In October 2012, I went on a palate-enriching “Amazing Race” food-sourcing trip around Japan with Head Sushi Chef Kazutoshi Endo of Zuma Hong Kong.
Endo’s been kneading raw fish onto vinegared rice as Head Sushi Chef for Zuma London. When Heston Blumenthal wants sushi, he calls Endo up. That means he gets face in Japan. Not bad for a former punk rocker from Yokohama.
We ate and drank through six different cities/towns within a well-organized work week. From soy-sauce tastings at the Yamasa Brewery on Chōshi Peninsula to the most exquisite kaiseki meal paired with BORN sake at the illustrious Kaikatei of Fukui. We woke up at 4am to check out the choreographed chaos of Tsukiji before the 6am tourist hordes and went down to the pristine wilds of Wakayama, visiting the quaint fishing port of Katsuura and artisanal vinegar breweries using the sacred waters of Nachi Falls in ancient Kumano. This was accomplished via vans, Shinkansen, domestic flights, private cars, public ferries and trains and then some.
Despite the hectic schedule and the most bowing I’ve done in my adult life, it was a thoroughly fun trip. Chef Endo and I had an ex-musician camaraderie going on right away, as Endo was in a punk band in his youth. The regimented ceremony of Japanese business and bureaucracy were balanced out by my jazz laissez-faire and his sweet punk anti-establishment ethic.
Here’s my blog posts on the trip: