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Release | Takako Chiba

Otaru Masazushi’s “Masazushi Dojo” raises a sushi chef in eight months


Otaru Masazushi has just started an education program for its employee to raise a sushi chef in only eight months. Sushi chef training usually takes three years to cook rice and eight years to learn how to make sushi. Hokkaido Likers visited so-called “Masazushi Dojo,” where they train new sushi chefs. 

“Masazushi Dojo” trains sushi chef in eight months

Otaru’s long-standing sushi restaurant “Otaru Masazushi” started a short training program to raise new sushi chefs for their new employees in May 2019. 


小樽の寿司屋通りにある「おたる政寿司本店」入口▲“Otaru Masazushi Honten” at Sushi Street in Otaru. 

They started the training program they had at least one to two new employees who graduated cookery school every year until 2018, but no one came to Masazushi in 2019. There was a strong impression that working for a sushi restaurant requires hard work, and the number of people who wish to become a sushi chef had decreased. 
“Sushi chefs are like endangered species now. However, the market is growing very much. You can become a star in this industry if you wish, even there is a chance to become number one in the world. Although the industry is exciting, most young people do not recognize it.”
Keisuke Nakamura, the vice president of Otaru Masazushi told us. 

おたる政寿司代表取締役副社長、中村圭助さん▲Keisuke Nakamura, the vice president of Otaru Masazushi. 

When we imagine about training to become a sushi chef, older stubborn chefs often tell in TVs and movies: 
“What the hell are you doing!” 
“You should learn by watching! You idiot!” 
Something like that. 
“People only know traditional work environments. I wanted to change that impression first.” Nakamura said. 
Sushi restaurant’s environment is not like that now, of course. However, if you try to polish your sushi chef skill as you work for a restaurant, it would be too busy with everyday work and becomes harder to become better. 
Therefore, they separated the part to “work for sushi restaurants” and “learn techniques of sushi chef” and created a place to concentrate on learning techniques. That is “Masazushi Dojo.” 


We make sushi and also create our industry’s future on our own 

“People concentrate on learning at this dojo, which is a renovated fish shop and connected to our flagship store, from 4 PM and 7 PM, four times a week. The program is basically about learning how to make Edomae sushi as they learn the strength of ingredients in Hokkaido. We also teach about side dishes and simmering. The full training lasts eight months. To achieve this goal, we need a skilled teacher, and we assign an experienced sushi chef with 40 years of experience.” Nakamura said. 

政寿司道場外観▲Masazushi Dojo

Two students who started the training program of “Masazushi Dojo” already could make nigiri and maki for customers in three months from the start. (As of August 2019) 
“However, it has been only three months. This program is also a social experiment. We could move to the next step if we could prove that people can grow up if we could teach properly.” Nakamura said.
At Masazushi Dojo, those who teach are also in the middle of searching how to teach well at the same time young chefs learn techniques. 

政寿司道場内▲Inside Masazushi Dojo. They have enough equipment like cooking-practice room. 

The dojo is now for training new employees. If they could build the training program properly, it can become a training program for all sushi chefs in Otaru and furthermore, the platform to raise sushi chefs in Hokkaido. 
“We make sushi and also create our industry’s future,” Nakamura said with a smile. 


Training material of Masazushi Dojo = ingredients are real: everything is the same with professionals. 

When Hokkaido Likers visited, Masazushi Dojo was teaching how to make soft boiled octopus and reviewing pike conger. 
A live octopus suddenly appeared. 
They use fresh ingredients that can be offered to customers at Masazushi. 
“There is no point in learning if we don’t provide real ingredients. Of course, it costs very much. We can make this happen because experienced chefs work very hard at restaurants. I want people to understand such a situation and learn seriously.” Nakamura said. 
政寿司道場の様子▲They are carefully teaching how to handle and cut octopus.

政寿司道場の様子2▲The class had one teacher for two students. The system makes the teacher teach to every detail. 

Trying to become a sushi chef most quickly at the fulfilling learning environment

I had a chance to talk to the two students. 

2018年入社の荒木圭太さん▲Keita Araki; he joined Masazushi in 2018. His family runs a sushi restaurant in Erimo-Cho. 

“I have learned more than I expected. I have much more motivations towards work because I got interested in every detail as I learn about sushi here. Like, how to deal with ingredients and what is the meaning of each procedure.” Araki said. 

ハモを切る荒木さん▲He was checking his notes in the previous class when he was reviewing about pike conger. 

We have an impression that training to become a sushi chef is tough and scary. I asked how they feel about it. 
“Teacher is very gentle, and he teaches very specifically. Of course, I get scolded sometimes. But there are reasons, and I don’t have to be scared of it.” 

2017年入社の笹山達也さん▲Tatsuya Sasayama joined Masazushi in 2017. He got a job at sushi industry after graduating a university. He is good at English. 

Sasayama said he is good at English and Nakamura is expecting that Sasayama can work in abroad. 
“We can practice with real ingredients and get experienced. There are so many things to learn, and the teacher often says to me that I should not get panic. It might happen in real work, so I try to overcome it.” Sasayama said. 

言われたことを真剣にメモに取る笹山さん▲Sasayama is taking notes about what he had been said seriously. 

In the end, I asked Nobuo Ito, the teacher of the training, about two students and Masazushi Dojo. 
“I was surrounded by kind chefs, and I have never felt tough during my training. However, the sushi industry was hard in my days, and we could not survive if we could not overcome many challenges.” Ito said. 
Is there anything you take care when you teach students? 
“I consider how they get interested and how they could understand the deepness and attractions of sushi.” 
職人歴40年のベテラン、伊藤信夫さん▲Nobuo Ito, the experienced teacher with 40 years of experience of being a sushi chef. “I can shout at them easily, but it is not coaching. I am just releasing my stress. I always look back and think about what I need more as I teach.” 
What kind of sushi chef would you like young people to be? 


“Sushi chef’s best carrier is to become the owner of a restaurant. They become a parent (manager) and raise a child (sushi chef). That is the success of a sushi chef. If that become true, I will look at them from far away. Would I visit their restaurants? Oh no, I won’t have their sushi! (laughs)” 
Masazushi Dojo trains sushi chefs to become able to make nigiri, maki, 20 kinds of simmerings, 20 kinds of grilled dishes, 100 types of side dishes for customers in just eight months. 
I felt that I could see the light to solve many problems of the sushi industry now: traditional hard training of sushi chef, labor shortage of sushi industry, training of sushi chefs, etc. 

Related Link

- Otaru Masazushi
  • Otaru Masazushi’s “Masazushi Dojo” raises a sushi chef in eight months

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Takako Chiba