Loading..
FacebookInstagramLINE
Behind the scene of an authentic sushi shop! Close coverage on "Okeisushi" in Harajuku

Behind the scene of an authentic sushi shop! Close coverage on "Okeisushi" in Harajuku

May 1, 2019
Courtesy for the interview: Mr. Masashi Suzuki

Born in 1947, he went on to work in several restaurants including Ginza’s famous “Miyoshi Zushi” and perfect his craft. When he was 31, he was discovered by the disciple of the famous painter Tsuguharu Fujita, Keiji Takazawa, and became the chef of “Okei Sushi” in the Jingumae area. Since then the restaurant has become a destination of choice for people, including many celebrities from Japan and abroad, who want a taste of real sushi.

Urgent project: A Taiwanese writer in a one-to-one interview with an Edomae sushi craftsman

Urgent project: A Taiwanese writer in a one-to-one interview with an Edomae sushi craftsman
Japan’s sushi carries with it the way of thinking of traditional craftsmen, the Japanese people’s food culture and a long history. To learn more about sushi’s real culture, we traveled to “The sushi restaurant closest to the Tokyo Olympic Stadium.” Opened in 1978, this restaurant has served many celebrities and its chef, Masashi Suzuki, has been offering “Edomae sushi” and now is a representative person of the sushi world. Let’s join David and ask what is a sushi craftsman’s craft?

おけいすし(OKEISUSHI)

おけいすし
Address東京都渋谷区神宮前2-3-26
Business Hours11:00~14:00/17:00~22:00 ( Sat, Sun, Hol. 16:00~21:00 )
Shop HolidaysMonday

おけいすし (OKEI SUSHI)

おけいすし (OKEI SUSHI)
おけいすし (OKEI SUSHI)
“Okei Sushi” is a little hard to find but as soon as you enter this small shop you are immersed in Japanese history and culture. The staff’s vigorous “irasshaimase!” impresses. The simple and sparse decoration is a little intimidating, so it took a little nerve to get my seat on the counter. A hand towel is served, and I start my journey in the world of sushi.

In contrast to regular sushi, in the times when no refrigeration was available Edomae sushi chefs used various methods for preserving the ingredients. Those methods included pickling in vinegar, soy sauce or with konbu kelp, boiling or steaming and more and when it was served, the customers didn’t need to add wasabi or soy sauce. According to Suzuki, customers will enjoy more a dish prepared with attention to detail and served with a good heart than by watching a “performance.” By matching their eating rhythm and by adding a little conversation and human contact, he manages to create a relaxed atmosphere that indeed makes the meal more enjoyable.

Do you eat sushi with your hands or using chopsticks? According to Suzuki, eating with your hands is the correct way. You hold the sashimi in place with your thumb and put it in your mouth in a way that the first thing to touch your tongue will be the neta (topping). That way, you first experience the fish’s taste and then see how it matches with the rice. Recently more and more people eat sushi with chopsticks and that’s fine too, but personally, as soon as I realized eating with the hands is OK I tried it and the neta almost melted in my mouth. As soon as the rice came to top it, it was so delicious I almost cried, “I love Japan!” :-)

Until not so long ago, sushi restaurants were filled with customers in suits. Nowadays, things are more casual. Still, you have to remember that if you want to take a picture, you shouldn’t annoy the other customers. My meal ended with a great hamaguri clam soup. I listened to Suzuki telling me that a way to tell if a sushi restaurant is good is by visiting its restroom: a clean restroom means attention to detail! Perhaps the next time you are in a sushi restaurant before ordering, you should ask if you could use their restroom :-)

Talking with a sushi craftsman was a real education and made me respect enormously what is called the “spirit of the shokunin” (craftsman). Regardless of the times changing and general progress, the value and underlying strength of Japanese tradition will never be lost and I believe this is what is sustaining the country today. The next time you will visit, find the time to drop by a real sushi restaurant. Your actual experience will teach you more than this (or any other) article can and will help you discover a new Japan.

 

David’s step by step sushi craftsman coverage:7:00 AM Preparation begins!

David’s step by step sushi craftsman coverage:7:00 AM Preparation begins!
A sushi restaurant’s day starts early. Regardless of how late they went to bed the previous night, they need to start working at this time.
 

8:00 AM Bento preparation

8:00 AM Bento preparation
On Thursdays and Fridays, “Okei Sushi” also offers bento (box lunch). With great attention to detail!
 

8:20AM Sharikiri (preparation of the sushi rice)

8:20AM Sharikiri (preparation of the sushi rice)
About 8 kg (!) of rice are mixed with vinegar to create “shari,” the sushi rice. The craftsman’s cutting movements with the wooden ladle are a showcase of his skills.
 

8:40AM Cutting of the sushi neta

8:40AM Cutting of the sushi neta
The neta (toppings) that were prepared the previous night are cut neatly. The use of the hocho (knife) is a testimony to the chef’s dexterity.
 

9:00AM Hanging the noren

9:00AM Hanging the noren
This is a day that bento are being sold, so the noren curtains are out early to let customers know the shop is open.
 

11:00AM Fresh fish arrives from Tsukiji

11:00AM Fresh fish arrives from Tsukiji
A dealer with deep knowledge of the fish and a long-standing and trusting relationship with the shop comes from the Tsukiji fish market bringing the best fresh fish for tonight’s dinner.

Finally, opening time!
Lunch is over but then there is the preparation for the dinner. A craftsman rarely has time to rest. That day’s work went on until after midnight.

おけいすし(OKEISUSHI)

おけいすし
Address東京都渋谷区神宮前2-3-26
Business Hours11:00~14:00/17:00~22:00 ( Sat, Sun, Hol. 16:00~21:00 )
Shop HolidaysMonday