National / History

Imperial banquet menus show tastes of times past

Kyodo

Printed menus from state dinners between 1874 and 1964 collected by a former head chef at the Imperial Palace are to go on display this fall, sources said Monday.

A granddaughter of Tokuzo Akiyama has donated his collection of roughly 1,200 menus to the Ajinomoto Foundation for Dietary Culture Library, an archive operated by food manufacturer Ajinomoto Co., the sources said.

Akiyama (1888-1974) worked as Imperial head chef for decades until 1972. He took up a job with the old Ministry of the Imperial Household as a cook in 1913 after studying in France. He later became the chief chef, serving Emperor Taisho (1879-1926) and his son Emperor Showa (1901-1989).

In Paris, Akiyama worked under renowned French chef Auguste Escoffier.

The cards can already be viewed for research purposes, but the foundation will make them available to the general public this fall, the sources said.

The cards show what kinds of lunches and dinners emperors had with foreign guests or other key figures, such as Hirobumi Ito (1841-1909), who became Japan’s first prime minister in 1885.

Tokuko Akiyama, the daughter of Akiyama’s late son Tadasu, offered the cards to the foundation, hoping the collection will help promote the research of cooking, the sources said.

Ayako Ehara, a professor emeritus at Tokyo Kasei Gakuin University and an expert on the history of cookery documents, said the menus are a valuable insight into how Western cuisine began to arrive in Japan.