Fourth generation owner-chef of Ginza Sushiko Honten
Where great chefs gather, a world-class culinary culture emerges. Marunouchi treats its guests to refined “tastes“.
Established in 1885, for over 130 years Ginza Sushiko Honten has faithfully honored the tradition of Edo-style sushi, demonstrating an ever-present enthusiasm for the challenges of new culinary styles, as represented by the matching of wine with sushi. Having satisfied the palates of countless connoisseurs in Ginza, a grand stage for those practiced in the art of sushi, this restaurant’s choice of a second location was the Marunouchi district. It is now approaching its fifteenth year of operations since setting up shop on the 35th floor of the Marunouchi Building. But what is it about this location that the artisans of Japanese cuisine find so appealing?
The Transformation of Marunouchi, as the Heart of Tokyo
- Why did you look to the Marunouchi district to set up your second location?
I was born and raised in Tokyo, and although our restaurant was set up in Ginza, I had always had this image of the neighboring Marunouchi district, being smack-dab in the middle of the city, as the “Heart of Tokyo.” Then in 2002, when I heard that the new landmark Marunouchi Building was open for business, I decided to set up another restaurant here in a heartbeat! (laughter) I wanted to take on the challenge of doing business in the true center of Tokyo. Coming back from a business trip or wherever, one arrives at Tokyo Station and right there before your eyes is the towering Marunouchi Building. Every time I see it, I think, this is where I made my dreams a reality. It really stirred up the feelings of youthful enthusiasm.
- What are your impressions after having established your restaurant in Marunouchi?
Despite historically being a traditional business center, two to three years after opening, we had an incredible number of women as customers. I suppose that it was the completion of the Marunouchi Building that made Marunouchi into a more diverse place, popular with women. This is now the norm for marunouchi, which has become well established as a place known for its good atmosphere, and for extensive shopping or dining convenience and also for being an all-round popular place to visit.
Including tourists, there is definitely a growing number of customers who are from outside of Japan. This trend has become more and more noticeable, particularly in the past two to three years. What stands out about these visitors is that they have clear goals when coming to this district, such as a desire to experience top-level cuisine, or to have a look at refined fashion. In Ginza or Kyoto, there are shops that have an atmosphere where so-called first-time customers may hesitate to enter. In Marunouchi, on the other hand, there is a more accessible feeling that warmly welcomes people making a first visit. So maybe that’s why this is a district where guests from overseas can also just casually follow their instincts and enjoy satisfying their curiosity.
Putting a shine on the friendship between customers and chefs
- What do you think are the good points about having set up shop in Marunouchi?
At sushi restaurants, the chef takes orders directly from the customer, then prepares and provides them with their sushi. Among all the different styles of restaurants, the close proximity of chef and diner at sushi restaurants is our biggest advantage. When we interact with customers at such close range, separated only by a counter, I can really get a feel for culinary trends and the vibrant, progressive spirit of Marunouchi customers.
For example, some 30 years ago we researched and proposed the matching of sushi and wine. In other areas we often get a lot of questions to the effect of “Do sushi and wine go together?” In Marunouchi, though, customers move one step, or even two steps ahead, with people suggesting things like, “Wouldn’t this type of sushi go well with wine?” In that sense, Marunouchi customers are really a force to be reckoned with (laughter). For us, such verbal banter is immensely enjoyable, and it also motivates us to do our homework.
- Marunouchi offers an enormous selection of drinking and dining establishments.
Thanks to having set up shop in Marunouchi, I’ve been able to participate in the Marunouchi Chef’s Club,* which has been a source of great joy as I’m able to collaborate with some of the top figures in the culinary world, from both in and outside of Japan. The chefs who are members of this club possess an exceptionally high level of awareness. They of course seek out new cuisines and food knowledge, they and enthusiastically make use of food as a medium that works to build a community. It’s incredibly enjoyable when, transcending genres, we can work together with so many friends connected by their ties to food. What’s more, I also have to strive to keep up with my peers as we work to learn from each other. It gives me such a huge thrill.
* Marunouchi Chef’s Club…Chaired by Yukio Hattori, the Marunouchi Chef’s Club was founded with the goal of having chefs, primarily those associated with restaurants in the Marunouchi district, make proposals and disseminate information with regard to cuisine. Members are energetic in their approach to a wide range of issues in the culinary field, such as the concepts behind new restaurants, raising food-related awareness and techniques, and providing a venue where producers, consumers and chefs can come together.
Together with customers visiting from around the world, in a constantly evolving district
- Welcoming the 15th anniversary of Marunouchi Building in 2017
Taking the 15th anniversary as one milestone, we are now fast approaching a period of restaurant remodeling and shop concept renewal. Then, a mere three years after that, Japan will hold the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. We expect that this will put a spotlight on Marunouchi, so it’s likely the district’s visibility will grow even further.
The Marunouchi district offers exceptionally convenient access, and with a direct link from Tokyo Station, the atmosphere of Nakadori Ave is such that you will find it hard to imagine that it is also a primary business district. Home to a number of top Japanese companies, this area is also well known for its dining and drinking establishments, and visitors can safely stroll and enjoy themselves while browsing through the array of shops that line the street. Given such an outstanding location, you may think that there is just no better place to be.
Taking advantage of the milestone of the 15th anniversary of setting up shop in Marunouchi, we in the culinary field will also have to make even further use of these favorable local conditions, and, through the medium of cuisine, be ever-more active in the development of our community. In the constantly evolving environment of this district, we would like to make this happen by using every opportunity going forward together with all the fine people who visit from Japan and around the world.