Experience abroad became a chance to break through.
What was your second turning point?
When I was 27 or 28, I started to be profiled in media as an part of an Edomae sushi restaurant, and through that I had offers from abroad such as hotel fairs and other events.
Work was going smooth but one day I noticed that I was not enjoying myself at all.
At some point I was tied up with all the rules and decided I just can’t go on like that.
There are many traiditonal rules in Edomae sushi. I decided to take up Edomae sushi simply by admiring it, but I realized I felt trapped and could not think outside the box of Edomae sushi.
And as I made sushi abroad I found out that I was satisfied with this tiny restaurant with eight seats in the tiny nation of Japan. So I made up my mind to abandon Edomae.
I had “Edomae” on the signage but I took it off. I abandoned everything I had been doing, and I started trying new things that I had always wanted to try.
There was a time that I did not serve hand-shaped sushi at all.
As you might expect, customers started to leave.
I hate the rigidity of traditional rules and always start with the question, “Why does this have to be like this?” That is the only way to produce something new. By doing so I can see things from totally different points of view, which leads to new discoveries. It was good to work abroad and find out that I couldn’t move on to the next stage without abandoning the current environment and breaking through.
Continuing real challenges is a joy.
What about working abroad was exciting?
Overseas, there were always unexpected situations. For example, I always have the opportunity to collaborate annually with a two-star restaurant in Provence, but I can’t express as I imagin it, and I always get depressed every time.
I do a simulation to some degree, but the ingredients are totally different and there are many cases where the fish I request are not delivered. But chefs there also use those materials so I want to “battle” in the same ring by using local ingredients just like them. In the event just the other day, I was depressed on the second day when I felt dissatisfied, but I tried hard to improve on the next day and was happy with my work.
I also have collaboration events in Bangkok and Hong Kong so I am very excited.
Have you always gotten ingredients locally?
At the beginning I thought Japanese fish was the best so I brought everything from Japan, but now I get them there.
Taking all the ingredients there isn’t much different from getting them from elsewhere in Japan.
There is no progress by doing so. What I gained was great by using the fish over there, creating, being depressed. It’s not a true challenge to do something that everyone can do.
How do you keep your motivation to continue reinventing what you’ve created?
I am not actually striving to take on challenges… But I get bored of myself when I do things that are simple and easy.
When I work with ingredients that I have never seen, I get excited, my eyes go wide.
There are still many new materials and techniques, and I can keep working hard because there is a joy in meeting these new ingredients, and I’m overcome with the desire to continue evolving.
What do you think is the joy of work?
Now most of our guests are from abroad, thanks in part to the Michelin guide.
They visit our restaurant for a short time, so my responsibility is big and I feel a lot of pressure.
What has changed about me most is that now, I just want to entertain my guests.
My past self really liked preparation and that was where I spent lots of my time.
In those days I was so pleased with being able to do Edomae sushi.
I was so into it that I was acting arrogant to my guests.
I had this thinking, like, “I am giving you a precious chance to eat sushi that I have carefully prepared!”
That obviously got to the guests. I was ignored by many people and I had a hard time.
As I look back now, it might be the major mistake of my youth.
My experience abroad changed me. It was a period of service and food that always focused on entertaining the guests. I learned that even if I served good food, it was worthless if I made the guests feel bad.
Since that time I started to pay attention to my hospitality.
Now my food and ingredients are generally always good, so I think hard about additional elements, like how I can have the guests enjoy themselves, how to give surprises and improve the atmosphere of the restaurant. The mood of one guest and another also differs and influences so I also pay attention to that.
I always give 110% so at the end of business hours I get exhausted. I don’t want to speak one word about work or answer my phone.
When I start thinking about how to make the guests for tonight’s reservations feel, I get excited and motivated, like, “Okay, let’s do it!”
I really give my all for the guests who make reservations, so having them enjoy themselves, and hearing them say that the food is delicious are really my pleasure; it also becomes my motivation.