The real reason Jiro Ono's restaurant lost its Michelin stars

A world of difference sits between conveyor-belt sushi and the kind of sushi a diner can savor at a more expensive Tokyo sushi bar. And as far as the latter is concerned, there is no restaurant quite like Sukiyabashi Jiro Jiro Ono's modest, 10-seat sushi bar in Ginza operated by the man himself and his older son, Yoshikazu. 

The restaurant opened in 1965 and since then, the restaurant picked up three Michelin stars, as well as acclaim for Jiro. Some of us may have met Jiro in the 2011 documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, where he was introduced as one of the best sushi chefs in the world. The restaurant even scored soft power points when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took former President Barack Obama to the restaurant in 2014 (Obama reportedly said it was the best sushi he'd ever had).

But when the Michelin guide issued its guide for 2020, which featured 226 starred restaurants, 11 of which have three-star ratings, and 3 of which have had the honor for 13 years now, Sukiyabashi Jiro wasn't mentioned anywhere in the guidebook (via Business Insider). And it wasn't because anything happened to the restaurant or its lead chef.

Jiro Ono's restaurant is not open to the public anymore

"We recognize Sukiyabashi Jiro does not accept reservations from the general public, which makes it out of our scope," a Michelin Guide spokesperson says (via The Guardian). "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."

JW says that because there are an estimated 400 to 500 persons on its waiting list at any given time, Sukiyabashi Jiro has stopped taking bookings — either by phone or through its website — and with that volume, taking that decision shouldn't be a surprise. This is not to say, though, that sushi fans are happy with the restaurant's decision. 

With just one item on the menu — the Omikase (set meal) course priced at 40,000 yen, or about $366 — a visit to Sukiyabashi Jiro would be a stretch for most folks who are on a travel budget anyway. But for diehard sushi fans, we can see why the meal, or without Michelin stars beside the restaurant's name, would be money well spent.