Sushiya ("sushi shop") opened in 2012 and run by Takao Ishyama, who worked for two years at Sushi Saito and also at the Ginza outpost of Sushizen, whose superb flagship restaurant is in Sapporo. The bulk of his career has been at Kanesaka, where he worked for five years as a chef, and was entrusted to oversee the Kanesaka branch in Karuizaw. Kanesaka also finances Sushiya, but the relatively youthful Mr Ishyama, who speaks good English, is very much in charge here.
The Japanese have a penchant for obscure restaurant entrances, but even by their demanding standards Sushiya is in a secluded spot, down a very narrow alley between two streets in the Ginza. The only other things visible as you enter the alley are air-conditioning boxes from the buildings on either side and, at night, a self proclaimed "fetish bar". In the middle of the alley is Sushiya, a little eight-seat sushi bar with chairs arrayed around a wooden counter.
The lengthy omakase menu began with a little bowl of salmon roe on rice, topped with grated uzu zest. This was followed by smoked bonito with a soy and herb dip, along with freshly grated wasabi, the smoky flavour unusual and interesting. Next was hairy crab from Hokkaido, the shell hollowed out and filled with crab meat, topped with the claw meat; this was lovely, the crab palpably fresh and with fine flavour. Next was grilled shirako (cod sperm sac) which looks a little like brain when cooked and has a creamy texture. Tiny baby shrimp topped with fish liver followed, then sea perch wrapped around strands of chives, the perch having particularly lovely flavour. Sardine with finely diced leeks was superb, rich and oily, while sea cucumber roe tasted a bit better than it sounds.
Only now did the sequence of sushi begin. Flounder had a touch of firmness, but yellowtail was glorious, with terrific flavour and soft texture. Tuna followed, chu-toro, the fatty otoro and the lean akami, all of very high quality. Squid was tender though not quite in the league of that served at Sushi Saito, an admittedly high bar to set. Cooked tiger prawn was pleasingly sweet, followed by a type of sardine and then Spanish mackerel. Golden eye snapper had good texture, with excellent sea eel (anago) completing the sushi sequence. A sweet dried watermelon roll preceded the traditional tomago egg omelette to finish.
This was a very fine sushi experience, generous with ingredients, nicely paced (a couple of hours) and with some interesting and unusual elements to complement the familiar. The chef, who operates alone at the counter, was attentive to individual needs and interacted with the customers, chatting away in both Japanese and English. The bill came to ¥23,220 (£126 per person) including copious amounts of beer. Highly recommended.