In 1859 after two centuries of seclusion policy, Yokohama opened its doors to foreign trade. Before this time Nagasaki was the only open port of Japan. Even then only a severely restricted number of five trading partners were established such as Holland and Quing, also known as China. However as Yokohama opened its doors and western culture flooded in and trading partners rose by eleven by 1869. Foreign nationals established settlements and legation offices. Chefs from foreign countries were invited. Books of western cuisine and food culture were published. Hotels were built and trading companies imported their own ingredients. Buddhist taboos on eating meat faded and many Japanese meat dishes were invented. Street foods like Yakitori, Croquette and Curry were sold. Sukiyaki restaurants and steak houses were established. Farmers started to grow western vegetables such as onions and peppers and a Japanese man who learnt how to bake on a French warship started a bakery in Yokohama. Other notable events include the establishement or many cafes and ice-cream stands.
In 1865, an authentic French restaurant was opened in Hotel des Colonies in Yokohama by Laplace Brothers who worked in Shanghai as French chefs. A French chef, Louis Beguex worked here who then went on to work as a head chef at the Grand Hotel Yokohama. He would then go on to establish the Oriental Hotel Kobe. Another French chef, Leon Muraour was invited to work in the French Legation Office who taught in Ueno Seiyo-ken as well.
In 1873 the Great Hotel Yokohama was opened, funded by several expats including Smith, a British public investor and Peard, a photographer. At the same time many of the patiserries opened in the foreigners settlement as many talented chefs worked there such as Carl Hess a swiss chef, who became head chef in Tukiji Seiyo-ken, and Polan Muraour who became the third head chef in the Grand Hotel Yokohama. Japanese chefs started to show their talent too. Kenkichi Watanabe worked in the Dutch legation office and became the 1st head chef at the Hall of Piers and then went on to open the Chuo-tei. Genkichi Fujita was also at the Chuo-tei and became head chef at the Rokumei – kan, the national guest house during the Meiji era and the centre of high society. In 1891 Leon Muraour laid the foundation of Orient Palace Hotel Yokohama where it became a fashionable destination.
In 1874 there were 382 foreign registered ships ported in Yokohama. In 1877, 167 foreign national trading companies were dominating Japanese trade with a share 97%. At that point 1,359 foreign settlers were living in Yokohama. Soon the first railway was inaugurated, the telecommunication system was laid and the coaches were stationed. The city was lit with gas lamps and it’s fish market was opened. Water supplies ran from 1887, electrical grids were built in 1890 and thus Yokohama built up it’s infrastructure as an international city.
Grand Hotel Yokohama had many talented chefs who went to have successful careers. Tamejiro Fukazawa worked for a French diplomat and British Legation Office and then established Toyo-ken. Kenkichi Yoshikawa became the first head chef in Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Beijiro Takagi became the 7th head chef in Imperial Hotel succeeded by Bunjiro Ishiwatari. Also Sakutaro Kobayashi became the first head chef in Hotel New Otani in Tokyo.
Orient Palace Hotel Yokohama also had a lot of gifted chefs who, too, had a thriving later career. A. Dulon, a French chef who later became 3rd chief chef in Imperial Hotel. Katutaro Utumi became an assistant head chef for 4th head chef in Imperial Hotel. A. Projean who became head chef for Toyo-ken and first chief chef for Tokyo Kaikan. Toshio Suzuki became 5th head chef in Tukiji Seiyo-ken. Yusaku Arata who lived during the WWII when all the western terms were banned, lead western cooking in Japan and he worked for both Grand Hotel Yokohama and Orient Palace Hotel Yokohama.
You would presume to find authentic western cuisine mostly in places like Seiyo-ken and Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. But looking through the history and careers of these excellent chefs in Japan, you would find that Yokohama had been the epicentre. Louis Beguex, Muraour brothers and Carl Hess made remarkable conbribution and service for conveying their cuisine.
According to the menues on 19th Aug 1897 and January 1903, in Grand Hotel Yokohama had not only authentic French dishes but also various traditional European dishes and the menues were typed in English with French words here and there. Lunches and dinners were only served in courses and it offered total of about fifty choices. One soup, one fish dish, thirteen choices of relish, five choices for entrée、six choices for vegetable dishes, three choices for roasted dishes (selection of cold meat for lunch), ten choices for dessert, five choices for cheese, then choice of tea or coffee. Urbain-Dubois who succeeded Marie-Antoine Carême and compiled French cuisine in 19th century was instructing the course meal in Russia in same period. It is a supprise that the course meal was offered in Yokohama in same period.
For soup of the day, they offered traditional French style ones. As well as those dishes, they had American style clam chowder or chicken gambo, Scottish style mutton broth. They also invented their own soup which they used pasta or tapioca as toppings for extra texture.
For fish dishes, they offered British style deep fried fish or American style oyster cocktail.
For relish, they normally used Japanese style Tukudani.For relish, they normally used Japanese style Tukudani.
Entrée meant “the homemade dish inbetween” in those days, not as a main course as in today’s term. Many of them were the pasta dishes or the rice dishes like Italian style risotto, ravioli or spagetti and Turkish style pilaf. Curry and rice seems to be the popular dish and chicken ,lamb, veal, chicken liver, prawn and oyster was used daily.
They also offered British pies, Irish stew, Spanish style beef stomach casserole (callos), American style devilled big feet and tortoise stew. Something like Welsh rarebit, Hamberger, Croquette, Beef stew were also served.
For the main dishes, they offered British style and served cold meat for lunches and roast dinner for evenings. Various meat were offered like beef, pork, chicken, turkey as well as games, livers and kidneys.
For desserts, the Scottish puddings were regularly served.
In Grand Hotel Yokohama, they served the European regional cuisine and we can imagine how rapidly the western culture flooded into the foreigner’s settlement in Yokohama. They cleverly used the available local ingredients and mixed with western cuisine and created Yokohama’s own unique foods. These technique were passed on to the Japanese talented chefs and there, the Japanese style western cuisine was accomplished. In the time of modernisation, these cuisine were spread all over Japan.
On the other hand, in Oriental Palace Hotel Yokohama were offering the authentic French cuisine. They used the sea bream or the trout for fish dishes which were locally available. For the meat dishes, they even offered Ris de veau, Moelle, Common Snipe, Bresse Chicken or Turkey. They also offered the latest dishes of the time. Peach Melba which was invented by Auguste Escoffier, the chef of Savoy Hotel in London and Beef fillet Rossini style were already there. It’s been said that Masukichi Nishio, who studied in Ritz and became head chef in Tukiji Seiyo-ken, had introduced Escoffier’s recipes but Yokohama had it before then. On 4th August 1899, when Ansei Treaties were signed, a state banquet was held in Oriental Hotel Yokohama, former name for Oriental Palace Hotel Yokohama. The menu on the night was equivalent to Ritz Paris or Savoy Hotel London, and we can see the talent of Mulaour Brothers there.
From these menues, we can see now that exquisite tastes were imported from western countries like truffles, foie gras, meats, chesses and hams. Wines were imported from Château Margaux, Château Mouton Rothschild and Château du Clos Vougeot. And more than twenty kinds of champagne were imported. They also had wines from California, Rhine, Chianti and Tokaji (Hungary), and as for the liquer, cognac and wisky, they offered as good selection as today’s bars.
In 1923, Yokohama was devastated by the Great Kanto Earthquake and 1927 Hotel New Grand Yokohama was newly established. The head chef was Sally Weil who was a Swiss and working in Paris at that time. And for his assistant Katutaro Utumi and Yusaku Arata who were working in Imperial Hotel were selected. Eager and talented chefs gathered to work with them – like Shigetada Irie, Masataka Yamamoto, Seizo Tomura, Takeo Kizawa, Shokichi Ono, Hisashi Baba and Takio Mizuguchi – and the hotel was called the tigers den of western cuisine. Weil introduced À la carte style and from his kitchen Doria, Spagetti Napolitan and Pudding à la mode was created.
Yusaku Arata was born in 1895 and he compiled “Arata Western Cuisine” after the WWII. The book has over 100 rice recipes, over 200 flour based recipes including pizza and pasta, also some timbale recipes. Also threre were many liver and kidney recipes before the war in the menues of Grand Hotel Yokohama. We can see how the western cuisine became Yokohama’s own creation.
So many changes and inventions were made and Yokohama’s creations were accepted as new tastes all over Japan. Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said, “The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity than the discovery of a new star.” , he also said, “The numbers of tastes are countless.” Today new tastes are born in all over the world. In Paris, New York and Yokohama.
Nobuya Kawachi, Chef of L’atelier 1959