Mexico City has gone Japanese
Fri, December 3, 2021

Mexico City has gone Japanese

Sushi restaurants have long found their way into Mexico City. / Photo by bodiaphvideo via Shutterstock


The New York Times reported that while sushi restaurants have long found their way into Mexico City, the last few years have seen numerous Japanese-themed businesses - from fashion labels and boutiques to hotels and dining places - mushrooming in Mexico’s capital city. 


Matcha Tea Served in a Coffee Shop

Among these Japanese-inspired businesses is a tiny coffee shop named Raku, which means joy in Japanese, found in the city’s Roma Norte neighborhood, where on one sunny afternoon, a steady stream of customers was having coffee. Raku not only serves coffee but also a mean cup of matcha tea, which owner Mauricio Zubirats himself prepares. 

After measuring the world-famous fine green powder, sourced all the way from Kyoto, it is mixed with hot water and stirred 30 times, using a brush made from a single piece of bamboo. The resulting moss-colored mixture is earthy and bitter, and for a second, writer Brooke Porter Katz thought she was being transported from a coffee shop to Japan. 

In running Raku, Zubirats said he is guided by many Japanese principles. He explained that the café’s cracked concrete walls and tree-trunk stools epitomize wabi-sabi, an aesthetic idea that finds beauty in the imperfect. He also follows the hospitality concept of omotenashi, wherein the entire attention of the host is focused on the slightest details so the guest can have the best experience possible. 


Mexico City’s Little Tokyo

But Mexico City has more Japanese things to offer than just a wonderful cup of matcha tea. Little Tokyo, situated in the northern portion of the city, is hotter than ever, and the credit goes to restaurateur Edo Lopez, whose maternal great-grandfather was born in Japan.

In 2013, Lopez opened sushi restaurant Rokai and his Edo Kobayashi Group now operates a string of restaurants located near each other (including ones offering ramen and yakitori exclusively). In December 2018, Lopez came up with fine-dining restaurant Emilia, which offers Japanese-influenced dishes using local ingredients, and Tokyo Music Bar, a hi-fi cocktail lounge. 


Mexico City has more Japanese things to offer than just a wonderful cup of matcha tea. / Photo by PixHound via Shutterstock


Lopez’s latest culinary projects include Tatsugoro, a sushi counter and whiskey bar inside the St. Regis Hotel, named after Tatsugoro Matsumoto, an imperial gardener who migrated to Mexico in the 1920s. He is also the creative spirit behind EFC, Edo’s Fried Chicken, a fried chicken restaurant that uses Japanese ingredients, such as wasabi and the citrusy-spicy yuzu kosho.

Mexico City’s Little Tokyo also has a Japanese-style inn, or ryokan, eponymously named Ryo Kan, a 10-room property that opened in April 2018 and is made from wood and stone. Tokyobike has a store in Little Tokyo that sells simple and lightweight urban bicycles. It is also in Little Tokyo that Kameyama Shachu can be found, the only store in Mexico that sells hand-forged Sakai Takayuki knives made outside of Osaka.

For those with a sweet tooth, there is a brick-walled bakery in Little Tokyo called Tsubomi that sells delicious sweet snacks like anpan, a roll filled with red bean paste. A few blocks away from the bakery is Hashi Gallery, which promotes Japanese artists through pop-up shows around Mexico City. The gallery was established by Omar Rosales, who studied Japanese art and philosophy at Hiroshima City University.

A salsa brand, Nakanoke & Sons, combines spices with sour, sweet, salty and umami flavors, and is sold in local specialty food shops. The salsas are the creation of chef Eduardo Nakatani, who holds ramen cooking classes at the culinary space Sobremesa. In the 1940s, Japanese grandfather and Mexican grandmother invented the famed cacahuates japoneses or peanuts covered in a thin layer of dough and then fried. 

Nakatani grew up eating dishes that were a fusion of two cultures. His salsas, likewise, do the same, mixing Asian ingredients such as dried shrimp, soy sauce, and miso paste with different chiles to create a flavorful condiment that offers more than just heat.

It was also his Japanese heritage that motivated fashion designer Guillermo Vargas to start fashion label 1/8  Takamura, named after his paternal Japanese great-grandfather. The handmade clothes have geometric patterns, a reflection of the Japanese simplicity aesthetic. 

Despite the distance that separates Japan and Mexico, the two countries have been connected as early as 1614, when Hasekura Tsunenaga arrived in Acapulco as the first Japanese ambassador to Mexico. Jacaranda trees in Mexico City, first planted in the 1920s upon the suggestion of Tatsugoro Matsumoto, appear every spring bursting with purple, cloudlike blooms. They serve as a modern-day reminder of the relationship between the two countries. 



Mexico’s Revenue Tax Statistics

Data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development showed that Mexico had a total tax revenue of 3,326,810 million Mexican pesos in 2017. 

For this year, taxes on income, profits, and capital gains amounted to 1,571,788 million Mexican pesos while taxes on goods and services was at 1,254,879 million Mexican pesos. 

It is good to learn that there is still something of redeeming value to Mexico other than its drug cartels and drug lords. The government should try to develop the countryside so that Mexico will not be synonymous with drugs and criminality.