…has to be at a wee little shop nestled away downtown (Kōbe, Japan) called Harubō (春坊). To be specific, it is nestled under the JR train line just south of JR-Kōbe Station (神戸駅) in Chuō Ward, Aioi-chōme 5-11 (Japanese format address: 神戸市中央区相生町5-11丁目)
Google Map Link: (click here)
The owner, Ms. Masako TANAKA, (田中・まさ子) whom I have come to (informally, if not somewhat affectionately) refer to as Tanaka-sensei, is now nearing her 9th decade of life, and still cuts and prepares the finest sushi to have ever crossed my palate with a surgeon’s delicate touch. It is both intriguing to talk to her (again, limited a bit by my wife’s patience with translating for me, and my understanding of Japanese) especially as she is one of very few people left alive who were in young adulthood during WW2.
To fully appreciate the span of her living memory, one can consider that her eyes have seen everything from the end of the affluence of the Taishō era (1912-1925) through the wars, the Occupation, and economic recovery of the Shōwa era (1925-1989) as well as the post-bubble economy of the Heisei era from 1989 to present… or in terms of American history, from the Calvin Coolidge administration through to Bush ‘43.
Most of her customers are what could be considered “regulars”, and many are on a first name basis with her, which is quite a tribute to the many long-time relationships she has cultivated with her customers over the years and for some, possibly decades.
Notwithstanding the fact that her sushi is among the best in the Kansai area, it is also relatively inexpensive … although if you enjoy the more expensive cuts of eel such as mushiana and anago, be prepared to spend about 3500 yen (about $30 USD at 118 yen per dollar) for your experience.
For the more modest budget, I humbly recommend the ikura (salmon eggs), yellowtail, and tai (sea bream).
Pictures to come…
(Ongoing edits and Errata cleanup - corrected train station location to JR-Kōbe, cleaned up some of the post for clarity)