Chicago's first lady of sushi and family honored

November 16, 2008 7:30:15 AM PST
The corner of Wells and Schiller will be renamed in honor of Marion Konishi, the founder of Kamehachi, Chicago's first sushi bar. (News Release) Marion Konishi, founder of Kamehachi, widely recognized as the first sushi bar in Chicago, will be honored by the City of Chicago with an honorary street dedication, Marion Konishi Way. The dedication and unveiling will take place Monday, Nov. 17 at 4 p.m. at the corner of Wells and Schiller, directly in front of Kamehachi's Old Town location, 1400 N. Wells St., Chicago.

"The entire Konishi family is honored to have our family matriarch, Marion, recognized for her dedication and commitment to Japanese-American heritage," said Kamehachi owner Giulia Sindler. "Kamehachi is proud to be part of the ever-changing face of Chicago's Old Town community. My grandmother would feel such joy that Chicago has remembered and honored her in such a remarkable way."

Marion Konishi opened Chicago's first sushi restaurant, Kamehachi in 1967. Located on Wells Street, in a neighborhood populated by hippies and folksy-type people, Kamehachi was an anomaly: a traditional Japanese restaurant serving items not yet popular nor familiar to Americans. As the years passed, Chicagoans interest in sushi began to increase and Kamehachi became one of the city's most popular restaurants. Its enviable location across the street from The Second City also aided the popularity of the restaurant when stars such as John Belushi, Dan Akroyd and Carrie Fisher would frequent the restaurant mixing in seamlessly with the local clientele.

"My mother always felt the customers were the key to her success. Without them and their loyalty, she would not have succeeded," said Sharon Perazzoli, daughter of Marion Konishi. "I'd like to think Giulia and I still carry on that tradition. I believe my mother's spirit follows us wherever we go. She has left her blessing at each Kamehachi location."

Kamehachi's founding owner, Marion Konishi, was truly self-sufficient and wore many hats to make the restaurant successful, from managing and serving as host to even cooking and working behind the sushi bar. A single mother, raising two children by herself was a significant challenge, but coupled with the demands of opening a sushi restaurant, when sushi wasn't a part of mainstream culture, was a monumental task. Working in the Japanese, male-dominated culture was tough, yet Konishi proved to be assertive and earned the nickname "The Dragon Lady." Konishi established herself time and time again as an inspiration to the many Japanese-Americans who found their way to Chicago, especially to the Nisei generation who survived the internment camps.

Kamehachi, Chicago's first sushi restaurant, now in its 41st year, has 5 restaurants in the city and suburbs and continues to serve fresh and delicious sushi. Locations include: Chicago Old Town, 1400 N. Wells St., 312.664.3663; Chicago Streeterville, 240 E. Ontario St., 312.587.0600; Northbrook, 1320 Shermer Rd., 847.562.0064; Westin Chicago River North (Sushi Bar), 320 N. Dearborn, 312.744.1900, Sushi Café Chicago Loop, 311 S. Wacker, 312.765.8700. For hours and information on each Kamehachi location, visit Kamehachi.com


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