Food for thought: Tokyo’s high-tech tribute to Japanese cuisine

Food & drink

Food for thought: Tokyo’s high-tech tribute to Japanese cuisine

The Mysterious Restaurant of the Food God, an interactive digital art exhibit, lets you play with oversized mushrooms and feel like a grain of rice.

Amelia Mularz

BY Amelia Mularz28 March 2017

It’s entirely appropriate that a new exhibition in Tokyo called ‘The Mysterious Restaurant of the Food God’ is shrouded in, well, mystery. For one, it’s located in an abandoned building in the city’s Nihonbashi district (at Kayabacho 1-chome Heiwa Building, to be more specific – taxi drivers generally aren’t amused by secrecy). Then there’s the exhibit’s website, which mentions food gods, video technology and following a fox named Uka to some sort of epicurean paradise, but also inspires a slew of follow-up questions. Is this a restaurant? An art installation? A light show with highbrow snacks?

The Mysterious Restaurant of the Food God, Tokyo, Japan

Inside the lair of Uka, the god of grain

The answer is, it’s all of the above (and yes, you will meet Uka). The Tokyo attraction explores washoku, or Japanese cuisine, through a series of interactive screens, projection mapping and real-life edible grub. Wander through a forest of illuminated panels and meet that famous fox, who happens to be the god of grain. Later in the exhibit, imagine what it’s like to be a piece of rice in a bubbling pot of water, thanks to elaborate light shows (that sometimes resemble Pink Floyd cover art) meant to illustrate various cooking methods, such as boiling, steaming and frying. There’s also artwork devoted to essential Japanese ingredients and cooking tools (kelp, shittake mushrooms, donabe pots), and massive 1.8-metre-wide bowls filled with actual rice that you can drag your hands through, in turn affecting video projections on the room’s walls.

 Larger-than-life shiitake mushrooms

And because it would be torture to spend an afternoon surrounded by food with nothing to eat, there’s a restaurant at the end of the exhibit. Sample traditional dishes like Inaniwa udon, oyako dashimaki (an omelette recipe with Mizansho pepper) and three types of miso soup. The culinary mastermind behind the experience is Hisato Nakahigashi, and guest chefs include Yoshihiro Murata and Joel Robuchon. As for the the digital artwork, Montreal-based entertainment studio Moment Factory, who has worked with rock stars and the Radio City Rockettes in the past, dreamed up the installations.

Inside the Mysterious Restaurant of the Food God, Tokyo, Japan

Projection mapping on grains of rice

The exhibit runs through 21 May. Swing by and later rebuff anyone who claims that watching water boil is boring. It’s quite psychedelic, actually.