Ken Kawasumi depicts Mt. Fuji not on canvas but in sushi, by elaborately arranging sliced salmon, mackerel and other ingredients. When his sushi rolls are cut, motifs of helicopters and others can be seen on their cross sections, greatly entertaining diners.
Kawasumi, 58, a teacher at a school for sushi cooks near the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, has made efforts to promote such art overseas.
"In Japanese cuisine, there is a saying that means 'A [dish's] appearance is part of [its] good taste.' [Decorative sushi] is part of Japan's 'omotenashi' hospitality that we can present overseas with pride," Kawasumi said.
He has been devoted to sushi since his late teens. He also began making and studying decorative sushi about 20 years ago.
Since 2006, he has given demonstrations of decorative sushi preparation overseas. He often gives these demonstrations in Japan to foreign students and tourists, too.
Many people are surprised to see his sushi cooking demonstrations, saying that they did not know about such kinds of sushi at all, Kawasumi said.
"When I cut a [decorative] sushi roll and some motifs are seen [on the cross section of each cut], people are really delighted. The response is the same regardless of where they come from," he said.
This year, he plans to spend more of his time and energy on developing human resources at home and abroad by introducing how to make such sushi - in detail and in English - on online video streaming sites, making learning materials and so on.
"I hope people overseas will have more opportunities to enjoy sushi art," Kawasumi said.
Make 'deco sushi rolls' at home
The Japan Deco Sushi Association in Minato Ward, Tokyo, gives lessons on how to make "deco sushi rolls," thick sushi rolls in which ingredients are placed to make its cross sections reveal motifs of flowers, animals and others.
According to Emi Tsuneoka, also known as Makiko Kazari, a member of the association, such sushi rolls with motifs of kanji characters and flowers are traditionally made in the Boso region in Chiba Prefecture and served at celebrations and festivals.
"Deco sushi rolls" are a modern arrangement of the local dish, with a simplified cooking process so it can be prepared easily at home and also incorporating motifs that can entertain children, such as those of popular characters, Tsuneoka said.
Tsuneoka suggests the following recipe: Make five thin sushi rolls, each wrapped with a sheet of nori. Then, bundle them and wrap with sushi rice and nori again. When you cut it, its cross section bears the motif of a flower with five petals.
Using sausages of which cross sections are round, instead of thin sushi rolls, is an easier way to depict round petals.
Color variations of sushi rice can be made by using furikake rice seasoning in various colors such as pink and green.
According to Tsuneoka, the association has trained instructors to make deco sushi rolls. Currently, about 300 instructors give classes or are dispatched on request.