Etsuo Sumida died peacefully Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020 of natural causes at age 85.
Etsuo was born in Osaka, Japan to Yoshio and Motoe Sumida and grew up in Okayama. He was the fifth of seven children. At age 22, he made his first trip to the U.S. with an agricultural exchange program, picking grapes for Gallo Winery in central California where he fell in love with the country. He went back to Japan, but was determined to return someday. Etsuo earned his license as sushi chef at Sushi Sei, the oldest (1889) sushi restaurant in the outer market of Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji Fish Market. He got his chance to return to the U.S. with a sponsorship from Bush Garden Japanese Restaurant in Portland, Ore. On Aug. 10, 1968 he married Tokiko Hiramatsu and together they moved to Portland. Their daughter Jean was born in 1969.
It is believed that Etsuo was the first formally trained sushi chef in Portland and introduced the city to sushi and sashimi. He told stories of making lavish raw fish displays for a governor’s dinner and a United Nations banquet in the early 1970s that went almost untouched, as Oregonians were not familiar with such exotic foods. Etsuo and Tokiko opened their own restaurant in 1979 where they tirelessly and graciously shared the cuisine of their homeland with Portlanders until their retirement in 1994.
In his free time Etsuo enjoyed playing golf, gardening, watching Japanese TV and traveling with Tokiko. He also treasured spending time with his grandchildren.
He is survived by his wife, Tokiko; daughter, Jean Alleman (Andrew); grandchildren, Grace and Tyler Alleman; sister, Yoko Hiro; and brother, Masayasu Sumida both of Japan. He was preceded in death by his parents and four other siblings.
No services are planned. Donations in his memory may be made to the Japanese Ancestral Society of Portland (www.japaneseancestralsociety.org).
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