Training at Sushi Matsumoto and working toward the dream of opening a restaurant independently.
So why did you decide to take a job at Sushi Matsumoto?
It’s a pretty popular restaurant, so I had already heard a little bit about it beforehand. It was also close to Kyoto, so I knew that this would be a really good professional opportunity for me. I could see right away that it would be a good fit for what I wanted out of my career and I jumped at the chance.
Honestly, the position at Matsumoto wasn’t anything close to what I had before, since the salary was lower than my previous job outside of the industry, as well as my first job at the sushi chain. But, I wanted to try and put in a good ten years of work. I thought that I really had to give it my all and make it happen, even if it meant working for ten years at an apprentice level position with low pay. I was 25 at the time, so I figured I could open up my own place at 35, which wasn’t too late in my mind.
It’s pretty amazing that you could envision this entire ten year span of time for yourself. How was it at Matsumoto during your time training there?
Other than me it was just the manager Mr. Matsumoto and his wife, so as you can imagine it was very hectic and busy with just the three of us. I lived at the restaurant in a room without a bath or TV, which was a pretty stoic way to live and work.
My simple pleasure at the time was seeing how much the skills that I acquired at my first job came in handy. It was much more than I could have imagined.
As expected, working at Sushi Matsumoto was extremely trying, but I never thought about giving up. Mr. Matsumoto put his faith in me and let me take on the bulk of responsibility at the restaurant, which meant that even after I moved on to start my own restaurant it was never exceptionally difficult, since I could always fall back on the skills I picked up at Sushi Matsumoto. Working at Sushi Matsumoto let me envision opening up a restaurant of my own, and for that I am extremely grateful.
It must have been intense taking on that kind of responsibility at a young age with lots of difficult work to handle.
Yeah it really was. Mr. Matsumoto was 41 at the time, and even though the work exceptionally difficult, he was very friendly and easy to work with. When I was starting to work on the idea of opening up my own place I started to have doubts about it. But Mr. Matsumoto came to me and said, “Giving up becomes easy once you start to think about it, but you’re not just anyone and I think you should know that.” Those words really stuck with me and I knew that I couldn’t give up.
Setting out to create a new restaurant that shows respect to a former teacher.
You went on to open Sushi Hoshiyama in 2012. Could you tell us about that time?
After working at Matsumoto for five years I wanted to head out and open my own place when I turned 31. But, I wasn’t sure if I should open it up in Kyoto or Osaka. I went to work in Osaka after my high school graduation, and when it comes to high-end are, all I could conceive was Kitashinchi (laughs), so that’s how I got involved with my current location.
However, I didn’t have any previous connections in the area, so it was very difficult to get started at first. Some of my customers from Sushi Matsumoto were kind enough to stop by, and I had some good publicity in magazines, but even so there were days when nobody stopped in to eat. Nonetheless, word of mouth started to pick up and customers gradually started to increase.
Sushi Hoshiyama has the perfect atmosphere to savor the subtle flavors of sushi. How did you settle on creating this type of atmosphere?
Well I knew that I wanted something refined when it came to a dining atmosphere. At first the restaurant was meant to be a sort of 2nd Sushi Matsumoto. It’s my favorite restaurant, so I didn’t think it would be problematic to imitate it. When you first start learning you have to do it by imitating the work of others, so it’s quite natural to want to imitate the work of chefs you admire when you are first starting out.