Spotlighting a Niigata castle town through sushi

Shibata is one of Niigata Prefecture’s core cities, with a population of over 90,000. In the Edo Period, it flourished as the town serving Shibata Castle and later prospered as a commercial city. Kousuke Kobayashi, the third-generation owner-chef of Tokiwasushi, moved to Tokyo to gain sushi experience and later returned to help at Tokiwasushi under his father’s guidance. He was amazed by the change in the city. “I was shocked to see that areas that had been busy and lively [when I left] had become completely deserted in just 10 years or so. I decided, ‘I’m going to transform these streets!’”

Kobayashi attempted to revitalize the area through sushi. In 2017, the restaurant reopened and Kobayashi succeeded his father. It was then that Tokiwasushi began offering sushi focusing on ingredients produced in Niigata, causing a stir among “foodies,” and it is said to get better and better each year.

Fish is not the only essential element of sushi. The foundational component of shari (sushi rice) is critical as well. “Using locally sourced fish means we don’t even know what’s coming in the next day — it depends on the weather and the time of year. So I actually think it’s good to come up with more creative ideas when I make shari,” Kobayashi said.

Kobayashi creates various types of shari using fish stock, persimmon vinegar, citrus and more. He often uses three or four types of shari in different elements of a single course. He also makes a point of utilizing neglected types of fish that were previously thrown away because excessively large catches diminished their market value. Kobayashi plans to continue collaborating with chefs from inside and outside Niigata and posting about his activities. He is also set to open another restaurant in the city of Niigata at the end of May.

3-7-8, Chuocho, Shibata, Niigata

Hideyo Hanazumi
Governor of Niigata

I would like to congratulate Tokiwasushi for being selected for the Destination Restaurants 2023 list.

Tokiwa is located in Shibata city, which has rich nature, hot springs and a historic townscape.

Chef Kobayashi is particular about using locally produced rice and ingredients from the prefecture and exploring new flavors. On top of being selected for the Destination Restaurants list, in 2023 he received a special prize from the Niigata Gastronomy Award. I hope this encourages many people to come and experience the charm of Niigata’s food.

Kaoru Nikaido
Mayor of Shibata city

I would like to extend my congratulations, appreciation and respect to Tokiwasushi for being selected as part of The Japan Times’ Destination Restaurants 2023 list. For Shibata, which styles itself as “food town Shibata,” receiving this award is a source of pride for its citizens and an encouragement for the food and beverage industry. I believe that the chef’s achievements will greatly contribute to the development of our city. I hope that after receiving this award, Tokiwasushi will continue to work even harder.

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