Our reporter’s unfortunate blunder actually turns out for the best as she discovers a hidden surprise!

Our reporter Haruka Takagi was having a complete nightmare of a day. She’d travelled to Toyama Prefecture to sample one of their local delicacies, masuzushi. Masuzushi is a sushi made using sliced trout or cherry salmon. The fish is then salted, seasoned and pressed into a round, wooden container lined with bamboo leaves.

Haruka had travelled all the way from the SoraNews24 headquarters to try some authentic Toyama masuzushi, and after a quick spot of research she decided to head to Masu no Sushi Honpo Minamoto, a restaurant well-known for selling delicious masuzushi.

Unfortunately, her researching skills fell just short of looking up the restaurant’s opening hours, and by the time she arrived at around 7:30 at night, the restaurant looked very much not open.

Unfortunately, Masu no Sushi Honpo Minamoto had been closed since 4pm, meaning she wasn’t even remotely close to being on time.

As someone who is used to living the 24/7 Tokyo life, Haruka was a little shocked that the restaurant had such limited opening hours, but there was nothing to do but admit crushing defeat.

As she collapsed in front of the entrance of the restaurant, she began imagining what kind of reaction our boss was going to have when he realised she’d come all the way to Toyama only to walk away empty handed.

Something like this, maybe.

But it was at that very same moment, when all seemed lost, that she spotted it… glowing like an angel descending from the heavens, ready to bestow a trout-y revelation.

The glowing light was coming from a vending machine, but it didn’t look like any normal vending machine. Could it be…?

▼ Yes, yes it could… a vending machine selling masuzushi!!

Yes, despite the fact that the restaurant itself was closed, Haruka could still buy some of the famous masuzushi from a vending machine placed conveniently outside. The vending machine contained just two products — trout sushi (1,500 yen [US$11.62]) and yellowtail sushi (1,600 yen [US$12.40]). Each had an expiration date of just two days, so the stock in the vending machine was likely replenished daily.

The yellowtail sushi was probably pretty tasty, but Haruka was here for one thing and one thing only — some delicious trout sushi. So she put in her money and pushed the button for trout. The box of sushi dropped with a light thud.

▼ There were also bags in the slot to put your box of sushi in.

Filled with delight, Haruka grabbed her box and headed back to her Toyama hotel, ready to chow down on her fishy feast. It was her first time trying masu zushi, and also her first time to see the wooden container it came in, called a wappa in Japanese. The wappa lid was held in place with bamboo sticks and rubber bands.

Masuzushi dates back to the Edo period (1603-1867), and most of the sushi ingredients and wappa materials used were the same as they are today, with the exception of the rubber bands.

Once Haruka removed the rubber bands, she was met with the sight of the bamboo leaves tightly covering the sushi.

▼ Taking care to avoid cutting her fingers on the bamboo leaves, she gently peeled them back to reveal…

▼ The Toyama Prefecture delicacy, masuzushi!

According to the instruction manual that came in the box, masuzushi is meant to be sliced and eaten like a cake. They even included a plastic knife — what great customer service!

▼ A quick moment to admire Haruka’s nails, which match perfectly to the bamboo leaves

The rich, orange colour of the trout mixed with the strong aroma of the bamboo leaves was overwhelmingly appetising, and Haruka couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

▼ Once the sushi was all good and sliced…

▼ …it was time for a taste!

▼ It was absolutely delicious!

The trout was salty, which means you could eat it without any soy sauce, although Haruka thinks it would taste amazing either way. The sticky sushi rice was well-drained and delicious. Although everything appeared to be solidly set, both the rice and trout were soft and tender.

As well as the salty trout taste, Haruka also got a whiff of the bamboo leaves. They smelled refreshing yet elegant, and really went well with the trout. Haruka suddenly understood why pandas loved bamboo leaves so much.

But while the vending machine was a godsend for Haruka, she couldn’t help but wonder why the Masu no Sushi Honpo Minamoto restaurant had one outside in the first place, so she decided to ask the restaurant headquarters, and it turns out the answer is to give the restaurant’s employees a healthier work-life balance.

Haruka is not the only person to have ever travelled from afar in order to sample Toyama’s local delicacy, and the restaurant was previously operating from morning to night all year long. As a result, the restaurant’s employees tended to work irregular hours with lots of overtime to deal with the large number of tourists coming to buy masuzushi.

But since the vending machine was implemented back in August 2021, the restaurant was able to shorten its opening hours and use the vending machines to cover for the irregular hours. Tourists can now get masuzushi whenever they want, and the staff can enjoy a healthy work-life balance. Win-win all around!

So even though she may have got the timings a little bit wrong, Haruka was still able to enjoy her time in Toyama thanks to her trouty taste test. And while Toyama Prefecture may be proud of its masuzushi, it has many other things to offer potential visitors, like naked waterslides and the world’s most beautiful Starbucks.

Photos © SoraNews24
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