The most authentic salad cafe in Tokyo "CITRON"


Owner Mr. Mr. Jonathan Berguig

How long have you been in Japan and what made you to live in Tokyo?

I basically came to Japan twice. The first time when I came to Japan was 2004 working for a brokerage house from France. I stayed here for 3 years and after that, I was moved to NY. I always felt I had missed something during this stay in Tokyo. Since I was here as an expat, I was surrounded by the people who can speak English and never got out of my comfortable zone. I only interacted with the same people and never felt like a local. After staying in NY for a year and half, I moved to Singapore for 4 years. Then I decided to quit this industry since I create something on my own.

Being a vegetarian for few years, I wanted to open a vegetarian restaurant in a meat-and-fish-loving Tokyo. When I arrived in Tokyo, I realized how difficult it was to order a vegetarian dish. One of my friends pushed me to start my own restaurant where I could serve vegetarian food. I worked on the business plan, financial plan, and finding a good location for two years. Obviously when I found a place, there were many hurdles to get over. Since I am from France, many of the applications were rejected by the building owners. I originally wanted to open the place little closer to Omotesando around Minami Aoyama, but the rent was way too expensive. But here in Gaienmae, we can get larger space for cheaper rents, especially as our first floor is small. It is the good mix because people can order salad to go or eat on the second floor. This area is near the shopping district and the office area, so we ended up inviting a lot of customers. 90% of the customers are women.

There is a big difference in women and men as for the food preference. Women love vegetables and to be healthy. Men do not want to spend so much of money for lunch and they love meat or pasta. At CITRON we decided not to promote the “vegetarian” side of our concept. I think vegetarian trend is not there yet.

You could have opened your place other than Japan where target customers are already stable. Why did you decide Tokyo?

When I left in Japan, I felt like I had to come back at some point to live the real Japan. I wanted to explore more. I had little idea of what was going on when I was here as an expat, so I wanted to foot step back in Japanese culture.

It might have been easier for me to open this place in NY or Paris where salad bars are already everywhere and people are familiar with this concept. When I opened this place, I remember so many women feared seeing a big bowl of salad. They had never eaten salad as a main dish as it was mainly understood just as a side dish. 2015 was the beginning of salad cafés in Japan. We needed some time to invite stable customers and spread this trend. We also have quiche and gratin dishes on the menu. In 2015 when I opened this place, there were only two or three salad bars in Tokyo.

We were very happy because people were curious of seeing some real French people working here. Japanese people sometimes have this image of uptight atmosphere and small portion of food in typical French restaurants. Since a lot of French dishes use cream and butter, people think it is very heavy for lunch. But I want to provide the mixture of Japanese and French service. It is the high-end service and food, so it is the mixture of the both good sides.

In Paris and especially on 10th district, organic and vegetarian trend is more developed. There is also a big chain of salad bar restaurants in Paris. Living in the US, and Singapore, I saw delis which served salad as a main dish.

Therefore, I always felt like this trend will come to Tokyo at some point.

Have you been a vegetarian for your entire life?

When I got my dog six years ago, I became vegetarian as it became unclear for me to see differences between all animals. They all have four legs and do not speak. A part of my heart opened for the animals. Having a dog is special to me and it entirely changed my life. My dog Raymond, a beautiful French Bulldog comes to CITRON every Sunday and all many customers come to meet him. It is always great fun!!

I was working too much for the financial company, so now I enjoy my life way more than before spending time with my dog.

I think it is not easy to be vegetarian in Japan, but how do you understand food culture here?

Japanese people are in general not vegetarian, eating different kinds of food through culture and locations. In France, about 3 % people are vegetarian. In Japan, probably less than 1% of people are vegetarian. Japan is an island and surrounded by the sea, so everyone loves fish. I knew men love meat and fish but not vegetables. We had to come up with the great idea that people would like CITRON. Women love vegetables but they do not know how to cook or do not have a time. More than that, vegetables are expensive to buy in Tokyo and they do not have so many kinds compare to France. For example, there are similar kind of green onions like leek but it is not the same when they are cooked and tasted. Leek is unaffordable in the regular supermarket. We prepare food for the busy women who do not have time to prepare and buy many kinds of vegetables at home.

Look at the people on the corner. We just heated up the gratin a while ago which was already prepared in the morning and heated in the oven for two minutes. So, it does not take a long time to serve. It is very healthy quick meal like fast food.

If you only target on purely vegetarian people, there might not be so many customers in Tokyo. But if you promote “healthy food”, then women come for eating healthy fast French food here.

How do you come up with your recipes?

All the recipes come from my mother who used to make simple and healthy food. Quiche, lemon tarte, gratin, and all the recipes are from her. Actually, she came here to teach us when we opened this place 2015, and she met all the media and was on some articles. Our chef in house is also French, so they both share the recipes and interact. I am not a chef and never can be, but I have business skills and encourage people to eat healthy food. We change the menu every month. More than that, we change the quiche menu every two weeks, so it is a huge amount of work. We change the seasonal salad menu so that we can include seasonal vegetables through talking to the greengrocer. We do not include Japanese vegetables anymore, because people come here to eat French dish and enjoy atmosphere in Paris. Look at the Instagram pictures of our customers! They comment on, “I felt like being Paris!” “I want to go to Paris!”.

Now we are on our way to open our second place in the district of Otemachi in 2018. I think it is going to be a great location since there are big amount of people, but there are not that many healthy food places. There are also a lot of bankers working in the skyscrapers. We already deliver salad lunch to bankers from our Aoyama store. Once they try our dish, they sometimes come here to check it out. 

What do you think about the people in Japan?

What really amazed me the most is that Japanese love everything when it comes to food! In France, people have their own taste. For example, I do not like cucumber at all. But here, everything we serve make them happy. We serve two kinds of soup, and both are sold equally every day. They seem always happy with what we serve.

As for the communication, it is a little bit of cliché but 90% of the customers are always nice. Our service is high quality, but at the same time, they are nice as well. Parisians could be sometimes moody. Japanese want to enjoy food and atmosphere, and they are very nice to us even though our Japanese is not perfect. They are not judgmental. Japanese are not picky and they do not complain.

I did not speak any Japanese at all before, and I learn a lot from our customers and their expectations. It is an achievement for me to learn Japanese to interact with real local people. There is another achievement: Feeding people with non-meat meal is such a successful thing without killing any animals through CITRON. We are spreading vegetarian trend slowly in Tokyo as opening the second place.

What would you like to do for the next step?

I do not have a clear goal but I want to make sure Otemachi store will be the same quality.

Now I feel so good for everything. I just need to put an effort to do more promotion, spread the CITRON concept and have more people to come and eat here. I do everything one step at a time, and I will make sure the great opportunity to decide little by little. We need to be ready for September 2018. I am always happy to hire both French and Japanese in the house. We need real French people to create real French atmosphere not just the food itself.

I work 7 days a week now, and last time I took a day off in Tokyo was when I went to the beach last spring with some friends. I also decided to close CITRON for Christmas so that we could all spend some time with our loved ones. I used to do a lot of YOGA but I stopped now by lack of time
As a foodie, I love checking out new vegetarian places in Tokyo. I would like to take more time to help a shelter in Nigata whose work is to find new families for dogs and cats who have been abandoned. However, we have a donation box here at CITRON so that customers can also help animals!


Shikahama Nature Organization “Noraemon”

Representative Mr. Toshio Furutaka

There are children who are far away from the nature in the urban life. What made you to start your activity as an organization?

Throughout my teaching career, I strongly felt the activity of touching the nature was very important but not just looking at the surface through the video or printed word. I have joined the local nature observation group and I wanted to do something with using this experience. There is a word called “Satochi Satoyama” (undeveloped woodland near the populated area). When people get back to their hometown, people bring back agricultural products as for the souvenir. These vegetable and rice are produced in their hometown where is called “satochi satoyama”. We want people to pay attention to this area more and want them to realize this area is such an important place. In order to send this message, we opened the field in Fujiwara, Minakami-town.

At the end of each activity, all the children write their sentiments. One of the girls wrote “the wind felt so good” and this is the exact image of our organization. For the first couple of times, there are children who carry their portable games to the activity, but there are none of them to do this now. The senior children guide the new children very well. The communication between each child works better than with adults and the atmosphere becomes more comfortable.

What are the thoughts of parents?

Most of the parents want to join and learn the activities together with children. We do not ask parents just to send their kids to the activities. We want them to join and learn with the kids. The conversation of the parents and children will work in both directions throughout the common activity. This is not the nursery school where parents just pay some fee to leave children in the facility but this is a place both parents and children join participatory class together.

Are there any children who have changed throughout the activities?

There is a child who can take a leadership compare to before. He used to be a truant student. But he joined our activity positively. His parents took him to our organization first, but it had been changed. He can consider and understand how other children feel. Other children rely on him as well. I guess this is the place and time where he can show his feeling honestly and he can feel relaxed. There used to be the borders between each school, but there is none now.

We have a field in Fujiwara, Minakami-town, and there are many children who have different background. But they instantly get along together. The children who have difficulty expressing themselves and the truant children can get along together because the nature can be a mediator. We sit around the open hearth in the old folk house. We share very simple meal like just white rice and miso soup. We greet to the meal and enjoy the conversation. We wanted to contribute to the local area, so we tried local production for local consumption last year.

There is a child who did not come out to the ski trail for the first three years at the ski class. After the three years, he came out to the ski trail himself and enjoyed skiing. As the participants have changed and found their own place to stay, so maybe he felt safe. His personality became brighter and he can receive something with wide open mind.  He can join the activity in a positive manner.

What is it like in the actual activity?

We do rice planting, crop paddy, and make a straw festoon every year. We want children to know how the rice is cultivated since we eat rice every day. There are many of the teachers from the nursery schools and kindergartens to attend. They bring back some rice seedling and cultivate at their schools. And at the end of the year, we make a straw festoon and this activity is the most popular among the year. There were about 130 people to attend in 2016. As for the paddy field experience, farmers at Joso-city, Ibaraki cooperates us. 

We also breed some insects and fish. There are beetles in April, silk worms in May, and salmon in December. We hand out these creatures to the children in the kindergarten, nursery school, and elementary school as well as the members , and all the children seem very happy.

We visit the old folk house in April, July, and October. Last summer, there were about 30 people who stayed in there for an overnight. We had a great talk around the open hearth.

Two years ago, we climbed Mt. Fuji together with 24 members. As through accumulating these experiences of dealing the nature, stuff and member can see the next vision. We try to take in these wishes as much as possible.

Who would you like to participate in your activities?

As long as someone has a passion for the nature, I recommend to step into our world. It is not to receive something but to create together with stuff and children.

We keep in mind to experience the real nature. Let’s look, listen, and touch the real nature together with us!

What do you wish for the children who live in the future?

I would be happy to see the children who want to work in the primary industry. I want them to hold a value in the primary industry. People say it is the mature society, but the core part of the society is always “the place where people can eat meal safely as usual”. Therefore, the peaceful time of maintaining the same life every day is the most important thing. To maintain the peaceful time for a long time, people have to realize that the foundation is located in the agriculture, the forestry industry, and the fisheries industry. There is a life in the center, and all the societies are around it. This is the entire image of our world.


Welfare Select Shop “Iseya”

Representative Mr. Hiroyuki Fujishiro

I have heard that you are creating and finding jobs for the disability people. What exactly do you do in regard to that?

When companies enroll disability people, there are a lot of issues that they need to solve. I consult these companies in order to pursue the path of development regardless of enrolling disability people or not.

For example, there is a project called “Stop the Disaster of a Fall!”, which is a higher-grade proposal related to barrier-free. I have a strength in proposals from the multiple perspective like a walking stick, a wheelchair, and a mobility scooter. I try not to overlook even a small point, and all the proposals should be based on the theoretical foundation.

Could you tell me the catalyst of your business?

I have met a few disability people who exceeds some abilities over healthy people. If everyone can see the disability people without the filter of “disability”, there are some ways that companies can use their ability at the maximum extent. Then, this world will go smoother. That was the catalyst of my business.

I love to observe people, things, and money. I used to work at the customs handling drugs, guns, fake products which are all abandoned or controlled to import. I have trained my sixth sense through the surveillance, control, anti-terrorism policy, custody for the bonded district, and assessment and collection of the customs and consumption tax.

I privately conducted an undercover investigation as “Chirimen Tonya at Echigo” and “Adventure Kin-san” so that I can brush up my sixth sense. Through this activity, I have found that people only look at someone’s title or appearance. I would like to play a game with my ability not the fixed frame like a title or an appearance. Therefore, I try not to talk about the past. A boast or a heroic story talked by the people who do not have a confidence of their current status is such a frivolous activity.

I feel like there is not much of relationship between disability people and healthy people. How do you hope to change this relationship in the future?

I think there are issues on disability people as well. When healthy people talk to disability people, it will not last long if there are not variety of topics. Then, healthy people start finding a topic to talk about. It would end up talking about the reason of disability which is not the one disability people want to touch.

Disability people need to train their strength on showing not the title of “disability” but their ability. 

On the other hand, people in the overseas often ask “May I help you?” in order to open up the conversation towards the future. As for this aspect, it would be great if healthy people and media could change their attitude.

You play an active role in the pictogram art. What would be possible in the world of pictogram art?

Pictogram is usually composed with just one picture, but I combine with more than two pictures to make a stop motion or moving image of storyboard. I work with a designer, Ms. Kei Ishikura to create original pictogram.

Pictogram art makes it possible to send a message to anyone without language barrier. Since it is a visual message, hearing-impaired people, dyslexia people, and intellectual disable people can understand. The actual moving image is updated as YouTube video on the above-mentioned HP, so please check it out. If there is narration in the video, it would work for the visually impaired people. But we intentionally did not include any narration or sound.

There are two feasible worlds together with pictogram art.

The first one is creating a wide variety method for utilization of art because of replacing pictogram to illustration and also inserting music, narration, and captions.

The second one is applying pictogram art to Pepper and digital signage related to the guide sign for the foreign tourists and Tokyo OlympicParalympics.

I wanted to use the bathroom at the airport in the overseas before and asked some people where it is located. But they did not understand what I said even though I spoke English and other language. In this situation, we can set up the pictogram art guide for the bathroom so that tourists do not have ask anyone. We can apply the same for the derivation in case of evacuation, rule, and manner in general.

Therefore, pictogram art is useful for not only the people from overseas but also for the disability people, children, and elderly people.

What would you like to start new in the year of 2017?

I would love to put more effort on sports. For me, work, art, and sports are the three important elements shaping myself. There are many things that I would like to focus on around me, and I am doing my best every day.

 Please send the audience last message.

Since you (interviewer Ms. Kadowaki) is the professional executive coach, your questions were spectacular compare to other medias. I think they were spectacular questions and spectacular responses.

People say it is the age of diversity, but people usually have a very narrow outlook on things because of the articles and videos came out with labels and unsubstantial contents.

I hope everyone would try to look at possibilities and abilities without putting on labels of women, disability people, and foreigners but not the spectacle.