Why customers can’t stop coming to Tenkaichi in “Ninja no Sato,” a village in the mountains of Shiga
Tenka Ippin” operates 231 stores throughout the group (as of May 2022). The “kottori” soup, which can be enjoyed anywhere in Japan, from Akita in the north to Okinawa in the south, is made at a soup factory in Seta, Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture, and distributed nationwide. However, a close inspection of each Tenka Ippin store reveals that each store has its own unique character.
The main Tenka Ippin store in Kyoto is the most prominent example. Fans of Tenka Ippin often visit the main shop as part of their “pilgrimage to the holy land,” and it has become a popular spot for school excursion students as well. Among these “unique Tenka Ippin” restaurants, the rarest of all is located in the mountains of Shiga Prefecture, in the “ninja” town of Koga. The Kami-asamiya branch is located in Shigaraki, a region famous for its pottery and surrounded by greenery, and its “tea” fields.
The owner, who has worked as Mr. Kimura’s right-hand man for the past 40 years, bought a 100-year-old, 250 tsubo (1,860 m2) old teahouse and spent a year renovating it with his wife to create a “high-class ryotei-style Tenka Ippin.
Tenka Ippin is a 2.5 hour train ride from Kyoto. Although it is a secluded restaurant that is difficult to reach without a car, it is still a popular pilgrimage spot on weekends, attracting crowds of Tenka Ippin fans from other parts of the prefecture.
Kamiasamiya is surrounded by tea fields and mountains, where the temperature is about 4 degrees cooler than in Seta, where the soup factory is located. The shrine is surrounded by tea fields and mountains, where the temperature is 4 degrees Celsius lower than in Seta, where the soup factory is located. Japanese umbrellas, lanterns, and a well-maintained Japanese garden. After passing through the sunken hearth waiting area, you take off your shoes at the entrance and enter the restaurant, which is a far cry from the rich soup with Japanese artwork, and you are confused as to where you are.
The private rooms are a blend of Japanese and Western style, with furnishings and table sets. Some have terrace seating with a view of the countryside, while others are separated from the rest of the restaurant by a long hallway.
The restaurant is so cozy and relaxing that it is said to have the slowest turnover among all Tenka Ippin restaurants. The menu includes not only the usual Tenka Ippin dishes such as “kottori (thick and rich),” but also an original menu called “Chinese noodle shop’s sake entrée,” which includes “Jidori chicken Ibushiyaki,” “Fried beef hormone with lemon flavor,” “Zakusaku cabbage with crunchy cabbage,” and “Beef hormone karaage with lemon flavor. and “Zakuzaku Cabbage with Sesame Flavor” are just a few of the snacks available. Naturally, the restaurant also serves alcoholic beverages, including local sake from Akita, the owner’s hometown, so it is not uncommon for customers to stay for a long time.
In the past, I worked with Chairman Kimura from morning till night, sweating it out and eating kotsuji every day (laughs). (Laughs.) I was present at about half of the franchise store openings, too, in preparation for the opening.
In addition to ramen, I was allowed to do yakitori on the second floor of the Kujo restaurant, I bought a teahouse in Pontocho and was allowed to open a restaurant there, and I was once in charge of an Italian restaurant in Kawaramachi. I had the opportunity to try many different menus, but the most popular was the “kottori” (thick rice cake).
However, I believe that what makes Tenka Ippin even more delicious is the atmosphere of the restaurant, the scenery, and above all, the people who serve the customers. The soup is the same all over the country, but I think that’s part of the reason why so many of our fans go to different restaurants.
The Kami-asamiya branch’s limited menu includes the popular “Stamina Chinese Soba” and “Kottori Kogashi Garlic Noodles,” which are based on “kottori” (rich) soup but with an original arrangement. There is also a luxurious menu item called “Kogashi-Niknik Beef Kainomi Steak Fried Rice. Even so, the most popular item on the menu is the “kottori,” which means that the restaurant is in the hands of Buddha no matter how far it goes.
Incidentally, there is also an Italian restaurant, Pizzeria CUOCA, run by the couple on the same premises. Why is an authentic Italian restaurant with a pizza oven located here? I wondered if they were not compatible with each other, but I was convinced that even disappointed customers who had nowhere else to go because Tenka Ippin Kamiachomiya was fully booked would be satisfied and return home.
It is the same chain restaurant. If the same soup tastes different depending on the scenery and the people who serve the customers, then it stands to reason that the soup at the head restaurant is different from the one at the chain restaurant. If you call yourself a fan of Tenka Ippin, you must definitely visit this Kamisamiya branch at least once.
Photo by： Kei Kato