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  • John Daub: Sushi may be the world's most well known Japanese food,

  • but there are many styles of sushi, some not known outside of Japan.

  • This style, called saiku sushi, is decorative, challenging the creativity

  • of master chefs, like this one, who is only limited by his own imagination.

  • This is the "Tōkyō Decorative Saiku Sushi" story.

  • Intro music

  • Irraishaimase! (Welcome!)

  • Peter von Gomm: ONLY in Japan

  • The great sushi chefs have mastered the craft of touch and taste

  • which can inspire the person eating it.

  • Preparing a simple nigiri sushi is more complicated than most customers think.

  • But sometimes chefs wander beyond the realms of the known,

  • into the saiku sushi world.

  • There is no limit, except perhaps the seasonality of the ingredients.

  • This is "tsubaki", or Japanese camellia, made of maguro (tuna).

  • It's seems more art than food, but make no mistake, this is all food.

  • It's saiku sushi at Takasago Sushi restaurant inkyō.

  • (Yuki-san): My father was a sushi chef,

  • so I grew up watching his work.

  • I'm broad-minded.

  • I do both American and traditional sushi.

  • I try to make customers happy that way.

  • Of course, we perfect traditional sushi too.

  • Including "kohada" (shad), I know we are not inferior.

  • Traditional plus something extra like this.

  • It's inventive but also has elements of our tradition.

  • I hope to pass that on to future generations.

  • I'll keep arranging it and hope

  • people will enjoy that.

  • (John): Wow there are so many sushi here on the counter.

  • It almost looks like a pastry shop because the colors and the details of it.

  • It's hard to believe that this is sushi,

  • but as you heard Yuki-san say,

  • this is actually not art but food.

  • So we get a chance to eat it.

  • I don't what to eat first, but this one right here,

  • looks really good.

  • This is a rabbit, or "usagi".

  • We often forget that sushi is actually finger food, right?

  • You actually don't need chopsticks to eat it.

  • So we're just going to pick up the little rabbit guy.

  • Look at it. It's so cute! Look at those eyes.

  • (Yuki-san): Dip the soy sauce on this. (John): Yeah, and then dip this

  • (Evil laugh)

  • Hmm.... sushi.

  • (Laughs)

  • (Yuki-san): That's right.

  • (John): It's just a little bit more fun when your sushi looks like something

  • different than sushi.

  • Another sophisticated saiku sushi design

  • with "ikura" (salmon roe), "ika" (squid), and cucumber.

  • So this is a hydrangea.

  • In English, hydrangea.

  • Let's watch the preparation for this one.

  • It starts like many "gunkan" (battleship) sushi:

  • rice wrapped in "nori", or dried seaweed.

  • Sheets of squid are cut thinly at an angle.

  • They're then rolled into a cone and placed facing out around the top.

  • Working with such delicate ingredients requires great concentration.

  • Inside each "ika" cone goes one ikura ball.

  • The orange color is striking on the white squid.

  • Next Yuki-san cuts a piece of cucumber halfway through on the side of this skin

  • requiring several pieces.

  • He fans them out and wedges them in between the cones.

  • When complete, it's a pretty sushi hydrangea flower pleasing to the eyes.

  • (Yuji-san): It's complete.

  • (John): Sushi is perfectly one bite size.

  • That one was really interesting because on the top of the "gunkan" sushi

  • there's different pieces, almost like....

  • I don't know....

  • like little teeny bombs in your mouth and then as you bit into them, they would

  • explode, that "ikura", but then they would all come together into an amazing taste.

  • And I like that one a lot.

  • It's just a different kind of experience than all the other kinds of sushis

  • that I've had before.

  • Yuki-san doesn't just make creative sushi.

  • He makes excellent "nigiri" sushi with years of mastery.

  • But it's a chef's imagination that also sets them apart.

  • Like with micro sushi.

  • Taking a fraction of a grain of rice.

  • It requires great skill, care, and patience to make it.

  • It's very similar to a normal sized counterpart,

  • just much, much, smaller.

  • It's not meant to be eaten, nor on the menu,

  • just something fun and different for his best customers and their kids.

  • But where does this unique creativity come from?

  • Not manykyō sushi chefs make California rolls or non traditional styles.

  • (Yuki-san): When I returned from the United States

  • and make California rolls for my father,

  • it really infuriated him at first.

  • (John): He was really upset? (Yuki-san): (Laughs)

  • (Yuki-san): The rolls angered my father at first,

  • but customers liked them, so all was fine.

  • (John): Customers matter the most, right?

  • (Yuki-san): That's right, that's right.

  • It's a bit boring to always have just tuna

  • or squid, so a little something extra.

  • I just get this urge to add a bit of originality.

  • (John): What is the next one? (Yuki-san): "Botan", salmon botan.

  • (John): Wow.

  • This one looks so good.

  • It just has a different color to it.

  • The salmon and the "ikura".

  • The color of the sushi is very important.

  • And when you get a tray of "nigiri" sushi,

  • you'll see different colors to it.

  • The "ika", the salmon, the "maguro".

  • It all has a variation which, I think,

  • gives it it's own appeal.

  • It's all of the senses coming together.

  • It's salmon.

  • (Both laugh)

  • It's salmon, but it's really good salmon.

  • And again, the way that it's been cut.

  • Usually salmon is just one piece on top of a bed of rice.

  • This has been cut into different pieces,

  • and again, coming together, coming apart, and then coming together.

  • (Meguro-san): So, about today's sushi -- when you see it

  • They look really difficult to make, don't they?

  • Well --

  • They are difficult to make.

  • From the shape of petals

  • to the size of each part that needs to be uniform...

  • When you actually try, these are hard to do.

  • More importantly, being able to

  • serve the regular nigiri sushi

  • is the prerequisite. That's fundamental.

  • Plus, if we make something different and exciting,

  • that's one way of showing

  • the artistry sushi chefs have.

  • I think it's one of the sushi-making skills.

  • (John): It's so pretty.

  • Wrapping. There's cucumber and egg in there.

  • The level of detail in this... is just amazing.

  • I feel not worthy.

  • (Laughs)

  • This is really good.

  • The snappy cucumber with soft juicy egg,

  • touch of salty ikura, perfect.

  • (Yuki-san): It started in Shōwa period (1926-1989),

  • but the roll-style started in Edo (1603-1867).

  • The decorative roll started in Edo.

  • in Japan, each house had a family crest

  • Called a Kamon.

  • Maybe similar in the West.

  • Rolls with the crest design were popular in Edo.

  • Then came Meiji period (1868-1912), then Shōwa,

  • when we started eating raw fish.

  • Also decorated the fish with

  • seasonal design, which is important.

  • How do you add the seasonal touch?

  • Flowers are good.

  • Hydrangea, cherry blossom, and chrysanthemum...

  • I think it started in early Shōwa.

  • (John): Saiku sushi is not something you'll see often anymore.

  • Not like this.

  • It requires a lot of time and detail.

  • The price is also going to be higher,

  • which is another reason it's not on the menu.

  • It's more something chefs do to hone their sushi making skills.

  • Challenge themselves and have a little fun.

  • It's sure fun to look at and it's fun to eat.

  • This "ume" blossom is made with ikura, ika, cucumber, and minced shrimp meat.

  • That tasted a little but different.

  • It had kind of, hmm, I don't know.

  • It's just I've never had minced up shrimp before in such a fine detail, but

  • I think when you're eating sushi, and different kinds of sushi,

  • it's really good if the chef has some creativity as well, because

  • it gives you a new way to see something that you've eaten so many times before.

  • And that's another reason to try different sushi shops as well.

  • There's a lot of repeaters here, but

  • when you do try new things,

  • it makes you think in a different way as well.

  • And he's traveled around the world and been inspired by certain things and

  • each chef has been inspired by something in their life

  • or something that they've learned from the base of training into the next level

  • which is, the taste of the food.

  • Basically, I'm eating the chef's experience.

  • Where does your creativity come from?

  • From traveling around in the US?

  • (Yuki-san): Ah, no, before that -- as a child

  • I was often with my father and other sushi chefs,

  • watching them work, thinking

  • how I could make their sushi better.

  • I used to enter sushi competitions.

  • I'd look at the winners' work when I was young,

  • and think how I could do it, and how

  • I'd improve it. I was always thinking like that.

  • (John): This one I'm really curious about.

  • This is carp

  • (buzzer)

  • (Yuki-san): Gold fish

  • (John): Yeah. I love the details of it.

  • To cut the tenticles of the octopus to make the eyes

  • It's a perfect round shape of it.

  • But this looks almost too pretty to eat.

  • But the ika is very translucent.

  • You can see inside of it which gives it

  • another way to see the colors and the presentation.

  • It's interesting that you can take the ingredients and,

  • with your imaginations,

  • find new ways to use that in a presentation like this.

  • I'm going to eat this one with chopsticks.

  • Inside is some yellow "tamagoyaki" (or egg),

  • dark green seaweed,

  • and red maguro.

  • This one looks extremely interesting.

  • It's made of "maguro", or tuna.

  • The red color with the rice underneath it,

  • it's just so unique.

  • And the way it's just covering it

  • I love this.

  • I'm going to have to use chopsticks with this one.

  • This chrysanthemum is made of a long rope cut of maguro

  • draped with skill over the rice.

  • Quite popular in Kyōto back in the day.

  • Oh I love "akami" (lean red maguro).

  • (Laughs)

  • Chūtoro, ōtoro is really good.

  • But there's something special about akami.

  • I know when you're eating ōtoro and chūtoro,

  • which are the fattier cuts of maguro,

  • a lot of people see more expensive being better.

  • Actually, it's just a different taste.

  • Akami, there's just more of it inside of the tuna,

  • which is why it might be a little bit cheaper.

  • Ōtoro is just less of it.

  • It doesn't make it better or worse.

  • It's just rarer.

  • But that akami.

  • The way it's cut and the way it breaks apart in your mouth, like the other ones

  • it's just really unique.

  • Yeah.

  • Each chef brings his or her own experience to the restaurant.

  • That's one of the values.

  • What a customer pays for.

  • Since coming to Japan, I've a new appreciation for food,

  • ingredients, and the dedication so many chefs have to perfecting their craft.

  • You won't find saiku sushi on the menu here.

  • It's historical, and something Yuki-san does for fun and I appreciate him

  • sharing his skill with us.

  • Sushi is fun, especially "kaiten", conveyor belt, sushi.

  • But there's something special about having a chef make it in front of you.

  • Giving guidance and learning more about it.

  • Sushi is very competitive inkyō.

  • You need to be consistently perfect to satisfy customers.

  • But that X-Factor is creativitity and friendliness.

  • It's a reason why you always go back to your favorite sushi shop,

  • and a reason why I'll go back to see Yuki-san at Takasago Sushi.

  • If you like this sushi adventure, leave me a comment below

  • and subscribe to ONLY in Japan.

  • Where I'll take you on another adventure to the far corners of Japan

  • with a story you'll never forget.

  • Mata ne! (See you again!)