Setsubun is a Japanese festival to celebrate the coming of Spring. It falls on February 3, which should be easy for Americans to remember as the day after Groundhog Day. For non-Americans among Tachiai readership, let’s just say Groundhog Day is a great movie by Bill Murray and leave it at that.*
The ritual at the center of setsubun is the bean throwing, mamemaki (豆撒き), shown here in this tweet found by Herouth (@SumoFollower).
The other night, to celebrate my birthday, my mother-in-law treated my family to sushi at her local sushi bar. This sushi bar, called Edokuni. The owners are sumo fans, as evidenced not only by the recent banzuke on the wall by the entrance and the calendar featuring Goeido on the back wall…they also have pictures of when Takanohana came to eat and Mainoumi has gone there, too. The pictures of Takanohana are at the left of this picture, over the chef’s shoulder.
Kameido is only a couple of stations from Kokugikan, the main sumo stadium, but this restaurant is tucked away and hidden in a tiny alley off a small side street…as seems to be the case for so many great restaurants in Tokyo. From the station, head north along Meiji-Dori (306). Take your second right at the Mitsubishi UFJ bank. Then head about a block and a half down that side street and it’s in a tiny little alley. Thank God for internet maps. The address is in Kameido 4-chome:
The sushi was great so I’ll write about it in more detail on my other blog in the days to come. Aside from the great sushi there were other traditional Japanese dishes that were very well done. They also made a special au gratin for our kids since my 2-year-old doesn’t eat sushi yet. My 6-year-old liked the crab and maguro…but I’ll write about all that later.
The restaurant is also notable for the fact that it is owned by, and the sushi is prepared by, women. I’ve eaten hundreds of pounds of sushi over my life so far and I honestly cannot think of a time when I’ve seen a female sushi chef. In fact, there’s some conventional “wisdom” B.S. about how women cannot be sushi chefs because their hands are too warm. The restaurant was opened shortly after the war by the current owner’s father. When he died suddenly, his wife really had no choice but to take over herself. She’s still there and makes the rice at over 90 years old. However, sushi making duties have been handed down to the daughter – a still spry 68 years old. I only know about the place through my mother-in-law, as I mentioned before, because they go to the gym together.
Now, I’ve eaten a bunch of sushi and Japanese okaiseki but I’m not going to claim to be a super snob. I generally have 4 grades for sushi: terrible, edible, good, and great. I’d classify this as great but ultimately it depends on what you’re willing to pay for. They’ve got higher grade fish than what I ate but what I ate was excellent. I love salmon and this is up there with the best I’ve had. The fish is all very fresh and the all-important rice is very well done but I’ll write more specifics about the food in a post on my food blog.