Kura Sushi to expand local-catch initiative throughout Japan

The interior of a new Kura Sushi restaurant.

Osaka, Japan-based sushi chain Kura Sushi is expanding its local fish project titled “Kura no Ippin,” aiming to implement the initiative in 530 of its restaurants nationwide by August 2023.

The initiative involves the use of locally-caught fish in limited-quantity specials on a weekly basis throughout each of Japan’s eight regions. The fish used in the project change depending on weekly catches so that customers can enjoy fresh, seasonal seafood specific to each region. 

The project, facilitated through arrangements with local processors, is the first time a major sushi chain in Japan has extensively featured local, wild-caught fish on a regional basis. Though most sushi chains occasionally run campaigns featuring local specialties, Kura intends for this initiative to be a permanent rotating, weekly offering.

“We hope that people will learn about the attractiveness of local fish again,” Kura Sushi Spokesperson Yuichiro Koyama said. “We hope this will help people to understand the appeal of local fish and boost the fishing industry in [each] region.”

It's the latest effort from the chain to differentiate itself from its competition. In 2015, Kura, a company that is unafraid to roll out new initiatives regularly, committed to buying fish caught in fixed nets at a price determined by an annual contract according to their weight. This allowed fishers to net products with low market value that typically don’t have wide distribution, as they were not affected by swings in the market price.

In the Sakana 100 Percent Project from 2018, Kura started turning fish trimmings waste into fishmeal and using it in aquaculture feed. The Wild Fish Education Project, started in 2019, raised juvenile bycatch fish to market weight in pens, and another Kura-run project found that scalpel sawtail (Prionurus scalprum, “nizadai” in Japanese), which picks up a distinctive odor from the seaweed that it eats, becomes palatable after eating cabbage in captivity for a certain period of time. The company then succeeded in commercializing it.

More recently, in 2021, Kura established Kura Osakana Farm as a subsidiary of Kura Sushi, focusing on the production and wholesaling of organic hamachi. It was the first in Japan to obtain certification as an organic marine product. Osakana Farm also employs automated feeding using artificial intelligence to reduce labor and improve the working environment.  

Historically, it has been difficult for major conveyor-belt sushi chains to provide local fish because ...

Photo courtesy of Kura Sushi

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