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Nurturing Fish & Chefs

Working as a team and passing the baton of delicious fish to the future

Naoki Maeda’s masterly eye for fish and excellent skills for preparing it are in great demand in and outside Japan, and have earned him tremendous trust from the best chefs. Maeda is the fifth-generation owner of Sasue Maeda Fish Store, established in Yaizu 60 years ago and loved by the locals for the fresh fish processed into sashimi, fillets, and dried fish. We couldn’t help admiring the products on the shelves and envying the Yaizu residents!


“A fishmonger’s job was simply buying and selling fish when plenty of fish were available. But that’s a thing of the past. Fish stocks are declining today. My job now is to step in and work as a team with the fishermen and chefs.”

Naoki Maeda pours his energy into building relationships and passing the baton of fish from catcher to cook.

“We work on land, and the fishermen work on the water. It’s easy to work with what we can see, but even the fishermen can’t see what’s going on underwater. That’s why it’s so much more difficult to work with wild fish than cultured fish. When you’re dealing with fish found in nature, every day is a battle. There are good days and bad days. That’s why I believe it’s important for the fishermen, the fishmonger, and the chefs to connect the dots, and work as a team, and polish our skills in our respective areas of expertise.”

Maeda communicates with the fishermen and chefs mainly via social media. He exchanges an average of 700 posts a day, and sometimes over 1,000 posts. Real-time information from the fishermen is a huge advantage for Maeda when he does the buying. Later, he also shares videos and other material with the chefs so that they know where, how, and by whom their fish were caught.

“As I look at the fish lined up for auction, I picture the chefs’ faces in my mind. This fish might be too big for him, but this one looks like just the right size. Once I’ve made a match, I reserve that fish for that chef. Even if I know the fish would sell for a higher price to a customer in Tokyo, I offer it to the local chef, because I want it to go to someone who will really appreciate it and bring out its best flavor. Those five may seem like they’re always hanging out and fooling around, but they’re incredibly passionate about their work.”

By “those five,” Maeda means the five chefs that gather at his fish store every day. The team of collaborators started out with just two members: Maeda and Takeo Shimura of Tempura Naruse (Shizuoka City). Then Daigo Sugiyama of Chakaiseki Onjaku (Yaizu City), Yasuhiko Inoue of Simples (Shizuoka), and Masaki Fujioka of Nihon Ryori FUJI (Shizuoka) joined the team, and Kenichi Nishi of Chisou Nishi Kenichi (Yaizu) completed the lineup in June 2022. All five restaurants are so popular that they attract visitors from outside Shizuoka Prefecture too.

“Those five chefs come here religiously every morning and evening, even on their days off. Let’s say there’s a fish that has great texture but a bland taste. I would control the temperature so as to maintain the texture while elevating the flavor. One of the chefs would then take it back and cook and serve it at his restaurant. His visitors would enjoy a dish only available on that day at that moment. The dish promises to be delicious, but more than that, it will be memorable. That’s what we do—we work to make that special dish.”

Each special dish has become a restaurant’s signature, to be further polished and refined by the team every night after closing time in night-by-night sessions dubbed yonayona-kai. Maeda also visits each restaurant two or three times a month to work even more closely with each chef and invent new dishes.

“I just think it would be great if more people ate fish and enjoyed it and felt truly happy,” says Maeda. This pure, simple thought is the root of his passion, the source of his energy, and the force that drives him to keep working with fish day and night.

Sasue Maeda fish shop (Nishikogawa Branch)
4-15-7, Nishikogawa, Yaizu, Shizuoka
TEL: 054-626-0003

Text | Daisuke Horie Photography | Toshitake Suzuki