Prawn Sushi

This page is written monthly
by Harumi Okochi.
Sometimes Harumi's friends join.
We'd be happy if you look at
r previous issues.

September, 2005

Fly on Sushi wings
Sushi Maestro, Yuji Matsuo―

High summer heat is still here.
Appetite has gone. and we are all in 'natsu-bate' (summer-exhausted) condition.
What do you eat to fresh up your body in this season?
Some people try hot foods (say, curry, or Korean pepper-hot dishes) to forget about the temperature.
Others treat themselves to beef-steaks to sustain their stamina.

Graceful people, like me, eat SUSHI ! yum.........
Sushi is the best food for the weakened body and soul.

So, this month, I would like you to meet a Sushi Maestro in Karatsu. Yuji Matsuo is one of the national star chefs, having been interviewed by many journalists. In their articles, they wrote how good his Sushi was. People rush to Karatsu with the only purpose of eating Yuji's Sushi, from Tokyo, Osaka, even Hokkaido.
Today, I am going to interview with Yuji to let you know how good a guy he is.

Interview with Yuji Matsuo

Interviewer: Harumi Okochi

Harumi : Hi, Yuji-san, nice to see you again, and even nicer to be able to eat your Sushi again.

Yuji : Harumi-san, you scare me. Don't ask me too silly questions.

H. : I'll be sweet. Now tell me when and where you were born.

Y. : I was born in Fukudomi-town in Saga Prefecture, that was my mother's home town, on the Christmas Eve of 1958, the Year of Dog.

H. : A dog ! No wonder you have chihuahua eyes. Well, what did your father do?

Y. : He was a Sushi chef. Now my big brother is the master of Yasuke Zushi in this city.

H. : As a son of Sushi shop owner, what kind of childhood did you spend? You must have eaten Sushi everyday. I envy you.

Y. : No way. I was just a common boy. In junior High-school, I did Judo, and in senior high, I threw discus.

H. : Do you fly saucers now?

Y. : Never. I'd like to fly myself.

H. : Oh, do you? Let me ask you about flying later. Didn't you have any hesitation at all to become a Sushi chef?

Y. : Of course I did. Until 3 or 4 years before I open this restaurant 'Tsukuta', I was lost and was thinking to change my job again and again.

H. : Then what helped you find your way?

Y. : Mr. Takashi Nakazato ! He influenced me so much. His way of life was the compass for me to decide my course.

H. : How did the great potter influence you? Did he teach how to make good Sushi?

Y. : He said nothing, but he took me to Kiyota, the legendary Sushi Restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo, and made me meet the Maestro Kiyota. (Mr. Kiyota is retired now.)

H. : So , you changed your style of Sushi, didn't you? What is the point that distinguishes your Sushi ?

Y. : Well, I guess it is that I do not use sugar in my Sushi-vinegar.

H. : Tell me about the fish you use.

Y. : I use every kind of fish fresh from this Genkai Sea. They are tough and boorish, living in the rough waves of rapid currents.

H. : Does Sushi have something special, different from other foods?

Y. : Yes, Sushi has some magical charm. Thanks to the charm, Sushi restaurants can survive.

H. : I know that you enjoy collaboration with other genres of food. Give me an example.

Y. : I have an annual buffet party with a French restaurant named Georges Marceau in Fukuoka, and I had an experience with a Soba shop too. It is a fun.

H. : How do you think of this world-wide popularity of Sushi ?

Y. : I am glad. Wider and higher, I wish it to be. Then, I might have a chance to be called from abroad as an instructor of Sushi-making !

H. : Aha ! That's what you mean by 'I'd like to fly myself'. Isn't it wonderful that your style of Sushi flies all over the world?

Y. : (Smile)

H. : Give me a hint to smell out a good Sushi bar in a foreign country.

Y. : I don't know. I've never flown to a foreign country yet. But I'd say sanitation is the first step of any kind of eating place.

H. : What is a general reaction when a foreign guest eats raw fish?

Y. : Foreign guests at my place are mostly the people acquainted with the Japanese tradition of eating raw fish, so I do not feel any difference. But generally, the 'Iki-zukuri' (Fish, sliced into sashimi while still alive) is not preferred.

H. : Apart from your job, please tell me about your family.

Y. : One wife, one son, one daughter.

H. : What is your hobby?

Y. : I play the guitar. From classics to Japanese popular songs. Oh, I climbed mountain in Hokkaido in July for the first time in my life. The pleasure was unforgettable. It might make me in the near future to claim that my hobby is climbing.

H. : So you will be a flier and climber. How nice! Tell me more about the music. Who are your favorite musicians?

Y. : Takashi Tsunoda, Wataru Takada, Hitoshi Komuro, Mutsumi Hatano.

H. : Baroque and Folk music ... They are like tender scallop and crisp cucumber, if compared to Sushi. Say, if you are allowed to eat three Sushis before you die, what are the toppings you choose?

Y. : Anago, Anago, Anago !

H. : Wow... those three Anagos might take you back to life with their magic charm. Then how do you live after that?

Y. : I wish I could fly all over the world on my Sushi wings.

H. : In one phrase, what is Sushi for you?

Y. : It is my tool to express myself.

H. : Thank you for your time and delicious Sushi. I hope some King or Millionaire in other countries see this article and call you to make Sushi for his party ! I wish you a fabulous flight then!

Yuji Matsuo
Sushi-dokoro Tsukuta
1879-1 Nakamachi, Karatsu-shi


Yuji Matsuo

One point advice
Rice: newly harvested rice is too sticky for sushi. You can use last year's crop. When you put a Nigiri into your mouth, the grains of good Sushi rice become separated.

Sushi rice (cooked and vinegared)

One point advice
Vinegar: Yuji uses Akazu (red vinegar), and he doesn't use sugar in it.

Entrance to Tsukuta
The hanging cloth is Noren, the sign of the shop, showing it is open.

One point advice:
Fish: Small fishes should be really fresh. But sometimes, if you use a big fish, meat gets to taste better after you wait for some time.

Takashi Nakazato made this sign of the restaurant

One point advice:
Sushi is not "Sashimi on top of vinegared rice". Sashimi is raw fish itself, but for Sushi, sometimes some process is done to take out the best taste of the fish. Soy sauce, salt, or some other ingredients are used.

slicing abalone

One point advice:
How to choose a good fish:
Experience is the only way.
After mistakes and errors, you will be able to see how fresh and good the fish is.
When you buy fish, you must find someone you can trust. Then build a friendship with him, then he will sell you the best fish.

special sauce

One point advice:
Soy sauce:
At Tsukuta, soy sauce is not on the table. as is found at usual Sushi bars. Yuji brushes his special sauce on Sushi before serving.

The plate for Anago
It is already empty.
I intended to take a picture of Anago, but before I noticed, Anago was gone. Sorry ! It was tender and mellow, and um... beyond description.

I will show you Salmon Sushi.
It was also fabulous, and melted on the tongue.

Picture by Tomomi
(Yuji's daughter)
Dad is flying on Prawn Sushi
over New York

Thank you friends, for having joined my Sushi party.
I wish you will get a real good Anago when you go to a sushi bar next time.


sea eel




salmon roe

Thank you very much for visiting this page.
I hope you will return next month.
Yours, Harumi Okochi

Proprietress of Ryokan Yoyokaku

  Mail to Harumi Okochi