After conducting online interviews for a year now, I was very happy to be able to go to a Japanese restaurant in Berlin to conduct an interview. I met with Kazuko and Niels at Tsukushiya. Kazuko is the chef and Niels the owner and manager of this Japanese restaurant that offers Japanese home-style food (katei ryōri). This includes for example okonomiyaki, donburi, curry rice and karaage. Kazuko came to Berlin in 2016 and Tsukushiya opened in February 2017.
I first spoke to Kazuko in Japanese for about an hour before Niels joined us and the interview continued in German. We touched upon several issues that came up in interviews with other restaurateurs and chefs during the past years as well, particularly vegan and vegetarian variations of Japanese food and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. When we met, Tsukushiya had just reopened for outdoor dining two weeks ago. The restaurants in the street received an extra permission to put more tables and chairs outside in spots that are usually designated parking lots.
Kazuko and Niels both confirmed what we have heard from other Japanese food entrepreneurs and food workers in Berlin before. Despite the economic difficulties, the pandemic enabled them to have more time for themselves. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the restaurant opened at noon and in the evenings with only one day off during the week. During the first lockdown in spring 2020, they had offered takeout and the summer business in 2020 went surprisingly well, but during the second lockdown from November, they closed their restaurant until March. After the reopening in May, they decided to just open in the evenings and changed their menu to less laborious dishes. Both are very happy that customers have returned and view the future with optimism.