Painted boards still cover the windows of the Jackson Building, the historic structure along Sixth Avenue in Japantown. But inside the former Kaname Izakaya space, new owners are writing the next chapter in the Nihonmachi’s compact dining scene.
In January, Kaname officially became known as Itsumono, though neighborhood denizens Mike Vu and Hisato Kawaminami took over as owners back in 2019. They weren’t initially sure how they would adapt the longstanding izakaya, says Vu, but they did know what they wanted for its name. Itsumono is Japanese for “regular,” and a fitting tribute to the loyal clientele.
They also knew they wanted to replace the traditional izakaya menu with dishes you won’t find elsewhere in Japantown’s blocks. The familiar karaage, katsu, donburi, and lunch specials are gone. So is the sushi; Vu points to Maneki and Tsukushinbo and Fuji Sushi in their immediate surrounds. “We wanted to offer something different.”
Chef Sean Arakaki, a Hawaii native and Eden Hill alum, oversees a menu of drinking food that isn’t afraid to play. He cross-pollinates karaage with Nashville hot chicken and dusts curly fries in nori. That finer dining background comes through in specials—hearty beef soup with dumplings made of shokupan, or yuzu scallops atop a sort of risotto–miso soup hybrid. His Hawaii roots come through the clearest in Itsumono’s saimin. Paul Murakami, the building’s third-generation owner, had requested a soup of some sort on the menu, and truly—why does a city with so many Hawaii transplants not have more saimin?
Itsumono even has a subtly teriyaki-styled burger, a nod to Arakaki’s first kitchen job, at Nori’s Saimin and Snacks in Hilo. He brushes the patty with teriyaki sauce, and sunomono, or Japanese pickled cucumbers, replace the usual coins of dill, alongside American cheese, mayo, and mustard. It’s a burger designed to accompany drinks, rather than one of those colosses that requires an immediate nap.
Which makes sense, considering the care Itsumono’s owners are putting into the bar side of the izakaya equation. They recently updated the space, retaining that “been here forever” vibe but making the bar area more of a focal point than a discovery.