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Star Atlas

Yasuhiko Inoue (Simples)

Shizuoka Edition 07

Beaming a bit of light on the pople, places and things that illuminate their region as stars in the night sky and connecting them to one another to uncover each areas unique ‘Star Atlas’.

10/31/2022

A culinary experience that blends cultures and values


Simples is a restaurant located in Aoi-ku, Shizuoka City. The restaurant serves dishes made from Shizuoka’s most unique ingredients, all of which are nurtured by the surrounding sea, mountains, and nature. The high-quality fish caught directly from Suruga Bay and prepared by Naoki Maeda of Sasue Maeda Fish Store, in particular, is something that cannot be experienced elsewhere.

Owner-chef Yasuhiko Inoue was born and raised in Hita City, Oita Prefecture. He ran his own restaurant for three years there before moving to his wife’s hometown of Shizuoka, eight years ago. With no friends or connections in the area, he began by looking for suppliers, eventually going on to open Simples.

At Simples, “simple” refers to the essence of each dish, which is served with only what has been determined to be essential. Inoue’s personal experience: through his training, travels, and encounters with people are fused together and expressed in each dish.

Inoue’s career as a chef began when he was 20 years old at a restaurant in Fukuoka called KIHACHI. It was a time when Californian fusion cuisine was coming into fashion in Japan. It allowed him to learn creative, non-traditional cuisine under the guidance of Kihachi Kumagai, a leading figure in the field.

“While I was working in Japan, I realized that each country’s cuisine was so complex that I couldn’t understand it just by reading the cookbooks I could get in Japan. I thought I had to live there to understand it, so I decided to go abroad.”

(left) Consommé of mud crab and deer.
Black rockfish with citrus vinegar sauce.

In Europe, he spent a total of three years living and working in the Belgium countryside, as well as in Paris. He also spent three years in Italy, where he experienced firsthand the culture of each region through its food.

“When I was working in a three-star restaurant in France, I realized that French cuisine was actually derived from cuisine that was made for royalty, and it made me interested in other parts of the world. I also traveled to Morocco and Turkey and found that the food and culture were very similar to one another, sometimes they even felt the same. The way in which people would enjoy their food varied from place to place, in some places they would eat with their hands, and so it made me realize that having a knife and fork or a white tablecloth is not always necessary.”

When he first moved to Shizuoka, one of his first guests was the leader of a samba band. Thinking he could experience South America through its music, Inoue joined the samba band as a percussionist. He had played drums in a band during his high school years, but it was completely different from what he was used to. The band leader would tell him off if he hit the drums too hard, something he was used to in rock music, but there were also times when he would burst into tears when he got it right.

The pandeiro is a key percussion instrument in Brazilian music. Used in the street samba “Pagode”.

“At first, I thought I had to do everything by myself, but I felt that if we all played together on the same wavelength, we could make something big. To me, this really felt like a part of Brazilian culture.”

During his training in Europe, Inoue had witnessed how one restaurant in the countryside could transform a whole city. He wanted to bring people to his hometown with his food, but his lack of restaurant management and experience made it difficult. It was during a two-week training program in Berkeley, California, USA, that completely changed his view of restaurants and his way of thinking.

“During my training at Chez Panisse, I was amazed at the unique way in which everything was done. This was also true for all of the restaurants created by its alumni, each of which took on some of the characteristics of Chez Panisse. 

‘So, what’s the ingredient?’ We would ask among ourselves in the morning trying to decide the menu for the day. ‘We have zucchini flowers; what do you think we should do with them?’ And then we would discuss. It’s that kind of informality that made for a fun environment. It took me about 10 days to realize that this is the kind of environment where new things are always being created.”

Mochi Uma Bonito, Simple’s signature dish. It was caught in Suruga that afternoon, prepared by Naoki Maeda of Sasue Maeda Fish Store, and served that night. It’s fresh and has a soft texture similar to a rice cake.

“I began to wonder how I could offer a different approach to cooking at Simples. This led me to visit the Amazon, hoping to find some clues or inspiration. I spent several days living with indigenous people in an area that still had remnants of life as it was 2,000 years ago. I was shocked by the differences in their values compared to mine.”

Through Simples, Inoue wants to convey the culture, enjoyment, and values of the various countries he has visited.

Ice cream made from a wild cacao grown without the use of fertilizers or pesticides in Várzea, near the Brazilian Amazon.

The restaurant, which is scheduled to relocate to Mariko in Shizuoka City in the spring of 2023, also plans to create a dining concept that will be unique to the city. Near the indoor seating area, the restaurant plans to place trees from the surrounding area to allow guests to dine amidst greenery.

“I thought that since we use natural ingredients in our dishes, it makes sense to have a restaurant in the middle of nature, that way our customers can feel more connected. For instance, if you have the ocean right in front of you, you don’t have to explain why your menu contains lots of fish. Or on days where the ocean is rough and we have less fish on the menu, customers can better understand the relationship between the surroundings and the menu.”

“I was born in the countryside, so I tend to favor the countryside over the city,” says Inoue. He envisions new initiatives that can only be undertaken in a location close to nature, similar to his birthplace of Oita.

“I’m thinking of having a course that starts with a dish using wild plants and tea from the area, then gradually moving on to dishes with fish. I’d like to have an event a couple of times a month where we serve Onigiri and miso soup to customers who have arrived at the restaurant after walking or running in the mountains.

Food is a common tool for everyone; no matter where you’re from, when you’re eating the same onigiri, you’re all friends.”



Yasuhiko Inoue
He started his career as a cook at the age of 20 and after training in Belgium, France, and Italy, opened a restaurant in his hometown of Hita City, Oita Prefecture. In 2014, he moved to Shizuoka and opened the restaurant, Simples, in an alley near Sengen Street in Aoi-ku, Shizuoka City. The restaurant offers courses featuring fish prepared by Naoki Maeda of Sasue Maeda Fish Store in Yaizu, alongside carefully selected Shizuoka ingredients. Simples will relocate to Mariko, Suruga-ku, also in Shizuoka City, in the spring of 2023.

text | Takeshi Okuno photography | Hitoshi Ohno