Summer is here in colourful Japan and tourists are flocking to the northern island of Hokkaido for the freshest of o-sushi. In the port city of Tomakomai, sushi outlets serve up slabs of tuna, salmon, scallops and other fresh seafood over chunks of vinegared rice.
Hokkaido is the heaven of fresh o-sushi is a popular perception held by many local and foreign visitors to Japan, and they are probably right. Hokkaido actually holds the record for having the biggest annual catch of ‘surf clams’ (hokki) in Japan for the past decade or so. The island is also known for Japan’s most popular comfort food which is o-sushi.
During the spring and summer months from April to September each year, millions of local and foreign visitors would flock to the northernmost island of Japan when fresh seafood is in abundance due to the favourable climate for fishing.
In the small coastal port city of Tomakomai, the locals take their sushi very seriously. Mind boggling portions and oversized slabs of fresh fish are placed on top of small parcels of vinegar seasoned rice. To the extent that one can hardly see the sushi rice hiding under these enormous pieces of juicy and succulent fresh seafood.
Tomakomai, located in Central Hokkaido and about 1 hour’s drive from the island’s capital city Sapporo, is not really a targeted tourist destination. However it offers a wide delectable range of sushi restaurants and bars which are not made up to woo tourists but actually to serve local families and workers of the city.
The ‘Clipper Kaiten Zushi’ (conveyor belt o-sushi) restaurant is a popular local favourite with proof of its 3 outlets operating in Tomakomai city. It offers medium range o-sushi for quick and casual dining with prices ranging from ¥130 to as high as ¥410 per plate of 2 pieces (e.g. ‘Otoro or Chutoro’- tuna belly o-sushi) and 2 persons dining can easily incur a total average bill of about ¥4,000-5,000 (RM150-180).
Another local o-sushi hotspot is the ‘Sushi Go Round Shunraku’ restaurant which is designed to entertain big groups, parties and special occasions. Shunraku has 3 outlets, 1 in Tomakomai and another 2 outside the city, in Eniwa and Chitose. The name Shunraku which means ‘happy seasons’ (translated literally) is meant to convey to customers that they can enjoy the diverse tastes of spring, summer, autumn and winter in the way the restaurant uses seasonal ingredients in making o-sushi and other dishes.
They also offer very high quality o-sushi made with fresh ingredients but in a slightly higher price range, each plate of 2 pieces of o-sushi costs from ¥140 to ¥610. A meal for 2 persons can easily cost an average total bill of ¥6,000-7,000 (RM220-255).