Kitcho (吉兆)

Kitcho is a high-class Japanese-style restaurant serving Japanese cuisine based in Osaka City. Four companies operating restaurants under the yago (the name of the store) of 'Kitcho' and affiliated companies are collectively called the Kitcho Group.

Foundation

The founder Teiichi YUKI, who was the son of the owner of the Kobe restaurant, 'Nakagencho,' left home, and opened 'Ontai Chadokoro (a Tai-chazuke (rice topped on sliced sea bream mixed with green tea) restaurant) Kitcho' in Shinmachi, Nishi-ku Ward, Osaka City on November 21, 1930. Kitcho means Kodakara (lucky ornaments) attached to Fuku-zasa (treasure shaped bringers of good luck stuck on a sprig of bamboo grass) granted at Toka-Ebisu (a festival held on January 10 in honor of Ebisu, the god of wealth) for three days before and after January 10 every year at the Nishinomiya Ebisu-jinja Shrine and the Imamiya Ebisu-jinja Shrine, and so on. Fuku-zasa itself is also called Kitcho-zasa, and the restaurant was named after that term. The restaurant was named by a painter, Taisui SUMA, who had a connection with Teiichi YUKI, for good luck.
At first, kana, 'Kikkyo,' was given alongside the Chinese characters; however, since guests pronounced the name as 'Kitcho,' the name was changed to 'Kitcho.'

For being a small Japanese-style restaurant with a little more than 1.83 meters wide by approximately 10.9 meters long, they served delicious dishes and had sophisticated furnishings, and plates and utensils. There was an episode that the restaurant had no guests on its opening day, but it is said that present-day Kitcho is due to Yuki's talent.

Eventually, the restaurant was patronized by wealthy self-employed individuals such as Shoen UEMURA, Hanshichi SHIRAI, Seiichi TAKAHATA, and so on, and a fine arts dealer Kasuke KOJIMA, and flourished. Since a larger capacity was required, the restaurant was relocated to a new location (approximately 5.4 meters wide by approximately 54 meters long) at Tatamiyamachi in former Shimanouchi, Minami-ku Ward in November 1937. The restaurant was converted to a joint-stock corporation in December 1939. Even during the war, as an exception, Kitcho was able to continue its operation through the offices of governor of Osaka Prefecture Kakichi KAWARADA. However, the restaurant at Tatamiyamachi was burnt down during the Osaka Air Raids together with all its utensils. After the disaster, he opened 'Ashiya Kitcho' in his own house in Ashiya.

Opening restaurants, and forming the Group

After the war, on February 3, 1946, he opened the Osaka Hiranocho shop. In February 1948, he opened the Kyoto Saga shop in the former villa of Kasuke KOJIMA. In April of the following year, 1949, he bought a shop that was concurrently being used as a main residence from Kasuke KOJIMA and opened the present-day Koraibashi shop (Osaka City). The restaurant's fame rose, as chajin (master of tea ceremony) and businessmen in Kansai patronized the restaurant, it established itself as a high-class Japanese style restaurant essential to entertaining very important persons in and outside of Japan who visited Osaka. Teiichi wrote many books about Chakaiseki (dishes served before the tea ceremony), and began a serialization concerning the 'Kitcho Tsurezurebanashi' in a magazine "Kurashi no Techo" (Notes on Daily Life) in the form of interviews with Yasuji HANAMORI in 1969. The serialization prevailed in the public, and with it Kitcho's name as well. In the 5th summit in 1979, and other summit conferences held in Japan in 1986 and 1993, Kitcho was assigned to preside over other Japanese cuisine fixed at famous Japanese-style restaurants, and came to be known internationally. In 1988, the 'Yuki Museum of Art' was established for storing the founder's collection of tea utensils.

Many restaurants were opened in other cities including Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo and Kobe. In 1991, the founder Teiichi gave his son and his daughters' husbands, who were cooks of Kitcho, the shops respectively, allowing them to form independent shops under the Kitcho name, and established the group businesses as Kitcho Group. His eldest son Toshio YUKI succeeded Honkitcho, his eldest daughter's husband Shojiro YUKI succeeded Tokyo Kitcho, his second daughter's husband Koji TOKUOKA succeeded Kyoto Kitcho, his third daughter's husband Masanori YUKI succeeded Senba Kitcho, and his fourth daughter's husband Yoshikazu YUKI succeeded Kobe Kitcho. In 1997, the founder Teiichi YUKI was died.

Characteristics of 'Kitcho'

Japanese cuisine is categorized into Yusoku ryori (dishes prepared for the royal court) derived from court dishes, honzen ryori (full-course haute cuisine) which are party dishes for feudal lords, Kaiseki ryori (formally arranged dinner to enjoy sake) established as party dishes for townspeople in the Edo period, and so on. The services of Kitcho including the menus and the 'shitsurai', by which fittings and furnishing goods are changed in accordance with the atmosphere and seasons under the concept of Ichigo Ichie (Treasure every encounter), are strongly affected by Kaiseki ryori (a simplified version of honzen ryori; dishes different from the Kaiseki ryori mentioned above, although the pronunciation is the same). This was because the founder Teiichi YUKI had a profound knowledge of tea ceremony, and Teiichi established the Yuki Museum of Art later based on his collection of tea utensils.

It was rare for a high-class Japanese-restaurant to open so many branches. In particular, the 'Ginza shop' and 'Hotel Seiyo Ginza shop' operated by Tokyo Kitcho, Koraibashi shop operated by Honkitcho in Osaka, and Arashiyama shop operated by Kyoto Kitcho are often used to entertain influential people in politics and business, as well as foreign VIPs. It is well known that Junichiro KOIZUMI often visited 'Hotel Seiyo Ginza shop' while he was the prime minister.

Closure of Senba Kitcho

In Senba Kitcho, part of the 'Kitcho' group, a series of scandals caused by mislabeled expiration dates and best before dates occurred in 2007. In May of the following year, 2008, the fact that Senba Kitcho served the leftover food from previous guests to other guests was revealed and reported to the general public. Senba Kitcho was pursued over this incident, eventually forcing it to go out of business. The incident as a whole damaged the image of 'Kitcho,' and had such a serious impact on the other companies in the group that the number of guests visiting Honkitcho dropped by half compared to the previous year.

Forms of organization

In 1991, Teiichi, the founder, started his sons and daughters' husbands in the same business. As a result of this, his eldest son succeeded Honkitcho, eldest daughter's husband succeeded Tokyo Kitcho, second daughter's husband succeeded Kyoto Kitcho, third daughter's husband succeeded Senba Kitcho, and fourth daughter's husband succeeded Kobe Kitcho. Kitcho Group consisted of eleven companies including one holding company, five companies operating Japanese-style restaurants, five property management companies, and one incorporated foundation, the Yuki Museum of Art. Among the five companies operating Japanese-style restaurants, Senba Kitcho discontinued its business in May 2008 due to the successive scandals, and was unable to receive support from other companies in the group.

Kitcho Co., Ltd. used to be a company operating Japanese-style restaurants, but is now a wholly owned holding company which holds all shares in five subsidiaries managing the Kitcho brand and properties such as the main shop, and so on, of each restaurant.

At present, there are four companies operating Japanese-style restaurants such as Honkitcho Co., Ltd., Kobe Kitcho Co., Ltd. (the main office is based in Osaka City), Kyoto Kitcho Co., Ltd. and Tokyo Kitcho Co., Ltd., and they operate Japanese-style restaurants by leasing the Kitcho brand from Kitcho Co., Ltd., and leasing shops from five property management companies. The four companies operating Japanese-style restaurants constitute Kitcho Group. Each company in Kitcho Group has a regular meeting, but announced that each operating company was managing independently. However, in response to a series of scandals by Senba Kitcho Co., Ltd. which was one of the companies operating Japanese-style restaurants, each Kitcho Group company decided to establish a compliance committee auditing whether foodstuffs and products are being treated properly.

History

1930: Teiichi YUKI started 'Ontai Chadokoro Kitcho' in Shinmachi, Nishi-ku Ward, Osaka City.

1937: The restaurant was relocated to Tatamiyamachi.

1939: Kitcho Co., Ltd. was established.

1945: The restaurant at Tatamiyamachi was burnt down by the Osaka Air Raid. After the air raid, Teiichi opened 'Ashiya Kitcho' at his own house in Ashiya.

1946: A new restaurant was opened in Osaka Hiranocho.

1948: 'Saga Kitcho' (present-day Kyoto Kitcho Arashiyama main shop) was opened in Kyoto Arashiyama.

1949: Koraibashi shop was opened.

1956: Senba shop was opened.

1961: Ginza shop was opened.

1969: A series of 'stories about Kitcho' started in "Kurashi no Techo."

1979: Kitcho served dishes at a luncheon at the Tokyo Summit.

1991: The group business was formed as a result of establishing each present-day company.

1997: Teiichi YUKI, the founder, passed away.

2007: Mislabeling issues were found at Senba Kitcho.

2008: Senba Kitcho gave up its business.