There was one surprising sushi that we never expected to love, but now we’re a major fan!

If you’ve been following our site for a while, by now you’re probably familiar with Japan’s major revolving sushi restaurant chains: Sushiro, Hama Sushi, Kura Sushi, and Kappa Sushi. We eat at these restaurants all the time and even compare their different dishes.

But did you know that Japan’s southernmost and westernmost revolving sushi restaurant isn’t actually one of these chains? It’s called Sushinchu (a play on the Okinawan word for “islander”, “Shimanchu”), and it’s located on the remote island of Ishigaki, which is part of the prefecture of Okinawa.

And they don’t just have any sushi…They have lots of unique seafood fished from the seas around Okinawa, which is much harder to find than on the mainland of Honshu! When our Japanese-language reporter Kouhey discovered this while on a recent trip to Ishigaki, he had to check it out.

Sushinchu is very centrally and conveniently located in the city of Ishigaki, just a five-minute walk from the ANA Intercontinental Ishigaki Resort, a popular accommodation for travelers.

Kouhey was in the area just before the restaurant opened, so he was inside just a few minutes after the door was unlocked. What greeted him as soon as he stepped through the doors was a huge sign advertising the lunch menu, which offered various different kinds of sushi bowls and platters.

There was also a menu of specialty ingredients that looked like they could only be found at Japan’s southernmost revolving sushi restaurant, which got Kouhey’s heart a-pumping with excitement.

The interior was as spacious as any Sushiro, with about 80 seats. Since Kouhey had arrived just after opening time, there was only one other person there.

Ordering was, like many large chains these days, conducted with a touch pad, though of course you can always simply snatch up plates as the slowly roll by on the belt.

It was impressive that the restaurant had both the local charm of Japan’s southernmost and westernmost revolving sushi restaurant and an atmosphere and amenities that could rival any large chain.

There were eight levels of pricing, starting at 130 yen (US$0.91) and going up to 990 yen.

Kouhey wasted no time in choosing some sushi. Naturally, he started with items in the category of “Seafood from Ishigaki”.

From the conveyer belt, he snagged the Ishigaki Island Coastal Raw Tuna (275 yen)…

…Fluted Giant Clam (462 yen)…

…Steephead Parrotfish (275 yen)…

…and Leopard Coral Grouper (330 yen).

For a total of 1,342 yen, Kouhey managed to order a sampling of Ishigaki local sushi. Besides the Raw Tuna, they were all things Kouhey had never heard of, which really got him excited to try them.

He started with the Ishigaki Island Coastal Raw Tuna.

Compared to tuna he’d eaten from big chain revolving sushi restaurants, the flesh had a bit more springiness to it. It felt like the kind of fish that would always have a reliable flavor.

Next he tried the Steephead Parrotfish, which is a fish with beautiful bright blue scales found in the coastal waters of Okinawa. Kouhey had never once found it on mainland Japan, and thus had never tried it before. He was interested to see what it would taste like.

If he were to sum up his thoughts, he’d say that the flesh was very springy, but the flavor was quite refreshing. Kouhey would have to say it was the first time he’d ever experienced that with a white fish. When paired with shiso leaves, which are offered at Sushinchu as a topping, Kouhey had to admit this sushi left a big impression.

For his third sushi, he tried the Leopard Coral Grouper, which is considered a luxury fish in Okinawa. Kouhey was full of expectations as he lifted it to his lips…

The thing that left the biggest impression was the thickness of the fish. It had a serious solidity to it, like it was about three times firmer and thicker than blowfish sashimi, which is pretty firm.

The last of the Ishigaki sushi he tried was the Fluted Giant Clam.

It was full of the flavor of shellfish; the more Kouhey chewed, the more the flavor spread through his mouth. This sushi had a major impact on him. He swallowed it after about ten chews, and then promptly missed the flavor, which made him wish they made a gum that tasted like that. It would sell like hotcakes (probably because he would buy them all).

Of course, Kouhey wasn’t finished yet. There were still things he had to try, so he ordered the Deepwater Longtailed Red Snapper (330 yen). Almost immediately, just like some big-name revolving sushi restaurants, up zoomed a little bullet train that carried his sushi on a special delivery lane.

A hero-like character Kouhey wasn’t familiar with stood at the head of the train. Once he’d taken his plate, he pushed a red button, and the train zoomed on back to wherever it came from. As always, it was very entertaining.

Deepwater Longtailed Red Snapper, like the Leopard Coral Grouper, is considered a luxury fish in Okinawa. But how would it taste?

The short answer? Delicious! It had a rich flavor that Kouhey hasn’t tasted in similar sashimi. It had a decent firmness to it, too. Kouhey would say it was the tastiest sushi of the lot so far.

But there was one more sushi he had to try: Sea Grape Battleships (198 yen).

Having visited the Okinawa islands frequently, Kouhey has eaten this unusual-looking seaweed numerous times before, but never as a sushi. Usually you’d eat it as a bar snack dressed with a special sauce, so Kouhey had no idea how it would taste paired with rice.

As it turns out…it was really good! The poppable texture of the sea grapes paired excellently with the elasticity of the rice. Kouhey would never have expected it to be so good; it was a personal revelation for him. It was so good he thought…Why not make a donburi, or rice bowl, with sea grapes? Sea grapes are much easier to find on mainland Japan than some of the other ingredients he tried…Someone’s got to have tried it!

Kouhey was so excited and so enamored that he would say the Sea Grape Battleships were his favorite of the whole meal.

All in all, Kouhey’s experience at Sushinchu allowed him to taste some really yummy sushi that you could never find anywhere else, so it was a very valuable experience for him. If he ever gets to go back again, he’ll definitely be trying even more unique sushi. If you plan to visit Ishigaki Island one of these days, definitely don’t miss the chance to try it for yourself!

And don’t forget to make a stop at the southernmost and westernmost convenience stores in Japan too!

Restaurant Information
Sushinchu / 鮨人(すしんちゅ)
Okinawa-ken Ishigaki-shi Maezato 341-5
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Open every day

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