A Turkish Harem in Tokyo

Funda Cerit
Tokyo- According to figures from the Japanese Ministry of Justice, at the end of 2005 there were 2 million foreigners living in Japan. Of these, an estimated 600,000 are Korean, and 520,000 are Chinese.  While Tokyo's population is 8.5 million, this number swells to around 20 million during working hours.
Meanwhile, of 85,000 registered eating and drinking locales in Tokyo, there are around 10,000 Italian and 8,000 French restaurants.

Harem Turkish Cuisine, which Erer opened in Tokyo in 2000.

In and around Tokyo, there are approximately ten Turkish restaurants in operation. One person who has set out to introduce the Japanese to Turkish food is Kei Erer, born of a Japanese mother and a Turkish father. Harem Turkish Cuisine, which Erer opened in Tokyo in 2000, hosts guests interested in tasting Turkish foods in the Japanese capital. At Harem Cuisine, you can get mezes for 900 Yen ($7.00), main dishes for 1,600 Yen ($13.50), and desserts for 700 Yen ($5.90). Eren answered some of questions in Tokyo:  
How and when did you come to Japan?
I first came to Japan when I was a child, during the years between 1976-1980, because of my father's work. Later, I returned between 1994-1996. And since 1999, I have been living in Tokyo.
What are some of the difficulties you have experienced?
I have not had many problems, since my mother is Japanese. Despite the fact that I received most of my education in English, the fact that I spent a lot of my childhood in Tokyo, and was thus able to speak and practice Japanese, meant that I haven't had too many problems. I also have not had many problems in the business world. After opening Harem, I had some difficulties for the first three or four years. Since people weren't familiar with Turkish cuisine here, I had a lot of trouble just getting the restaurant known.
How do Japanese people approach Turkish cuisine?
As I mentioned earlier, most Japanese people aren't familiar with Turkish food; other than those who know about shish kebabs and doner kebabs, the majority don't know what Turkish food is like.....Our customers though tell us they love the taste of Turkish cooking, and they especially find our vegetable-based dishes delicious.

There are approximately ten Turkish restaurants in operation.

What traits do you see in the Japanese in particular? Do they tip well, do they drink a lot?
First of all, the idea that Japanese people do not eat very much is wrong. People who live and work in the big cities tend to eat dinner out at least three or four times a week. There are 85,000 registered eating and drinking establishments in Tokyo alone. This is an important figures in terms of showing the size of this sector. In general though, in Japan, there is no tradition of tipping.
What are some of the similarities and differences between Japanese and Turkish culture?
Well, though Japanese culture may, at a distance, appear to resemble Turkish culture, there are actually many large differences. Asian roots of course display some similarities with our Anatolian culture. Respect to elders, family relations, and devotion to tradition are some of the areas of similarity between Turkish and Japanese cultures. Of course, I am not including the younger generations, which have begun to show signs of degeneration, in this picture.

What are some of the differences in these two countries' food and eating cultures?
Japanese people like to try as many small tastes of different foods as possible. Generally, since males lean towards alcohol when they go out, the females are more sensitive when it comes to tastes. Also, the amounts of money left by a Turk at a Turkish restaurant as opposed to a Japanese at a Turkish restaurant are different, as a Japanese person wants to try as many new tastes as possible, and also since alcohol is generally an important part of the bill.
What is your goal in terms of running and managing this restaurant?
At this point, we have opened Harem in a new spot. We want to introduce Turkish cuisine as best we can in Japan, and be able to contribute in some way to Turkish cuisine itself, and thus Turkish culture, as much as we can.

Kei Erer was born in 1966 in Ankara. Due to his father's job in Tokyo, Erer attended Saint Mary's International School in Tokyo between 1976-1980. After returning to Turkey, he graduated from Ankara TED Koleji.

He later graduated from ODTU's City Planning department in the Architecture Faculty. He worked for awhile after this as a proessional tour guide, and then, in 1994, he took a job in Tokyo at the GVT tourism company as manager in charge of marketing and organization. He worked at GVT's Istanbul, Johannesburg, and Tokyo bureaus. And in 2000, Kei Erer opened up the Turkish Cuisine Harem restaurant in Tokyo.
Restaurant Name                    Region                             Tel
Anatolia                                      Shibuya                         +81 3486-2995
Ankara                                        Shibuya                         +81 3780-1366
Bosphoras                                Hasan Shinjuku           +81 3354-7947
Cappadocia                              Ikebukuro                      +81 3987-6049
Gelik                                           Gaienmae                    +81 3404-9177
Harem                                        Gaienmae                    +81 35786-2929
Pamukkale                                Kichijoji                         +81 42223-5660
Topkapı                                      Omotesando               +81 3498-3510
(Source: www.bento.com)

(March 2007, 24th Issue)
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07