SERIES: Food Focus
Vol.2 Sushi | Toyama
The Best of The Best: Sushi Edition
Food lovers the world over always have a word to say about Japan. It is a food-obsessed country at all levels; from preparation to transportation to seasonality and peak freshness, Japan is a nation of foodies who impart those values to each generation. It is practically cliche at this point to discuss Japanese food from the standpoint of its most famous edible export, yet here we are: In sushi, we see Japan’s preference for fresh raw fish and seafood, which requires a high level of care to prepare, transport, and sustain. While nations outside Japan have been savoring sushi for decades at best, the Japanese have been enjoying it for centuries, cultivating a very exacting and respectful approach to food as a result.
While many consider Japanese sushi (that is, sushi inside Japan) to be the pinnacle of the food (which indeed it is), it is also not the end of the story. Within Japan, discriminating palettes know where to find the best of the best sushi. And no, it is not in Tokyo’s legendary Tsukiji fish market, along Kyoto’s Kamo River, or somewhere in an Osaka backstreet (a city rightfully nicknamed “Japan’s kitchen” for its food obsession). Instead, it is in the small but grand Toyama Prefecture, whose geographic location and distinct physical features make sourcing the best fish, seafood, and rice better than anywhere else in the country. Three main reasons make it so:
1. The shape of Toyama Bay
Toyama Bay is known as “nature’s fish tank” due to its unique shape. The seafloor drops sharply to form a canyon, despite being close to shore. It creates an ideal location for marine life, supported by nutrient-rich water which flows from the 10,000-foot-high Tate Mountain range. All of these features add up to high-quality, plump seafood.
2. Minimal transport distance
As mentioned above, Toyama Bay’s seafloor does not extend very far from shore before dropping off. The short distance between fishing and port means it takes fishers less time to access fish and seafood. The easy access to fish has only reinforced the idea of Toyama Bay as an easily accessible natural fish tank.
3. Rice quality
In genuinely great sushi, the rice is at least as crucial as the fish. Fortunately, Toyama’s climate and topography have made it a known region for high-quality rice. Clean, cold water perfect for rice growing flows from nearby Mount Tate into Toyama year-round, where no less than 95.5% of available farmland is dedicated to the crop. The combination of excellent rice production and accessibility to exceptional fish has made Toyama Japan’s sushi mecca.
Lately, Toyama has become a focal point of culinary curiosity, with a steady stream of people traveling to experience sushi and rice. Although Japan is famous for its skill in transporting raw food practically anywhere in the country in very little time, there are many reasons intangible and worthwhile about visiting the source of something great, be it for food, crafts, or anything else. The time to travel Toyama is now.
Our Favorite Sushi in Toyama
3-5-7 Shin nezuka machi, Toyama 939-8205
A small, Michelin-starred restaurant whose reputation has rippled far beyond Toyama. Sushijin’s shari (sushi rice) is local Toyama koshihikari, made with mild red vinegar for a rounder taste to match impeccable fish. The restaurant’s bold head chef Kimura-san is self-taught, an exceedingly rare accomplishment in such a demanding, traditional enterprise. This one is a must-try for anyone who can find a seat!
2-8-22 Sogawa, Toyama 930-0083
A local favorite since 1948, Sushi-ei is ideal for a casual time eating plump, masterfully prepared sushi. It is safe to say sushi this good would fetch a price many times higher in a big city.
1549 Maezawa, Kurobe, Toyama 938-0806
“Kitokito” is local Toyama lingo meaning “fresh.” Though this is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, the relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere obscures the likely possibility that this could be the purest sushi ever served on a moving platform.
Contact us for further inquiries, recommendations, and more information about your travel plans throughout Japan.
Food lovers the world over always have a word to say about Japan. It is a food-obsessed country at all levels; from preparation to transportation to seasonality and peak freshness, Japan is a nation of the gastronomically-inclined who impart those values to each generation. Our Food Focus series explores Japan for the best versions of our favorite foods. Japanese people travel the country exclusively for food. Find out where and why.