Who says you can’t get good seafood in a landlocked prefecture?

When you want to eat delicious, fresh sashimi in the vicinity of Tokyo, usually that means you’d head to the Tsukiji Fish Market–or to Toyosu, where most of the market and many of its restaurants relocated a few years back. But there’s another place just outside of Tokyo where you can get huge portions of insanely fresh sashimi, and for a crazy good price, but it’s probably not where you’d think.

Saitama, a prefecture just north of Tokyo, is landlocked, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get good seafood there. In fact, one restaurant in the town of Kawajima in central Saitama serves extremely fresh sashimi and sushi bowls for excellent value. Our Japanese-language reporter Masanuki Sunakoma heard this from a friend who raved about it so much that he had to try it for himself.

The restaurant, which considers itself the “Saitama Harbor”, is called “Seafood Restaurant Soma Suisan”, and has four branches in the prefecture, including the one we visited in Kawajima Town in the Hiki District. The sign outside was very assertive about the restaurant’s fare, broadcasting “seafood restaurant” in huge white kanji on a red background for everyone to see.

Despite its significant distance from any coastline, the landlocked restaurant is able to provide fresh seafood to its customers by sending staff all the way to the Numazu Fish Market in Shizuoka Prefecture every day, where they pick out delicious, fresh-caught fish and shellfish to buy in the seafood auction and take it back to the restaurant themselves. And, because they pick up the seafood directly, they’re able to cut down on distribution costs, which means they can sell their sashimi at reasonable prices.

Masanuki was in the mood for Kaisen-don, or sashimi over rice, so once he was seated at his table with a menu, he flipped right to the rice bowl section. The pictures of delicious seafood bowls just about leaped out at him, and the dishes offered sounded ridiculously good. Masanuki waffled between ordering the “Direct Delivery Seafood Omakase Bowl,” the “Auction-bought Seafood Bowl” or the “Devil Fisherman’s Bowl”, whose names all instilled curiosity (and intense salivation).

In the end, Masanuki went for the “Devil’s Most Sinister” Devil Fisherman’s Bowl (1,848 yen [US$13.91]). Not ten minutes later, a huge mountain of a seafood bowl arrived.

What an impressive sight! So magnificent, so powerful. One might even say the pile was almost aggressively tall. Masanuki truly felt like he’d entered a mystical world where Saitama had its own harbor, like he had stumbled upon some kind of festival of seafood. He almost shouted “Wasshoi!” as festivalgoers do, as if he’d hoisted a great mikoshi shrine made of sashimi himself.

It wasn’t only fresh seafood piled in the bowl; there was also agedama, pieces of deep fried batter. In between thick cuts of tuna seasoned with soy sauce mixed with a bit of dashi bonito stock, these crunchy bits provided a nice accent that made eating this dish ridiculously easy.

The menu had cautioned that “This is a large serving of both rice and seafood, so please avoid this if you’re looking for a light meal.” This had surprised Masanuki somewhat, since it’s not often that food comes with a warning label. But in spite of its true-to-warning, grand size, Masanuki made quick work of it, and felt like he could even eat more when it was finished. It probably helped that it felt like a miracle to eat such fresh seafood in Saitama.

Oh, right…Masanuki forgot to mention that they also serve all-you-can-eat soup. The delicious broth made from fish scraps was also unlike anything you would normally find in Saitama, but Masanuki really appreciated its soothing, calming flavor.

Now that he’s in his 40s, Masanuki generally avoids eating huge meals, but he enjoyed this ginormous kaisen-don so much that he felt like he could eat even more. If he’d stopped by for lunch instead of dinner, he probably would have.

Outside, the restaurant’s large parking lot was almost full, a testament to its popularity. Masanuki really liked how Soma Suisan brought the bustle and atmosphere of a harbor to Saitama, and really understood why the restaurant called itself the “Saitama Harbor”. No seafood lover would regret the chance to eat here…so if you’re in the area, perhaps checking out the nearby town of Kawagoe and its beautiful Little Edo town, definitely stop by!

Restaurant Information
Seafood Restaurant Soma Suisan Kawajima Branch / 海鮮食堂そうま水産 川島店
Addrress: Saitama-ken, Hiki-Gun, Kawajima-cho, Omote 433-1
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Closed New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day

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