Budapest restaurant

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Blake Shedd sent in this photograph of a Japanese restaurant in Budapest called "Tokio":

There are interior photos here.

When I first looked at the name of the restaurant, both in Japanese and in English, there was something unsettling about the way it was presented.

I felt a similar uneasiness over the presentation of the name of a Japanese restaurant in Paris, which we discussed in "A French Japanese Chinese restaurant" (11/8/14), where they also did some unexpected things with the characters and the Romanization.

Here are the standard forms of the characters for the name of the restaurant in Budapest:

Tōkyō 東京

Adopting a critical stance, I noticed the absence of a short vertical stroke on the top of the character to the right and the fact that the vertical line running from the bottom of the character to the left stopped beneath the topmost horizontal line instead of passing through it.  A teacher would have to mark them as incorrect.

The more I looked at the ensemble, however, the more at grew on me, and I started to like it, so I began to list reasons why I liked it as a design.

1. The neatest thing of all was that they had rotated the "K" in the middle of "TOKIO" 90 degrees to the right so that it looks like the bottom of the two characters, sans the central tine.  "That's a stroke of graphic genius," I thought to myself.

2. Then, to reinforce the link between the rotated "K" and the two characters, they removed the vertical strokes above the topmost horizontal strokes of both characters.  Brilliant!

3. What remains of the two characters emphasizes their similarity — horizontal line, rectangle, trident stacked on top of each other — without crudely pushing them further toward identity or near-identity.

4. The designer was content with echoes and resonances without forcing sameness.

5. Then comes the master's touch:  they enclosed the two characters inside of a rectangle (like Kangxi radical 31) that has the same rough proportions as the rectangles of the two characters, making them seem like a single kanji.  This reminded me of "cactus wawa: the strange tale of a strange character" (11/1/14) in Montreal.

6. They were not being totally laissez-faire in their approach, but maintained a calligraphic discipline that is reflected in the leftward hook of the middle vertical line at the bottom of the character to the right.  To make it match the bottom of the other character, they could have gotten rid of that hook, but they chose to retain it, and I admire that.

7. The two "O's" in "TOKIO" correspond to the two rectangles in 東京.

8. The horizontal lines at the top of the "T" and the rotated "K" parallel the horizontal lines at the top of the modified 東京.

9. In hand writing, the very top portion of 京 is a dot, not a vertical stroke, and it can be separated from the horizontal line just below it.  Thus, in a sense, you could say that the dot at the top of the character 京 has been absorbed into the box line above it.

10. Finally, in "7,530,000 mainlanders petition Taiwan actress to change her name" (5/14/15) I pointed out that, employing calligraphic license, the most distinguished artists occasionally make similar modifications of characters, so that would account for the missing vertical extension at the top of the character on the left.

Even without all of those justifications, though, after spending a bit of time to appreciate it, I find the overall design of the assemblage to be esthetically pleasing.

[Thanks to Hiroko Sherry, Nathan Hopson, and Miki Morita]


  1. Chad Nilep said,

    May 31, 2015 @ 7:25 pm

    The "rotated K" reminds me of 天 with its topmost portion cut off, rather like the tops of 東 and 京. Perhaps the restaurant is heavenly, though stylized?

  2. Alex said,

    May 31, 2015 @ 7:51 pm

    My first parse of the central character of the name was as a Hangul letter: TOㅈIO. "Tojio"?

  3. Rubrick said,

    June 1, 2015 @ 4:01 am

    I can't judge the calligraphic niceties, but the Romanized name does have the (presumed) drawback that at a glance it reads (at least to me) as "Toxio".

  4. Calvin said,

    June 1, 2015 @ 6:05 am

    Aside from the restaurant name and how it was stylized, something else just struct me as odd:

    "ALL_U_CAN_EAT" — can you call this a sentence? Why not "MADE_IN_TOKIO" at the bottom to match?

    And their opening hours? 12 AM – 21 PM. That is 21 hours post meridiem, "after midday".

  5. Adrian said,

    June 1, 2015 @ 10:31 am

    I'm not convinced that they're open from 12 a.m.

  6. Mr Punch said,

    June 1, 2015 @ 2:27 pm

    To me, that name looked at first glance like "TOXIC".

  7. Brendan said,

    June 1, 2015 @ 2:49 pm

    You might also enjoy David Moser's ambigram versions of 東京 / Tokyo. These are from his website — sadly no longer online, but still accessible via

  8. zafrom said,

    June 1, 2015 @ 3:55 pm

    Per Tokio's web page it is open from noon onwards, 7 days a week. The description in its "About Us" section makes me wonder if I should ever leave the bar: "Tokio still presents excellent and upmarked food….The kitchen is run by Luczy Krisztián who works with authentic Thai chefs to serve up the most exciting flavours intha capital. Japanese specialities, great atmosphere, and the coctail creations by the head of bartender guarantee a perfect bar experience."

  9. Ray Girvan said,

    June 1, 2015 @ 8:34 pm

    The rotated "K" device reminds me of a nice sign I saw a while back for a vodka bar in Salisbury – evidently alluding to the Korova bar in A Clockwork Orange – which uses partially faux-Cyrillic for the "БАЯ" part, but neatly gives the impression of some non-Western script just by having "MOLOKO" written vertically and turned anticlockwise.


    See This mesto in Salisbury.

  10. Alan said,

    June 2, 2015 @ 6:20 am

    12 midday IS the m in am and pm, so if they mean anything at all, 12am and 12pm are midnight on the previous and following day.

  11. Belial Issimo said,

    June 3, 2015 @ 12:13 pm

    Yes, but how's the food?

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