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SENDAI (Kyodo) The operator of a popular sushi restaurant chain plans to open its first overseas branch in Dalian, northeastern China, as early as April, company officials said Friday.

Umai Sushikan, the Sendai-based chain run by Amino Corp., boasts market-fresh fish bought daily and offered at reasonable prices.

The company began in April 1999 with three conveyor-belt sushi restaurants in Miyagi Prefecture and now operates 22 outlets across Japan. Its annual sales have risen to 4 billion yen from 1.6 billion yen over five years.

The Dalian sushi shop, with 260 sq. meters of floor space and seating for 70 customers, will be located in the center of the city, where there are many Japanese restaurants.

Amino President Takamasa Ueno decided to open a store in Dalian after conducting research along China’s coast. He found that abundant seafood was available in Dalian but there were no sushi-only restaurants.

Amino plans to buy 70 percent of the food locally. The remainder, consisting of foods not available in China, including salmon roe and herring eggs, will be shipped from Japan. While Chinese do not traditionally eat raw fish, a rising number of wealthy customers have begun to eat expensive sushi, according to Amino.

Amino will send three sushi chefs to the Dalian shop and hire about 30 employees locally.

The company is also considering setting up a training school for sushi chefs, Amino officials said.

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