The Real Reason Sukiyabashi Jiro No Longer Has Its Michelin Stars

"I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I'll continue to climb, trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is," Jiro Ono says in his documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi. This approach that has earned Ono reputation as sushi master and his restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro as the first sushi restaurant to receive three Michelin stars (per Sabukaru).

Situated near an underground subway station, Ono's 10-seat sushi bar catapulted to culinary acclaim. Inside his restaurant, pre-flavored sushi dishes are served simply, placed onto black plates, and presented with instructions for diners to eat quickly in order to experience the intended flavors (via Japan Wireless). According to Sushi Jiro's website, the experience is "not like visiting a tourist attraction," and diners pay a minimum of 55,000 yen to sit for lunch or dinner. 

Michelin began publishing Tokyo's restaurant guide in 2007, records Food & Wine, and Ono's restaurant earned three stars each year until 2019. But the reason for the dropped stars wasn't exactly nefarious.

An elusive reservation system

It's not so much that Ono's restaurant lost credentials, reported CNN, it's that it became too difficult to get a reservation. According to Travel + Leisure, former President Barack Obama, David Beckham, Anne Hathaway, and Hugh Jackman have dined there, but for the non-famous, some connections are needed to score seats. On the restaurant's website, a phone number is listed with advice for traveling visitors to make reservations through a hotel concierge in advance — and a warning that reservations may not be available for the desired date and time. 

"We recognize Sukiyabashi Jiro does not accept reservations from the general public, which makes it out of our scope," a Michelin Guide representative informed the National Post in 2019. "It was not true to say the restaurant lost stars, but it is not subject to coverage in our guide. Michelin's policy is to introduce restaurants where everybody can go to eat."

Regardless of the lost accolade, Ono's quest to perfect the art of sushi at his Ginza sushi bar has continued.