The first Yoshinoya gyūdon (beef on rice) restaurant, located within Tokyo’s Tsukiji wholesale market, will close on Oct. 6, ending a 59-year history, due to the relocation of the market.
The Tsukiji outlet is known for how it served gyūdon between 2004 and 2006, when the dish disappeared from other outlets of the Yoshinoya Co. chain across Japan due to a ban on imports of U.S. beef following an outbreak of mad cow disease, by using domestic beef.
Yoshinoya, the main arm of Yoshinoya Holdings Co., started out in 1899 as a privately run eatery in a fish market in the Nihonbashi district of the capital. It moved to Tsukiji, in what was then Kyobashi Ward and is now Chuo Ward, in 1926 due to the relocation of the fish market following the Great Kanto Earthquake. However, it burned down in the Great Tokyo Air Raid in 1945 during World War II.
Yoshinoya resumed its restaurant operations in the Tsukiji market in 1947 and relocated to the current location tens of meters away within the market in 1959, after Yoshinoya’s incorporation the previous year.
Yoshinoya Holdings regards the relocated Tsukiji outlet as the first Yoshinoya gyūdon shop.
According to the company, a bowl of gyūdon in the 1950s was priced at ¥120, as expensive as a dish of unajū (boxed meal of rice topped with filets of grilled eel), a luxury Japanese delicacy.
Despite its high price, however, quick and tasty gyūdon gained popularity among busy market workers with a discerning palate. The Tsukiji shop is said to have been always crowded, according to a company official.
In a bid to serve as many customers as possible while having only 15 seats, the outlet streamlined the cooking process and limited ingredients to beef, onions and rice.
The Tsukiji method established a basis for the Yoshinoya chain.
Yoshinoya Holdings will open an outlet at the newly built Toyosu wholesale market in Koto Ward, which will take over functions from the Tsukiji market when it starts operations on Oct. 22.
“We want to keep providing delicious gyudon to people at the market,” a Yoshinoya Holdings’ public relations official said.