Exclusive Interview with the CEO of SUSHI ZANMAI
Sushi Zanmai has won nationwide recognition for low prices, delicious flavors, and freshness. New Year’s auction at Tsukiji central wholesale market takes place on January 5th, and in 2013, the company’s president, Kiyoshi Kimura, became the man of the hour by buying a bluefin tuna for JPY155.4 million.
Q1. President Kimura, what drives you?
Curiosity. Also, achieving things that delight people.
Q2. In April 2001, you established the “always open” Sushi Zanmai. How do you get to your new ideas and decisions?
If I spend five minutes thinking, ideas just come floating up. So far, I’ve worked in many different types of business, including rental video stores, karaoke and obento boxed meals.
Q3. What prompted you to found Sushi Zanmai in 2001?
Back then, people weren’t coming to Tsukiji any more. Half of the market was already shuttered, and the Central Wholesale Market was losing money. After turning 50 exactly two years earlier, I’d decided to take life easy, but Tsukiji was in trouble and I was asked to do something to revive it, so I started Sushi Zanmai. With my constant curiosity, I wanted to provide things that would make people happy, and things that hadn’t existed before. I realize this by slightly changing my perspective from what we have now to "something we wish were there."
Q4. You also run Sushi Gakko (Sushi School), right?
Since there aren’t as many sushi restaurants as there used to be, people don't have the environment to learn to become a sushi chef. That's why I thought of making a school to teach people how to make sushi. It’s important to make successors, and to teach the skills and must-do's a sushi chef needs.
Q5. Have you ever thought of opening Sushi Gakko branches overseas?
The subject has come up. The expertise of hygiene management for raw foods has not sunk in overseas, so we would have to teach that. Handling raw, high quality, and delicious foods is a skill Japan can be proud of.
Q6. What are your ideas for running Sushi Zanmai in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics?
I want to provide products that are high quality, fresh, delicious, and reasonable.
Q7. How do you want foreign visitors to enjoy sushi from Sushi Zanmai?
I want them to enjoy the finest sushi, with the world’s best fish cuts, in Sushi Zanmai style, and be delighted. Eating your favorite sushi in the order you like is Sushi Zanmai style. That is the most delicious way of eating sushi. We put the spirit of hospitality into the way we serve customers. We want them to taste the flavors of Japan’s sushi rice, fish cuts, and wasabi. People around the world who haven’t eaten raw food in 15 years are starting to eat sushi. That’s why I want to go on providing good sushi.
Q8. What is your idea of hospitality?
Doing everything whole-heartedly. It seems easy, but it's actually difficult. I think hospitality is about welcoming people whole-heartedly.
Q9. What is your vision for the future, in business and in your personal life?
There is no distinction between work and leisure. Private and business are one and the same. My goals for the future are to improve the Japanese economy, work towards world peace, and help people to have more fun. That’s not mixing public and private, because my whole heart is in those goals.