The First Sushi Bar in America

Back to 1964, Noritoshi Kanai, 41, who was a co-owner of a Japan-based food exporter, decided to move to the US with his wife and two children. His mission was to cover for his predecessor’s death at his company’s Los Angels subsidiary. He was full of enthusiasm for the evangelization of Japanese food to Americans. Also, he knew that it would be a one-way ticket if he wanted to succeed in business in a foreign country. He started selling Japanese cookies and rice crackers and they sold very well at first. However, the competition became tough because of a number of imitators from other Asian countries. He learned from trial and error that he had to differentiate his products. Meanwhile, he met Harry Wolf, an American business consultant and hired him, whom he was predestined. When they traveled to Japan on business, Kanai took Wolf to a sushi restaurant in Tokyo. Wolf was so excited and munched away his first sushi voraciously. This was it! At the time, the song “SUKIYAKI” was very popular. He talked about the idea of serving Edo-mae style Sushi in the US to the sushi master of KAWAFUKU, one of the most well-known restaurants in Little Tokyo in Los Angels. Kanai immediately air-shipped sushi ingredients and started the sushi business successfully. That was the beginning of “sushi bar” in the US.

PS: What made Kanai think seriously of going for the US sushi business was a ¥100, 000 bill they ran up at the Tokyo sushi restaurant during their stay. Wolf secretly ate sushi everyday…and did he wolf.

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