The Man Who Brought Sushi to America, Part IV

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  • Saturday, 03 May 2014 20:56
The Man Who Brought Sushi to America, Part IV Photos courtesy of avex group Holdings, Inc.

The Man Who Brought Sushi to America, Part IV

Remembering the War

This is the fourth in a series of interviews with Noritoshi Kanai, chairman of Mutual Trading and the man who coined the phrase “sushi bar.”

TJ: I understand your first experience in working with food was during World War II. Can you tell us about it?

KANAI: I was drafted into the Imperial Army in 1943 as I’d just entered Hitotsubashi University. Due to the country’s shortage of military recruits, the Army and Navy drafted college students, taking 70 percent of the total college student population. At just 19 years old I was sent to Burma (Myanmar) as Second Lieutenant, and placed in charge of non-military supplies including food, medicine and clothing.

During the war there were some deplorable and despairing situations, however, this was also an enormous learning experience. Since only a limited amount of provisions from Japan would ever reach the jungles of Burma, I started my own food production operations - Shoyu, Miso, Konnyaku - creating products out of necessity for the many military personnel.

The biggest lesson I learned through the war experience was the importance of logistics. Japan lost the war because of the country’s absence of logistical infrastructure. An army cannot move without men ready for battle, and men cannot fight without being well fed and supplied. During the war, out of the 300,000 military personnel in the Indian-Burmese region, 175,000 perished not from battle but from starvation and disease as a result of logistics systems failure. Those who survived were the ones who took care of themselves. I was placed in a POW camp for five years, but I was very lucky to have survived. tj

The complete article can be found in Issue #274 of the Tokyo Journal. Click here to order from Amazon.

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