Marin and Sho Caccam will soon run two adjacent spots on Tsukushinbo's current block in Japantown.

The second-generation owners of a Japantown legend have big, bittersweet plans. Marin Caccam says she and her brother, Sho, will close Tsukushinbo, the restaurant their parents founded in 1994.

But! The Caccams will open two new restaurants—one next door to Tsukushinbo’s storefront at 515 S Main St, then a second spot in place of the original.

With 28 years of history and so many devout regulars, it’s a huge transition, Marin allows. Her late father, Masayoshi Caccam, and her mother, Sayoko, built a sushi counter and menu of comforting cooked dishes that proved so successful, Tsukushinbo never bothered to replace its sign after the original came down in an exterior renovation more then a decade ago. Today the unmarked restaurant still doesn't even have a website.

Marin and Sho stepped up when Masayoshi, known to most as Mike, passed away unexpectedly in 2016. Now that she and Sho are more experienced, says Marin, “we want to progress…but still follow our parents’ history and legend.” Sayoko still works in the kitchen three nights a week, though Marin swears she will retire soon. The once-a-week ramen that helped build the restaurant's fan base is essentially retired too, says Marin. "That was my mom's recipe."

The family will turn an empty space next door to Tsukushinbo into Kakurenbo, a two-story spot with a bar on the first floor and a sushi counter upstairs. Sho will preside over the sushi, as he does at Tsukushinbo, serving customers at the counter, plus a single eight-person booth. The smaller space will be “a little more detailed as far as our food and service and sake pairings,” says Marin.

She describes the ground floor as a “retro-modern Japanese bar,” an intimate spot with 15-ish seats and a snack menu that should look familiar to fans of Tsukushinbo’s current lineup of kitchen items.

The restaurant’s name means “hide and seek” in Japanese, a nod to its many years with no sign. Kakurenbo will not have a sign, says Marin, continuing an inadvertent tradition of hiding in plain sight.

Once Kakurenbo is open, the Caccam family will turn their attention to the current home of Tsukushinbo. That space will become Onibaba, a casual stand-up restaurant that focuses on onigiri. Marin says they will serve perhaps 20 different varieties of these stuffed rice balls, usually sheathed in a bit of nori. That fact alone guarantees I’ll be there opening day, but Marin Caccam says Onibaba will also inherit Tsukushinbo’s curry recipe, and serve a few other rice bowls, like donburi and katsu don.

The family has finally secured approvals for construction inside a historic building located within a landmark district; Marin hopes Kakurenbo can open toward the end of summer. Tsukushinbo will close roughly a month before that, then begin its own transition into Onibaba. Of course, all these timelines are still quite theoretical, but fans have another few months to make final visits to Tsukushinbo as we know it.

Japanese influence permeates the broader Chinatown–International District—from Uwajimaya to Fort St. George—but the Caccam family’s two new projects create an instant 20 percent jump in the number of restaurants in Seattle’s Nihonmachi. Keeping Japantown vital, especially with Japanese-owned businesses, was an important part of this decision, says Marin Caccam. “All the staff will be the same, the style of food is not going to change very much,” she says. “The authenticity and tradition is important to us.”

Tsukushinbo is famously minimal on its internet presence, but the restaurant’s Instagram feels like a good place to track the progress of Onibaba and Kakurenbo.

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