Tokujo vs. Jo vs. Nami in Sushi, Yakiniku, and Tonkatsu
If you have dined at restaurants in Japan before, you may have noticed that the name of some dishes on the menu has such prefixes as Tokujo (特上), Jo (上), and Nami (並), say, Tokujo Nigiri, Jo Nigiri, and Nami Nigiri in the Sushi restaurant.
Besides Sushi, Yakiniku (BBQ) and Tonkatsu (Pork Cutlet) restaurants also give ranks using Tokujo (特上), Jo (上), and Nami (並) to some foods, just like Sho Chiku Bai (松竹梅), and each of these words respectively has the meaning of top-grade, high-grade, and medium-grade.
Tokujo (特上) vs. Jo (上) vs. Nami (並)
Thus, when used in the food name as a prefix, Tokujo (特上) means to be of the highest grade and costs the most, but you might prefer Jo (上) or Nami (並) over the Tokujo dish because of the ingredients used.
By the way, Nami (並) stands for ordinary quality or amount in Japanese cuisine, so restaurants often omit the prefix on the menu.
In Sushi restaurants, for instance, Tokujo Nigiri typically comes with a block of vinegared rice topped with a slice of fatty tuna (O-Toro: 大トロ), while more often than not, the tuna used in Jo Nigiri is medium-fatty tuna (Chu-Toro: 中トロ), and the one for Nami Nigiri is lean tuna (Akami: 赤身).
Besides this example, sea urchin roe, or Uni (雲丹), is a luxury sushi ingredient with a distinctive umami taste, which Tokujo Nigiri and Jo Nigiri may include. But you might prefer Nami Nigiri’s light-tasting squid nigiri.
Yakiniku restaurants tend to classify (boneless) short ribs or Karubi (カルビ) into three grades using Tokujo, Jo, and Nami. And as with tuna nigiri, Tokujo Karubi is the most marbled fatty beef, while (Nami) Karubi typically has the lightest taste. As seen in this, in Yakiniku, Tokujo meats generally tend to be greasy.
Unlike Sushi and Yakiniku, Tonkatsu restaurants tend to grade the pork cutlet Tonkatsu using Jo (上) and Nami (並) according to the amount, not quality, of pork used in the dish. But the reality varies depending on each restaurant, and some literally use higher-rank pork in Jo Tonkatsu and Jo Katsudon.