Empress of Japan
Menu dated 14th November 1925
Luncheon at the Meiji Palace, Tokyo, hosted by Her Imperial Majesty Empress Sadako (Teimei) of Japan and His Imperial Highness, the Prince Regent (the future Emperor Hirohito (Showa))
When this imperial luncheon consisting of roast snipes drenched in a heavenly rich butter-sauce mixed with cognac and foie-gras was served in 1925, the Emperor Yoshihito of Japan was nowhere to be seen.
Instead the host of this luncheon was the Empress Sadako and her son the Prince Regent (the future Emperor Hirohito). For almost five years now, the Emperor had been absent from public view due to ill-health with his wife performing official ceremonial duties and his son dealing with matters of state.
Therefore when the newly appointed Ambassador for the Kingdom of Italy, Giulio della Torre di Lavagna, arrived at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo for this distinctly European lunch, he was the guest of the imperial mother and son.
The luncheon took place in the grand Houmei Hall within the Imperial Palace that was forever destroyed by bombing during World War II.
The western menu, written in French, appears to be designed with the Italian Ambassador in mind: a consommé dedicated to an Ambassador and an entrée of turbot named after Italy.
The western cuisine in the imperial palace was no lacklustre imitation. The Master Chef to the Emperor, Akiyama Tokuzō (秋山徳蔵) was trained in Paris at the Hôtel Ritz under the guidance of the revered Auguste Escoffier. In 1913, at just 25 years-old, he was offered the position of Master Chef to Emperor Yoshihito. He continued in that position during the reign of Emperor Hirohito until his retirement almost 60 years later in 1972.
There are over 20,000 sets of silverware, emblazoned with the imperial Chrysanthemum crest, able to be used at the palace dining table.
The Imperial Household Archives confirm that other attendees at this luncheon included Prince Kan’in Kotohito (Field Marshall and future Chief of the Japanese Imperial Army); Baron Shidehara (Minister for Foreign Affairs and future Prime Minister) and Baroness Shidehara; and Princess Kaya (Toshiko). On the reverse of this menu-card handwritten notations indicate that the Ambassador’s wife was also in attendance along with Count Chinda (former Ambassador to the UK, US and Germany).
From the private Royal Menu Collection of © Jake Smith
Consommé a l’Ambassadrice
Chicken consommé garnished with a julienne of poached chicken breast, mushrooms and three different quenelles: truffle, tomato and green-pea
Filet de Turbot à l’Itallienne
Filets of turbot dressed in an Italian sauce made from mushrooms, ham and tomato
Bécassines à la Riche
Boned roast snipes served atop croutons drizzled in a cognac and game stock and then dressed with a butter sauce thickened with a purée of foie-gras.
Céleris au Jus
Steamed celery tossed in celery juice mixed with stock
Pudding à l’Anglaise