Openings and Closings

Japanese Eatery Domo Is Coming Back, Sort Of...

Beloved Japanese eatery Domo originally closed after going viral on TikTok.
Beloved Japanese eatery Domo originally closed after going viral on TikTok. Danielle Lirette
"I am thinking of coming back to the kitchen," announced Gaku Homma, owner of Domo, in a lengthy Facebook post on March 22.

Last fall, he'd announced that the Japanese eatery at 1365 Osage Street was closing for good after four decades. Domo had long been a favorite for not only its food, but also its traditional Japanese garden and unique interior modeled after a Japanese farmhouse.

But in 2021, a video highlighting Domo went viral on TikTok, leading to increased crowds at the small eatery. For Homma, who is also the sensei, or teacher, of the Nippon Kan Aikido Dojo that is part of the complex, the sudden rush of interest was not a welcome development. “I don't know why people come or what was interesting, because that video's only forty seconds, and there is no comment," he said to Westword at the time. "I told my students, it's very scary that one thing can have that much power.”

Homma, who is now in his seventies, found the rush of new customers exhausting. "Already we have good enough. We know, it was simple, like how much do we buy? Now we can’t tell, we can’t plan. Mo atama itai," he added. "I get a headache."
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Owner Gaku Homma has been focusing on aikido and his humanitarian work.
Gil Asakawa
And so, in response, he limited the hours that Domo was open. In January 2022, as Omicron numbers surged, he shut down operations for an extended break. Understaffed and tired, Homma was still concerned about Domo's ability to maintain the quality of food and service.

And so, last September, while saying that he planned to keep operating the dojo, he confirmed that the eatery was officially shuttered.

Until now. But Domo will not return as it was before.

In the months since the closing announcement, Homma has been focused on his other passion, spending time traveling to "Turkey, Nepal and Thailand to teach Aikido in those countries," he wrote in his Facebook post. "During my visit to Thailand, I spend much of my time at Bilay House, which is a humanitarian aid and education facility that I founded with Pastor Bilay to help refugee children of the Karen People from Myanmar, to spend time with the children. The children at Bilay House always look forward to being treated with Domo’s curry that I usually make for them during my visits. It always makes me smile when they ask for a second helping."
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Domo's interior is filled with items that Gaku Homma has collected over many years.
Danielle Lirette
Inspired by this experience, he said he's come up with a new concept, "to flourish with customers who echo with Domo’s ethos of 'Dine at Domo and Feed the World,' with Domo’s beloved curry at its center. ... "The new concept is like a simple food booth often seen in Southeast Asia, with curry and a few other delicious foods to choose from on the menu. ... And as customers enjoy dining at Domo, support and aid will be delivered to those who are in need."

The new version of Domo remains a work in progress; Homma plans to post updates on the restaurant's Facebook page as the project develops. He's already begun work in the garden to prepare it for spring, and recently shared photos and insights about the original construction of the dining room.

Though it won't be the Domo of old that returns, the scaled-back version should strike a balance between being manageable while keeping the spirit of Homma's passion for sharing Japanese culture alive. 
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Molly Martin is the Westword Food & Drink editor. She’s been writing about the dining scene in Denver since 2013, and was eating her way around the city long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito joint and nights spent sipping cocktails on Colfax.
Contact: Molly Martin

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