Restaurant owner Hiro Kim serves up Happy Sushi and existential wisdom, always greeting customers with a warm smile, asking "Hi, how are you?" As he skillfully wields steel yanagiba knives, the Japanese/Korean chef works quickly to serve a wide menu of authentic appetizers, sushi, sashimi and teriyaki, artfully preparing chicken, shrimp, tuna, salmon and a wide variety of vegetable rolls.
Kim arrives at the restaurant first thing each day in a traditional silk print kimono jacket, tying on his apron, to transform octopus, squid, surf clams and other expertly filleted seafood at the front glass display counter. Kim's daughter, her husband and another employee are the only other staff currently. "I must do all the work around here. I like to keep it simple," he said.
After immigrating to the U.S. in his early 30s with a degree in hotel management, Kim has lived in 16 states and held jobs ranging from bell boy to hotel clerk to waiter to chef, and he has collected many interesting stories along the way.
The 67-year-old shares his personal reflections that the mind, body and soul don't always agree when it's time to get out of bed in the morning. During the past 13 years serving customers at Happy Sushi, Kim has regularly taken a few months off to travel abroad and rest. Smiling widely, he says, "When I close the shop to travel, the customers, they wait for me patiently at the door. Now I'm back here and will work, work, work every day, as long as I am able."
Without any advertising or social media presence, the success of Happy Sushi has flourished primarily through word-of-mouth, according to Kim. Seeing lines of customers waiting patiently for one of the restaurant's seven tables, or bustling quickly in and out picking up carry-out, neighboring businesses have approached Kim about expanding to share space. He has also had offers from developers suggesting he move to a newer commercial area on Springfield's west side. But Hiro exudes a vibe of true contentment and confidence that is not lost on those who enjoy his unique, healthy menu offerings.
"I'm happy, happy living just for the present, today!"