Shop owner opens ‘kimchi museum’

In the hope of fostering a better understanding of Korean food culture in Japan, the owner of a Korean restaurant in Tokyo has set up a makeshift museum in his kitchen’s first-floor food shop, with the popular ethnic dish kimchi, assorted pickled vegetables with hot chili sauce, as the main theme of exhibits.

Oh Young Seok, who together with his wife, Ryu Hyang Hee, opened what was originally just a food shop in 1993, is trying to make it easier for Japanese to enjoy and learn about Korean cuisine. “There are many Korean restaurants and food outlets in Japan,” said the 46-year-old owner of Saikabo, in Shinjuku Ward. “But most of them serve only Korean residents here, making it hard for Japanese customers to step in.”

Since the opening of his flagship store, Oh has gradually established outlets at a number of major department stores throughout Tokyo. Last October, he remodeled the shop, creating the “kimchi museum” on the ground floor, which also houses the Korean food market, and a restaurant on the second floor. In the 50-sq.-meter space behind a food showcase on the first floor, the ingredients of kimchi — leeks, cucumbers, Chinese cabbage and daikon — are displayed, as well as books on kimchi and models demonstrating its production.