1937 Cafe “Ellington”
Nihonbashi has been the major financial district in the center of Tokyo for centuries. This is where the legacy of Benihana began when Yunosuke Aoki opened “Ellington” an innovative jazz music coffeehouse. At this cafe you could sip your coffee while listening to jazz music, which was a hip and cutting-edge concept to many in Japan at the time.
1943 Nihonbashi Sweet Shop
During World War II, it became nearly impossible to obtain coffee beans in Tokyo. During this time of war and hardship, Yunosuke felt that people were in need of something to lift their spirits and thought that sweets could lighten their preoccupied minds. He rented the vacant shop next door and opened a Japanese O-shiruko shop. (Japanese sweet red bean soup with mochi)
1945 Benihana Sweet Shop
As the War in the Pacific began to escalate, Nihonbashi was decimated by the firebombing raids of Tokyo and Yunosuke Aoki had seemed to have lost everything. However, once the war had ended he rebuilt his shop with a new name, Benihana (Red Flower or Safflower). It has been said that his wife Katsu Aoki, dreamt of a lone red flower emerging from the burned down ruins at the site of their shop. Appropriately enough, the flowers’ resilience to overcome reflected Yunosuke Aoki’s determination and perseverance.
1947 Benihana Coffee Shop
After the war, coffee began gaining popularity again in Tokyo. More and more cafes and coffee shops began opening in the area. He then remodeled the store and reopened as a new coffee shop, Benihana.
1950 Benihana Restaurant
The coffee shop was a success and a popular spot in Nihonbashi so Yunosuke Aoki wanted to expand with new ideas and so began renovation of the second floor of the coffee shop and opened a restaurant. This was the beginning of the restaurant Benihana.
1955 Benihana Barbeque
The new restaurant flourished and in 1953, Yunosuke Aoki opened a second store in Nihonbashi. After this, he moved on to open offices, a bakery, a farm and many other new restaurants. In early 1955 he opened a barbeque restaurant Benihana Barbeque which is the predecessor of Benihana Bekkan which currently runs to this day. In 1962, the restaurant was expanded and renamed Benihana Bekkan. The restaurant was divided between the 1st floor Teppanyaki and the 2nd floor Japanese style western food.