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Sushi Goodness
Arriving in Australia for the first time in 1991 to study, Korean born Anna Jo returned to Japan in 1995 wanting more after experiencing life in Australia.
After meeting her husband in Australia, the couple then lived in Japan for ten years. Anna gives a brief insight into her journey, her story behind the popular East Brisbane restaurant - SUSHI KOTOBUKI. “We decided to come back to Australia because we missed it so much. We strived to become Australian citizens and when I came back I was very surprised with what had changed in regards to sushi,” Anna says.

“People had the opinion that seaweed was rubbish in the ocean, so it wasn’t popular. So when I came back 10 years later I was shocked to find it had became more popular and that’s when I thought it was a good opportunity.”

Anna’s journey began when she started working in a Gold Coast restaurant, where the Japanese head chef taught her the art of making sushi. “I started working in a restaurant on the Gold Coast where I met the chef who was Japanese. It was a good start for me, she says. I found that in Brisbane, a lot of the sushi is only takeaway and stored in the fridge. It was important for me to provide as fresh as possible, and after talking with my customers I wanted to be offering the freshest I could. It took a while for people to understand because they were so used to getting it from the fridge. Of course around lunchtime, during the busy period where people are on the move, Anna provides sushi from the fridges for convenience, allowing customers to ‘eat on the run’”.

When asked about Sushi Kotobuki’s menu, Anna reveals she is the mastermind behind the popular dishes.

“For most of the food I come up for the menu, she explains. For the Lion King roll, first time I wanted to bake it. But it is impossible because the oven would have to run all day, everyday, and my husband suggested, why not torch? So I guess a lot of the menu evolves”.

“A lot of my inspiration comes from Japan, when I visit and try to find things that Brisbane doesn’t have. My sushi is not traditional Japanese, but the feel of how I serve the sushi to the customer was my aim to give Brisbane people an experience with similarities to Japan. Also, a lot of my ideas come from America and Europe. I like to study how it is cooked in other places and find out what’s lacking in Brisbane and try to create that.”

Often on Friday nights, the line at Sushi Kotobuki will extend out the door.

“I cannot look because I am trying to make the sushi as fast as I can, Anna explains. I never thought it would get like this busy. I feel a bit sorry for the people who have to wait in line, so I want to work as quick as I can.”

The Japanese concept of ‘Shokunin’ is explained by Japanese artist, teacher and author, Tasio Odate. The Japanese word Shokunin is defined by both Japanese and Japanese-English dictionaries as ‘craftsman’ or ‘artisan,’ but such a literal description does not fully express the deeper meaning. The Japanese apprentice is taught that Shokunin means not only having technical skills, but also implies an attitude and social consciousness. The Shokunin has a social obligation to work his/her best for the general welfare of the people. This obligation is both spiritual and material, in that no matter what it is, the Shokunin’s responsibility is to fulfil the requirement.

Anna modestly denies the application of ‘Shokunin’ to her life and work, instead relating the concept to her experiences in Japan.

”I worked with Japanese people about 50 -60 years of age. They work really, really hard. They work perfect. I don’t know how do they work like that, everything is done perfect.I was so impressed when I worked with them because with my education I had in Korea and my education in Australia, It cannot compare to Japan. Personally I know when I get something that is made in Japan, I feel comfortable and have a strong belief that it is made well. But I tried hard in Japan. Because of their culture I wanted to work really hard. I wanted to be more perfect than any others. My company was an implant company. When you break your leg you get an implant. My company made the implants, we cannot make mistakes.  I made sure I would tick everything over 3 times.”

The word ‘Kotobuki’ is derived from a strong Japanese meaning of ‘long life’ and ‘goodness’. Anna concludes that she is very thankful for the opportunity she has created. With aspirations to help people less fortunate, Anna is grateful that she is healthy and able to work everyday. Confident that her hard work will pay off, Anna is providing Brisbane with a quality Japanese experience, which continues to deliver.
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