KYOTO--When customers pass through the "noren" shop curtains at the front entrance of the bar Shi-Shin, they are greeted by the bearded owner dressed as a feudal samurai.
Some may think they have entered the wrong place, or even gone back in time in Nakagyo Ward here in the nation's ancient capital.
In fact, the bar owner wears the traditional attire even when he goes to the bank.
Tomonari Hamamura, a Western-educated philosopher who runs the samurai-themed cafe and bar Shi-Shin (the heart of samurai), said he wants to promote peace through samurai culture and not war.
"This is not just another cosplay (costume play) cafe," he said, referring to an establishment whose employees are dressed as characters from Japanese animation and other works of fiction.
Hamamura said that Shi-Shin is a regular cafe.
"We have a philosophy which says that 'The ultimate ideal of Bushido (the way of samurai) is peace,' " he said.
The cafe opened for business in May last year.
On display inside the cafe remodeled from a traditional "machiya" townhouse is an imitation suit of armor worn by feudal warlord Date Masamune (1567-1636).
There is also a replica of a sword carried by Sakamoto Ryoma (1836-1867), a visionary who led the movement to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate in the 19th century. Hamamura has been fascinated by Sakamoto since he was a junior high school student. Customers can pick up the sword to appreciate the beauty of it.
Books that fill the cafe's bookshelves include Immanuel Kant's "Toward Perpetual Peace" and "Hisen" (Non-combat), an anthology of essays compiled by composer Ryuichi Sakamoto after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
English-language books whose sections are highlighted with markers are ones Hamamura used when he was working on his master's degree thesis, he said.
Hamamura studied the relationship between war and environmental destruction at Doshisha University. After graduation, he went on to study at the University of Bradford in Bradford, England, majoring in peace studies, and earned a master's degree with his thesis on world government and reforms for the United Nations.
Hamamura had all the reasons to pursue "world peace."
"But my dream was too big to achieve. So I decided to start with something I could do," he said.
As for why he chose to open an eating and drinking establishment, he cited war as a reason.
Hamamura said that when people do not have enough food to share, they will steal from each other. He saw food as a primary cause of war.
After returning home, Hamamura took a job in the restaurant sector although he had no experience in the industry.
To encourage local food production, the samurai cafe offers local specialty cuisines and sake. It also aims to serve as a bridge between students from across the country studying in Kyoto and the prefectural associations of the areas they are from.
Samurai is also an important factor for Hamamura.
The theme of the cafe is Bushido. The first of the two characters comprising "bushi" is "bu," which is closely associated with words such as weapon and war.
Although dictionaries define bu differently, Hamamura interprets the character as meaning "stop weapons" because of the two radicals used in the single letter.
He is also convinced that "samurai in the old days did not kill for no reason."
Hamamura is serious about achieving world peace from his Kyoto cafe.
"It's a long way ahead. Sometimes I think it's too far away. But even Ryoma couldn't have expected that 'Taisei Hokan' would be achieved so quickly," Hamamura added, referring to the 1868 Meiji Restoration that paved the way for the nation's modernization.
The cafe owner seems to be content for the time being pursuing peace through food.
Popular dishes at the cafe include "omurice," a Japanese-style omelette made with fried rice. Priced at 680 yen ($8.35), it is cooked with ingredients such as soybeans, sesame and seaweeds that were supposedly consumed by long-lived feudal warlords.
A plate of homemade tiramisu sprinkled with "matcha" green tea powder, 500 yen, is also popular.
The cafe's website is at (http://www.universalpeace.co.jp/shi-shin.html).
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