead of just worrying while I am grinding sesame, I realized that it is my mission to suggest various ways that can create a wonderful food environment.

In February, 2008, I established the "Zecoow Culinary Institute". Zecoow or是食means “Just eat anything that is served oneself with deep gratitude” is inspired by the well-known Buddhism phrase Shikisokuzeku or色即是空from the Heart Sutra. It means “Form is the emptiness. Emptiness is the form”. In my pursuit of Shojin cuisine, regardless of whether from the east or the west, my aim is to continue to discover how the unique Shojin approach can reveal true beauty and health in our clothes, home, environment, healing practices, and agriculture. The advantage of this unique Shojin philosophy is that it can be presented in various forms.

Drawing upon my knowledge, wisdom, technology and sensitivity acquired at月心居" and through new creative works, therefore, it is my great pleasure and wish to keep sharing the wonderful messages of vegetables through the Zecoow Culinary Institute.