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  • Writer's pictureMiyuki Yoshikami

I found supermarkets are not alone in offering sushi to their American customers. The Woodmont Grill, purported to be an all-American restaurant in Bethesda, Maryland, installed a sushi bar in 2018, and provide hashi (chop sticks) in a container at every table. (Hashi is useful for eating French fries.) Who would have guessed that sushi, that first appeared on Kawafuku’s menu, would also be included at Woodmont Grill, an all-American restaurant? Photographed here is the non-Asian sushi chef and a nigiri platter.

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  • Writer's pictureMiyuki Yoshikami

Chihoko Nakashima, my koto teacher, introduced sushi at Kawafuku, an upscale Japanese restaurant in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, owned jointly with her husband, Tokijiro.

In the early 1960s, Mr. Nakatoshi Kanai of Mutual Trading Company approached them to open a sushi bar. Tokijiro was reluctant, concerned about keeping fish fresh but Chihoko said, “Why not? It will be wonderful.” She is credited for boldly introducing sushi when the thought of raw fish was unappealing to most Americans.

Today Kawafuku is listed as one of the 13 restaurants that changed Los Angeles’ cuisine forever ( (see gallery).

Mrs. Nakashima may not have known how one day sushi would change all of America's

palate. Walk through any deli section of any supermarket today and invariably, you will see sushi being sold. Here is a photo taken at Wegman’s in Washington, DC.

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Video of Zoom presentation on April 24, 2021

(Hogaku is Japanese music before Western influence.)

The Keisho Center, founded in 2003 for children to learn the Japanese language and culture without the pressure demanded in schools of Japan. Keisho now has over a hundred students. As part of their culture study, I was asked to talk about koto music. Mia Saidel, a former student of Keisho, and I, played the koto for the school but when Covid struck in 2020, I presented a solo Zoom lecture.

The lecture began with why I, an American, play the koto considered out-of-date by the Japanese. The irony is that koto composers such as Yatsuhashi Kengyo, are contemporaries of Western composers whose music is novel to the Japanese. As for koto music, I found that my Western audience prefer to hear real Japanese music on a Japanese instrument, which is fresh to them. I began by explaining the source of Japanese music from its pre-historic culture, their beliefs, Shinto rituals, poetic recitations, to the music of koto. For contrast, I used the lyrics of Kongo Seki (Diamond) adopted to both the Western and koto melodies.

Although the Japanese have embraced Western music as their own, of all the cultural exchanges, from Japanese food, literature, arts, etc., music is the most difficult to cross over the cultural divide because it is ephemeral in character and cannot be held, smelled, or tasted.

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