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Born in Osaka in 1983, Ryuju left his job in graphic design to enter the world of food at the age of 27. After gaining experience at several restaurants in Tokyo, he became the sous-chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant Sublime (now Ginza L'Argent) in Azabu Juban in 2018. In 2020, he moved his base to Kyoto, and in 2021, launched "neutral," a project that uses installations to express a new way of food.
Providing an "opportunity for awareness."
We create food experiences that aren't just "delicious" but deepen the awareness of your own health by experiencing how food can affect your mind and body from the inside. My partner is an Ayurvedic counselor, and we had always wanted to do something together, and many things led us to think the time was here. So after six months of planning, we started our project in January of 2021. Our bodies are made up of what we eat, so the food we choose to eat every day is very important. It should be healthy and delicious, and I believe that the ideal food satisfies these requirements. Despite this, many restaurants globally tend to be biased towards pursuing only the pleasure of taste. On the other hand, restaurants that offer meals that are good for the body may be too health-conscious and over the top in their contents. "neutral" is the result of my desire to provide a dining experience that is both delicious and also draws attention to the fact that the food we eat builds our bodies.
What "neutral" offers is an "opportunity for awareness." We do not send out such messages telling you what is good for your health or what I want you to feel through food. This is because I believe that if you don't realize it yourself, nothing will change. We want to have people take something away from the experience we provide. We don't know what that "something" is, and it doesn't have to be what we want it to be. That's what diversity is all about, and I think the world is more enjoyable when there is diversity.
Eastern philosophy is not a dualism but a blending of two elements.
The concept of "neutral" is based on Eastern philosophy. While Western philosophy is based on dualism, such as heaven and earth, light and darkness, and good and evil, on the other hand, Eastern philosophy believes that each element is intermingled and influenced by each other. For example, in the West, the rainbow has seven colors. In the East, there is a range of gradation colors within the border of each of the seven colors.
It is just a different perception, so we are not denying Western philosophy and believe that both are necessary for our lives. However, since the current state of Japanese society is heavily influenced by Western philosophy, and to convey the message that Eastern ideas are just as important as Western ones, "neutral" incorporates Eastern philosophy.
"dō" is also based on Eastern philosophy, and even though we are different in what we create and how we express ourselves, I felt that our underlying ideas are similar. I have a great deal of sympathy for how the producer, Misato Matsuo, thinks. I think it's rare to find someone who approaches Monozukuri in such an overwhelmingly beautiful way. Drink development was a field I had never experienced before but was very interested in, and when I was offered the chance to work on " dō balance booster for blood," I accepted without hesitation.
Drawing inspiration through preliminary research
In my creative Monozukuri process, I study and read many books on the subject. I learn about the history of ingredients, where they come from their nutrients, and even random information that I don't know what I will use for. I know there is a way to just try and make whatever, but I don't want to waste food. It takes time to construct something while considering the characteristics of the ingredients, but at that point, I have an idea of what it will taste like, so I only need to make minor adjustments from the prototype onward.
Another characteristic of my Monozukuri is that I do not put myself out there. In Ayurveda, I have a strong tendency to assist others in a supportive role, and I have no desire to express myself through food when it comes to Monozukuri. So this time, I created "dō balance booster for blood" with the feeling of a part of the world of "dō."
A world where everything is friendly to both people and the earth
I believe that the star of the dish is not the cook but the dish itself. To put it another way, I don't think anyone must know that I'm the creator of the plate. Nowadays, there is a lot of talk about the value of "vegetables are safe because they were grown by whomever," but that is a strange thing to say, and the fact that you have to follow such labels to get safe food is itself distorted. In the past, vegetables tasted good no matter who grew them, and if they were grown naturally, we could eat them with peace of mind. In other words, things have gone wrong because of human intervention. So in that sense, I am trying not to have any kind of egoism as a creator.
In the future, I would like to see a world where the products we pick up without thinking are both made for the global environment and good for our health. There's no need to spread information about how to be healthy to achieve this; we just need to reach a state where plant-based is as normal as fast food. The healthier the body, the calmer the mind, and the more peaceful the world will become as a result.
If you look back at history, there was a time when what we have as "normal" today was not necessary. For example, the monetary economy began in Japan in the Nara period. At that time, logistics were probably not in place, but I imagine that people were living freely. In Western astrology, it is said that we have entered the "Age of Winds,", and I believe that the world we should aim for in the future will be similar to the atmosphere of that time.