Sushi (寿司)

Food called sushi (described as 寿司, 鮨, 鮓, 寿斗, 寿し or 壽司 in Japanese) is Japanese cuisine combining vinegared rice mainly with seafood. Sushi is roughly classified into a group of 'Haya-zushi' (fresh sushi) using fresh seafood, and a group of 'Nare-zushi' (fermented sushi) which is seafood kept in rice and fermented by the action of lactic-acid bacillus. Edomae-zushi (hand-rolled sushi), representative sushi among them, is already recognized all over the world to such an extent that the term "sushi" is used as it is. Each region in Japan has its own sushi. Sushi was originally one of methods to preserve protein (mainly of fish meat, game meet and so on).

Theory of etymology

As to Chinese characters of sushi, '鮓' was used in Kamigata (Kyoto and Osaka area), but '鮨' was used in Edo. The Engishiki (an ancient book for codes and procedures on national rites and prayers) had terms of 年魚鮓 (Ayu-zushi (sweetfish sushi)), 阿米魚鮓 (Amenouo-zushi) and so on. A style of old sushi was handed down to Funa-zushi (crucian carp fermented sushi) in the Omi region and to Ayu-zushi in Kumano in the modern period. Since the main purpose was to preserve fish, rice was an appendage. Sushi' was the result of adding vinegar to an increased amount of rice to wait for it to become naturally sour, and appeared in literature from the Keicho era. A widely-accepted theory was that the term 'sushi' originated from 'sushi' meaning sourness as described in "Nihon Shakumei" (The Japanese Etymological Dictionary) and "Toga" (an etymological dictionary) compiled during the middle of the Edo period.

Types

Nigiri-zushi (sushi shaped by hand) is representative at present, but major kinds of sushi used for bento (lunch box) are Oshi-zushi (lightly-pressed piece of sushi topped with cooked ingredients), Chirashi-zushi vinegared rice with thin strips of egg, pieces of raw fish, vegetables and crab meat arranged on top), Maki-zushi (sushi roll) and Inari-zushi (fried tofu stuffed with vinegared rice). In addition to the above, Nare-zushi (fermented sushi) and so on exist.

Nigiri-zushi

This sushi is bite-sized vinegared rice topped with sliced or shucked fresh seafood, cooked seafood such as mackerel (marinated in vinegar), conger (cooked in soy sauce or grilled) or other ingredients such as sliced omelet (a Japanese style omelet) and so on which is formed by hand. In general, grated wasabi (Japanese horseradish) is put between a topping and rice. Sushi without wasabi is sometimes called 'sabinuki' (without wasabi). Nori (dried seaweed) is sometimes used to prevent separation between a topping and rice. This sushi is formed so as to be eaten in one bite.

This is often called 'Nama-zushi' (fresh sushi) in the Hokkaido region.

Sushidane (toppings and fillings of sushi)

Seafood and other ingredients which are used for sushi are called 'tane,' or 'neta' in jargon (jargon among sushi chefs) by reversing 'tane.'
The following kinds of toppings and fillings are mainly used.

Japanese horse mackerel, sardine, marlin, bonito, right-eyed flounder (any fish of family Pleuronectidae), amberjack, Konoshiro (classified under the order of Clupeiformes Clupeidae) (spotted shad or shinko (a medium-sized Konoshiro gizzard shad) in Edomae-zushi), salmon, mackerel, great amberjack, saury, Japanese seaperch, sea bream, Hamachi (young yellowtail called in the Kansai area) (adult yellowtail), gold-striped amberjack, flatfish, tuna (fatty portion of tuna belly), swordfish, and rock trout

Conger and eel (cooked in soy sauce, broiled in soy sauce, and so on)

Shrimp (Pandalus eous (deep-water shrimp), Japanese tiger prawn, Pandalus nipponensis and Hokkai shrimp), squilla, and crab (snow crab (queen crab) and Japanese king crab)

Squid and octopus

Abalone, surf clam, ark shell, Yesso scallop, Sakhalin surf clam, trough shell, Tsubugai (Whelk, or Neptunea, Buccinum, Babylonia japonica) and edible cockle

Salmon roe, sea urchin and tobiko (preserved flying fish roe)

Negitoro (minced fatty portion of tuna belly and Welsh onions) and Dashi-maki Tamago (Rolled Omelet)

In these years, sushi using "neta" other than that used in washoku (Japanese food) such as meats including mini-sized hamburger steak, roast pork and so on, canned tuna (flaked tuna), avocado, and so on, which looks odd from the viewpoint of conventional sushi, is increasing especially in "conveyor belt" sushi bars and sushi restaurants outside Japan. However, there are pros and cons about the above new kinds of sushi because some people consider that the above kinds of "neta" are one of inventions continuing from the past, and other people consider that they are alien beyond the borders of sushi, and are different from sushi.

How to form a bite-sized rice ball

When making Nigiri-zushi, forming of bite-sized rice (vinegared rice) is the highlight for a sushi chef to show his technique, and there are various techniques.

"Tekaeshi" technique (the way to turn over sushi)

"Hontegaeshi" technique (the way to turn over sushi)

"Kotegaeshi" technique (the way to turn over sushi)

"Tategaeshi" technique (the vertical way to turn over sushi)

"Yokotegaeshi" technique (the way to turn over sushi sideways)

"Oyayubi nigiri" technique (the way to turn over sushi with thumbs)

Besides the above, there are several shapes of bite-sized rice balls such as straw bag, box, boat and so on.

In recent years, a machine automatically forming bite-sized balls of shari (vinegared rice) has been prevailing mainly in popularized and chain sushi restaurants. The machine forms vinegared rice put in a tank-shaped device into bite-sized rice balls through a mechanism squeezing out the rice. Some machines automatically finish up to a process of adding wasabi or wrapping rice with dried seaweed around rice's perimeter to form battleship roll sushi. Some machines having a rice-bucket appearance look as if a sushi chef takes rice from a rice bucket and makes sushi.

How to eat Nigiri-zushi

It is considered that a traditional way is to take fresh Nigiri-zushi by hand and eat it in one bite, and it is believed that this is the best way to enjoy sushi. This is because Nigiri-zushi was originally served at street stalls in many cases, and was equivalent to present-day fast food. Therefore, no strict eating manners are required in general. In recent years, it is sometimes preferable and recommended to eat sushi with chopsticks.
This may be because 'when eating sushi by hand, fats of neta eaten right before remain on fingers, and ruin the taste of sushi eaten thereafter.'

Nigiri-zushi is divided into flavored and unflavored, and when eating unflavored, one individually adds a salty taste by dipping it into soy sauce. The former is served by applying soy sauce-based liquid seasoning called 'tsume' (boiled down sauce) to the surface of toppings or by sprinkling with salt (not merely salt, but salt flavored with some seasoning is sometimes used). The latter is eaten by placing it in a small saucer having soy sauce prepared beforehand (it is often said that the surface of topping should be dipped in soy sauce, and this is because if the rice side is dipped in soy sauce, the rice may lose shape, and such rice looks messy). Since flavored sushi is not usually dipped in soy sauce, some sushi restaurants say that sushi is already flavored when serving it.

Sushi chef

It is said that to become an accomplished chef, training for about ten years is required as the saying goes, "Three-years of training for cooking rice and eight-years for making sushi." However, no legal qualification is required especially. In fact, part-time workers are in charge of making Nigiri-zushi in many cases, and it is possible to use an industrial robot can form a shape of Nigiri-zushi almost accurately in such process as a substitute. However, to become a sushi chef who makes good sushi, an ability to distinguish fresh fish at a market, knowledge, experiences and techniques such as slicing fish more thinly when fish are fatty based on the knowledge about season of various kinds of fish, and so on are required. A difference from "shari" formed by a sushi robot is that grains of cooked rice are not compressed one another inside the shari of Nigiri-zushi formed by a chef. It is true that long training is required to become a first-class sushi chef.

It is generally believed that a sushi world is male-dominated as well as the rest of the washoku (Japanese food) world.

Meanwhile, situations outside Japan are different in some cases. One example is that the New York Times (dated July 29, 2007) introduced a "sushi course" in Queens, New York. This course, sponsored by Korean people, is to develop sushi chefs through six-week programs held four hours a day. The New York Times said that many Korean and Chinese students who finished the course with a tuition at 1,000 dollars would be employed as chefs of sushi restaurants and Japanese restaurants across America (refer to the article below, 'The world's sushi').

How to count Nigiri-zushi

One piece of Nigiri-zushi is called 'one kan' at present, and a Chinese character, '貫,' is often used.

The old literature had no examples of counting sushi with a special counter suffix, 'kan,' and only had descriptions of counting as hitotsu (one piece), futatsu (two pieces) and so on, or ikko (one piece), niko (two pieces) and so on. Sushi was also counted as hitotsu, futatsu and so on in "Morisada Manko" (a kind of encyclopedia of folkways and other affairs from the Edo period written by Morisada KITAGAWA) at the end of Edo period, "How to Make Home-Made Sushi" written in 1910 by Seizaburo KOIZUMI, a chief of Yobe's Sushi, "Sushi Connoisseur" written in 1930 by Ganosuke NAGASE, and "Sushi Story" written in 1960 by Shigeo MIYAO. However, it described that sushi chefs said five pieces of Nigiri-zushi and two rolls of Norimaki (vinegared rice rolled in a sheet of dried seaweed with various fillings in the center) cut into three pieces, which were equivalent to a sushi set for one person in prewar times, 'chanchiki (gong) of five kan' as compared to drum sticks (enlarged edition of "Sushi Book" written by Osamu SHINODA in 1970).

Examples of counting sushi with the counter suffix, 'kan,' could be seen in more recent times, and it was also in recent times when a Japanese-language dictionary adopted such counter suffix. It is believed that this counter suffix came to be used publicly at the time of a gourmet boom in the Late Showa.

A theory that 'sushi in pairs came to be counted as one kan as a remnant of serving of one kan of sushi cut into two pieces in olden days' frequently appeared in the media at the same time, but there were no periods when it was standardized to serve Nigiri-zushi cut into two pieces. Nigiri-zushi served in pairs spread after the war refers to the one which was made in pairs from the beginning, not cut into two pieces. It is said that a size determined as 'one and a half bites' changed to the current size during a period from around the Middle Meiji period to the prewar times, and there is a description that sushi was served one piece each until the Middle Showa period even after the size had changed. Meanwhile, some people count sushi served in pairs as one kan, but, the origin is unknown.

The information quoted above seems to be from the 'Dictionary of Counting Expressions' written by Asako IIDA and Ken MACHIDA, and published by Shogakukan Inc. in April 2004. As to this theory, the premise collapses in the case of 'one kanmon = 100 mon' in "Japanese Customary Practice of Counting" written and edited by Harutake IIKURA (published by Seishun Publishing Co., Ltd. in 2007). A theory that it originated from 'being equivalent to a clump of one-kan coins in size' is unreasonable in the sense of being almost equivalent to a clump of four-kilograms of copper coins in size (this book says that one kan of coins was equivalent to 1,000 or 960 mon). In 'All the More for Counting Expressions' also written by Asako IIDA, it was admitted that the survey had not been complete, and one kan of coins could not have been equivalent to a size of Nigiri-zushi. From the viewpoint in 'Zoku Zoku Bimigushin' (Delicacy Quest, third series) written by Kenjiro KINOSHITA in 1940, he said 200 pieces of Nigiri-zushi were made from two sho of rice, and that serving of Nigiri-zushi in pairs started after the war, a theory that Nigiri-zushi was cut into two pieces because it was too big is also unreasonable. Citing explanations made by Yasuo YOSHINO, 'All the More for Counting Expressions' (stated above) written by IIDA, also adopted a theory that serving in pairs became a custom when the size of Nigiri-zushi got smaller after the war. For counting two pieces as one kan, a logically consistent origin is not shown.

Questions and Answers about Japanese' (published by the National Institute for Japanese Language in March 2001) listed various theories of counting two pieces as one kan, but described that the theory of counting one piece as one kan was persuasive.

The origin of a word 'kan' is uncertain because of many theories, but there is a theory that one roll of Norimaki (or sushi in the rolled style such as Sasamaki-zushi (sushi wrapped in a bamboo grass leaf), Bo-zushi (rod-shaped sushi topped with large slice of fish, and so on) was counted as 'one kan' (in this case, 'kan' means roll). There are also other theories such as deriving from 'kan' (貫 in Chinese characters meaning penetration) referring to a thing connected by penetrating through a perforated coin in the Edo period, deriving from 'kan' referring to a unit of weight (also described as 貫 in Chinese characters), and so on.

Terms (technical terms)

Major terms used in Nigiri-zushi shops are as follows. However, these terms are not always used commonly throughout the nation, and some of them are not used in some regions. Basically, the following terms are jargon used among sushi chefs, and are not used by customers, but, some jargon like Toro (fatty tuna) and Gari (slices of ginger pickled in sweetened vinegar) are already used as a general noun.

Agari: Green tea
Powdered green tea is basically used in present-day sushi restaurants. This term originated from Agaribana (freshly brewed tea) served to guests at yukaku (a red-light district).

Aniki: Foodstuffs prepared before
This term means being relatively old. Shari prepared on the previous day is called 'Anchan (which has the same meaning as Aniki) no Shari' and so on.

Oaiso: Described as お愛想 in Japanese
This term means paying a bill. There is a theory that this term originated from a condition that even regular customers looked like they were running out of patience when leaving a restaurant after paying a bill. However, it is wrong for a customer to use this term when talking to a chef because this term originated from a phrase 'very sorry to ask you to pay the bill' said by a chef to a customer.
A correct term when a customer makes an offer is 'Okanjo.'
There is another theory that this term originated from a phrase, 'Take the (last) amiable attitude (toward a customer),' said to a hostess by a chef who received an offer for the bill.

Otesho: Small saucer to put soy sauce in
This term used to be used also at home.

Kappa: Cucumber

Gari: Slices of ginger pickled in sweetened vinegar
This term originated from its texture, and the sound of chewing it, gari gari.

Garage: Squilla
This term is a pun for 'garage' which has the same pronunciation as that of squilla in Japanese. This term can hardly be considered jargon.

Gyoku: Omelet, rolled omelet made with soup stock
This term originated from the pronunciation of the Chinese character of '玉' in the on-yomi style (Chinese reading).

Kusa: Dried seaweed
There is a theory that this term is an abbreviation of 'Asakusanori' (Asakusa laver).

Gunkan: Sushi made by wrapping shari with dried seaweed around its perimeter and placing neta on shari
This sushi is called Gunkanmaki (battleship roll sushi). This way of wrapping is used for neta that easily scatters such as sea urchin, salmon roe and so on.

Sabi: Abbreviation of wasabi

Shari: Vinegared rice
This term originated from shari of a Buddhist word, meaning, a word, zaali (शालि), meaning rice in Sanskrit. For reference, 'shari' of Busshari (Buddha's ashes) originated from a word, zariira (शरीर), meaning 'body,' and the same Chinese characters applied to both words in Sanskrit when they were translated into Chinese.
The latter theory of originating from Busshari already appeared in a description in Hizoki (an early Shingon text) that 'each grain of rice is called shari in India. Busshari also looks like a grain of rice. Therefore, it is called shari.'

Tsume: Salted and sweetened broth similar to broth for tsukudani (small fish, shellfish, konbu, etc. boiled in sweetened soy sauce), which is applied to neta with plain taste such as conger eel, cooked clam, and so on
This term is an abbreviation of nitsume (boiling down).

Debana: Green tea as well as Agari, but especially referring to green tea served first

Toro: Most fatty portion of tuna belly
The fatty portion is classified into 'Otoro' and 'Chutoro' in accordance with a degree of fat.

Namida: Wasabi
This term originated from an event where tears fall due to hot flavor irritating the nose.

Neta: Foodstuffs for sushi except for vinegared rice, dried seaweed, gourd strip and so on.
This term is the reverse reading of 'tane.'

Baran (plant) or Haran: Leaves of plants used for partitioning or decoration
Bamboo leaves are normally used in the Kanto region.

Murasaki: Soy sauce
A theory is that a term Murasaki (purple color), a color showing nobleness, was used because soy sauce was expensive. Another theory is that this term originated from a product by the name of Shiho Tsukuba (which contains a Chinese character referring to Murasaki; Mt. Tsukuba) seen from Tsuchiura. There is also another theory that this term originated from the purple color that was a symbolic color of the polar star because Kikko (hexagonal pattern) of tortoiseshell pattern used as a brand mark of Kikkoman Corporation was a symbol of the North Start belief (Myoken Bosatsu belief). There are many other theories such as simply originating from the color of soy sauce, and so on.

Murachoko: Saucer to put soy sauce in (small cup for soy sauce)

Yama: Nothing
This term means that neta has run out. Although it referred to bamboo leaves, 'Yama' is often used as a term meaning 'nothing' recently.

Maki-zushi (sushi roll)

This refers to sushi made by spreading vinegared rice over the dried seaweed, placing fillings such as cucumber, omelet, etc. on it, and rolling it with makisu ("sushi mat," bamboo mat used in food preparation). Maki-zushi is classified as follows.

Hosomaki (thin sushi roll) is an easy-to-eat sushi roll with a diameter of about three centimeters. It generally contains only one filling.

Futomaki (thick sushi roll) refers to sushi roll with a diameter of about five centimeters or above, and contains more than one filling. A big one is often eaten after cutting it into pieces about one centimeter thick, like small portions of Swiss roll and kintaroame (a long roll of hard candy).

Chumaki (medium-sized sushi roll) is mainly sold at takeout sushi shops after the Middle Showa period. This sushi roll has a diameter between the above two, and generally contains two or three fillings.

This is also called Norimaki (sushi roll), but refers to all sushi rolls in the broad sense. However, in the narrow sense of usage, the target differs depending on a region. In these years, sushi rolls using paper-thin omelets or lettuce instead of dried seaweed are seen. In addition, hand-rolled sushi made by wrapping rice and fillings with dried seaweed by hand, without using makisu, is also seen. Sushi made by wrapping dried seaweed around rice and after placing delicate fillings such as salmon roe, sea urchin, etc. in the rice is called 'battleship roll sushi,' but, this is considered as a kind of Nigiri-zushi.

Major kinds of Maki-zushi

Hosomaki

Tekkamaki (tuna sushi roll): Hosomaki using tuna as a filling
It is said that the name originated from tekkaba (gambling room).

Tekkamaki came into being out of an idea of developing food which a gambler could easily eat while gambling (same as in the case of sandwich which came into being out of the idea that Earl of Sandwich in England wanted to develop food which he could eat easily while playing his favorite card games). Since wrapping dried seaweed around shari prevents it from sticking to hands, keeping hands clean, Maki-zushi is convenient.

Negitoromaki: Hosomaki using Welsh onions and the fatty portion of tuna belly as fillings
Some are made using left-over flesh on the spine of tuna.

Kappamaki: Hosomaki using cucumber as a filling
Some shops and homes call this 'Kyurimaki.'
This name originated from kappa (water imp) which was fond of cucumbers.

Kanpyomaki (pickled gourd roll): Hosomaki using gourd strip (kanpyo in Japanese) which is boiled with sweetened soy sauce after rehydrating dried one, as a filling
(This is equivalent to Norimaki in the Kanto region.)

Nattomaki (fermented soybeans roll): Hosomaki using hikiwari natto (crashed natto) as a filling
Shiso (Japanese basil) is used preferably as green garnish.

Shinkomaki (pickled-vegetable sushi roll): Hosomaki using pickled cucumbers or Takuanzuke (yellow pickled radish) as a filling

Umejisomaki (Japanese ume plum and Japanese basil roll): Hosomaki using Umeboshi (pickled "ume" - Japanese plum) and shiso (Japanese basil) as fillings

Anakyumaki: Hosomaki using conger and cucumber as fillings
Broiled conger eels are used in the Kansai region which is the original place for this dish, but stewed conger eels are often used for broiled ones in other regions.

Himokyumaki: Hosomaki using the mantle of the ark shell and cucumber as fillings

Tsunamayomaki: Hosomaki using canned tuna tossed with mayonnaise as a filling

Futomaki

Fillings normally used are omelet, koyadofu (freeze-dried bean curd), gourd strip, Shiitake Mushroom, Judar's ear, denbu (mashed and seasoned fish, flesh of whitefish and shrimp that has been boiled, shredded, parched, seasoned and colored red), oboro, broiled conger eel, cucumber, Japanese honewort, and so on. Various kinds of foodstuffs are used depending on the region, restaurant or home, and Kaisenmaki (seafood sushi roll) using shrimp and raw fish as fillings is often done in these years.

Chumaki

Chumaki has a diameter between that of Futomaki and of Hosomaki, and usually contains more than one filling in many cases. Since Maki-zushi is recent, options for filling is rather free, and some Nakamaki contain neta such as fried prawns originally not used as fillings.

Uramaki (inside-out sushi roll)

This refers to Maki-zushi where dried seaweed is on the inside and vinegared rice is on the outside, different from normal Maki-zushi. This method of rolling is used mainly in the case of making California rolls for foreign people who are unfamiliar with raw fish and shellfish, and dried seaweed. Uramaki is made through the process of spreading vinegared rice over dried seaweed put on makisu, placing fillings on vinegared rice, covering it with plastic film, and rolling it. Uramaki is sometimes decorated with roe or sesame seeds.

Chirashi-zushi (vinegared rice with thin strips of egg, pieces of raw fish, vegetables and crab meat arranged on top)

Chirashi-zushi is often made at home, and is often served as homemade dish on days of hare and ke (sacred-profane dichotomy) such as rites and festivals. This is mainly classified into two groups.

Group of chirashi-zushi decorated with toppings placed over a bed of rice

This group includes Chirashi-zushi (placing foodstuffs used as toppings of Nigiri-zushi over the bed of vinegared rice) at Edomae-zushi (hand-rolled sushi) shops, Sake-zushi (a rice dish flavored with sake and mixed with vegetables and seafood) in Kagoshima Prefecture, and Bara-zushi (scattered sushi) in Okayama Prefecture and so on.

Group of Chirashi-zushi eaten by mixing rice with ingredients such as thin strips of raw fish and vegetables.

This kind of Chirashi-zushi is also called Bara-zushi or Bara-chirashi. As ingredients, paper-thin omelet, boiled dried Shiitake Mushroom, gourd strip, vinegared lotus root, shrimp, broiled conger eel are used frequently.

As an example other than the above, Tekone-zushi in Mie Prefecture is sometimes made by placing sliced raw fish over the bed of vinegared rice mixed with ingredients.

Each shop or home uses its own favorite ingredients, and fruits (apple, satsuma mandarin - Citrus unshu), cherry and so on) are sometimes used in some regions.

Oshi-zushi (lightly-pressed piece of sushi topped with cooked ingredients)

This refers to sushi made by layering rice and ingredients, and pressing them for a certain time. A group of Oshi-zushi includes, battera (mackerel sushi of Osaka) in Osaka Prefecture which is most popular Saba-zushi (rod-shaped sushi topped with mackerel), Bo-zushi (rod-shaped sushi topped with a large slice of fish) topped with mackerel in Kyoto Prefecture, Masu-zushi (round sushi topped with salmon) in Toyama Prefecture, Oshi-zushi topped with aji (Japanese horse mackerel), Sanma-zushi (sushi bar topped with saury), Gozaemon Zushi in Tottori Prefecture, Kaku Zushi in Hiroshima Prefecture, and Iwakuni Zushi (local pressed sushi in Yamaguchi Prefecture) in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

It is believed that sushi that Ishimatsu MORINO recommended to a native of Edo born in Kanda by saying 'Eat, eat, eat this sushi,' which was described in 'Ishimatsu on board Sanjukkoku-bune' of 'SHIMIZU no Jirocho den' (biography of SHIMIZU no Jirocho), was 'Oshizushi,' famous product of Osaka Honmachibashi Bridge.

Nare-zushi

Nare-zushi (described as 馴れ寿司 or 熟寿司 in Japanese) refers to sushi made through processes of mixing fish with salt and rice, preserving it for a long time and fermenting it by the action of lactbacillus. Originally, only the fish was preserved with salt and was fermented in a natural way, but, it is said that rice was added in order to promote fermentation in around the sixteenth century. Formerly, half-molten rice was removed after the long-term fermentation, and only the acidulated fish was eaten. However, even though it was being fermented and had an acid taste, if grains of rice maintained their original shape, the fish under maturation was called 'namanare' or 'namanari,' and was sometimes eaten along with its surrounding rice. Nare-zushi of sweetfish (Ayu-zushi - fermented sushi with sweetfish) in Wakayama Prefecture, Hatahata-zushi (Sandfish sushi) in Akita Prefecture are named, and especially, Funa-zushi (crucian carp sushi) in Shiga Prefecture is famous as the only 'honnare' (genuine fermented sushi) existing now in Japan. Koji (malted rice) is sometimes added like Kabura-zushi (yellowtail sushi) in Ishikawa Prefecture and Izushi (fermented pressed sushi) in Hokkaido. Narezushi is regarded as an original form of sushi. It is said that although people dislike the distinctive smell of decay before getting used to it, Nare-zushi is as delicious and addicts people when they get used to such smell, because protein of fish meat is broken down into amino acid which brings a delicious taste.

Inari-zushi (fried tofu stuffed with vinegared rice)

The name, Inari-zushi, originated from a fact that abura-age (deep-fried bean curd) was a favorite food of the fox deeply related to a belief in Inari. "Morisada Manko" (a kind of encyclopedia of folkways and other affairs in the Edo period written by Morisada KITAGAWA) had descriptions that 'sushi made through processes of making a pouch by cutting one side of abura-age, and putting vinegared rice mixed with chopped Juda's ear, gourd strips and so on in the pouch had been sold (in the city of Edo) since the last year of Tenpo era. Inari-zushi was sold at shops before the Tenpo era, and its price was the lowest.
Inari-zushi existed in Nagoya long before, and was called Inari-zushi or Shinoda-zushi.'
"Tengen hikki" (established in the Meiji period) described that sushi stuffed with rice and tofugara (leftover after making tofu) (okara - bean curd residue) was eaten with soy sauce mixed with wasabi paste, and also that 'it was really gechoku (low price).'
An illustration in "Kinseshobaizukushikuruiutaawase" in 1852 (The Collection of Comic Tanka (kyoka) on Modern Jobs) showed a scene where slender Inari-zushi, that does not exist nowadays, were being sold by pieces at street stalls.

Present-day Inari-zushi is made by stuffing abura-age opened in the form of pouch with only vinegared rice or with vinegared rice mixed with carrots, Shiitake Mushroom, sesame seeds.
The latter is sometimes called 'gomokuinari.'
The shape of inari-zushi differs accordingly because of the way it is divided around the prefectural boundary of Gifu like square in areas east of Gifu and triangular in areas west of Gifu.

An assortment of Inari-zushi and Maki-zushi is called sukeroku. This name was after a pun for a relationship between the words of 'age' and 'maki' and the word of agemaki (name of Oiran (prostitute) appearing in "Sukeroku" of Kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors).

Local sushi

Sushi eaten in various places has variety, and many are rarely seen in other regions.

Kansaizushi

Kansaizushi is a general name of local sushi mainly in the Kansai region. Hako-zushi (pressed sushi) which is representative of Osakazushi, battera, a kind of Oshi-zushi using toppings marinated in vinegar, Bara-zushi (gomoku zushi - vinegared rice mixed with various vegetable, fish and other ingredients), Maki-zushi are also included. Kansaizushi places importance on the taste of the rice and ingredients, not on their freshness, and the taste hardly changes when it is taken home.

Battera

This name originated from bateira (small boat or boat) in Portuguese. Since a wooden mold for Oshi-zushi had a similar shape to a boat, sushi was called as above. This is a kind of Oshi-zushi made through processes of placing mackerel marinated in vinegar over vinegared rice, and placing various kinds of processed food such as konbu (kelp) over the mackerel. The process using vinegar improves the shelf life and also holds down fishy smell, and konbu adds flavor and texture. The finished product has an elongate shape because one side of the mackerel is used, and is cut into bite-sized pieces at the time of eating. Battera came to be known nationwide in these years, and is sometimes sold at sushi shops in regions other than Kansai.

Futomakizushi

As ingredients to provide sweetness, koyadofu (freeze-dried bean curd) and Shiitake Mushroom which are boiled down are used, but denbu (mashed and seasoned fish, flesh of whitefish and shrimp that has been boiled, shredded, parched, seasoned and colored red) and oboro are seldom used. Therefore, when comparing to other regions, this sushi is slightly sweet and filling. Another characteristic is that a broiled conger eel, a specialty of Setouchi, is often used.

Chakin-zushi (sushi wrapped in a layer of paper-thin omelet)

This refers to sushi made through processes of wrapping vinegared rice mixed with Shiitake Mushroom and carrots with paper-thin omelet in the form of pouch, tying its mouth with a gourd strip, and being topped with a small shrimp. Kyotaru Company, Limited is considered to be its originator.

Kakinoha-zushi (persimmon leaf sushi)

Kakinoha-zushi refers to sushi wrapped with a persimmon leaf, and is one of the local Japanese dishes in Nara, Wakayama, and Ishikawa Prefectures. For information, the method of making and shaping differ between Kakinoha-zushi in Nara and Wakayama Prefectures and Kakinoha-zushi in Ishikawa Prefecture.

Persimmon leaves preserved in salt are mainly used in Nara. Although the fermentation was originally mainstream, Kakinoha-zushi sold at stations and airports are often made using flavored vinegared rice to increase productivity and is shipped after one- or two-day storage. Originally, only the mackerel preserved in salt was used, but, salmon, small sea bream, conger eel was also used later on.

Mehari-zushi (rice ball wrapped with leaf mustard)

Mehari-zushi is also one of the local dishes in Nara and Wakayama Prefectures (and in the Kumano region of Mie Prefecture). Differently from sushi topped with mackerel, Mehari-zushi refers to sushi made through processes of wrapping vinegared rice (or white rice) with lightly pickled leaf mustard as it is, and is formed so as to be suitable for carrying like rice balls.

Saba-zushi (rod-shaped sushi topped with mackerel)

Saba-zushi is one of local dishes in the region of Wakasa Province, Kyoto City and Sanin region. Saba-zushi is made through processes of placing one side of a salted mackerel over the rectangular-shaped vinegared rice, wrapping it with tangle used for stock, forming it with bamboo screen, and wrapping it with peeled bamboo. Different from Battera stated above, the process of forming in the mold is not done. In Kyoto where salted mackerel, part of salted and dried marine products, brought from the Wakasa region was a valuable marine product before cold-storage technology was developed, this sushi was rooted (for details, refer to Saba-kaido Road (the highway used to transport fish such as 'saba' - mackerel - to Japan's ancient capital, Kyoto). Roasted mackerel is sometimes used as a topping in Sanin and Wakasa, and especially in the Izumo region, this type has been eaten on a daily basis as 'Yakisaba-zushi' (rod-shaped sushi topped with roasted mackerel) since the Edo period. This Yakisaba-zushi became famous nationwide because it was reported by mass media as a representative of 'soraben' (a box lunch sold at airports).

Recently, due to problems of fish hauls and means of transport, one-of-a-kind Saba-zushi has been increasing such as 'Torosaba-bozushi (rod-shaped sushi topped with fatty mackerel) topped with 'Hachinohe mae okisaba' mackerel (mackerel caught in the offing of Hachinone) (commonly called Torosaba) containing at least twenty-on percent fat, which was not distributed across the country.

Shima-zushi (island sushi)

Shima-zushi is one of local dishes of the Izu Island chain and Ogasawasa Islands of Tokyo. Fish caught near the islands are soaked in soy sauce and used as an ingredient. Shima-zushi is made through a process in line with a climate and food situation of islands like using red peppers and mustard instead of wasabi which is unobtainable in the islands.

Nuku-zushi (warm sushi)

This sushi refers to warm Bara-zushi (scattered sushi), also called Nuku-zushi (warm sushi) or Mushi-zushi (steamed sushi), which was handed down in the Chugoku and Shikoku regions in the west of Kansai. Nukui,' a common dialect in the said regions, means 'warm,' and this sushi is served only in winter in regions where this dialect is used commonly. After being colorfully decorated with broiled conger eels, shrimps, whitefish, Kinshitamago (thinly shredded egg omelet), snow peas, gingko nuts, sakura denbu and so on over the vinegared rice of Bara-zushi, this sushi is steamed with seiro (bamboo steamer) and eaten. Although it is considered to have come into being in Osaka (or Kyoto), and it has been existing since the Meiji period, Nuku-zushi was removed from the menu in many regions because it might be unprofitable because of the time-consuming cooking. At present, this sushi is served during a period from December to around March as local dishes at sushi restaurants in the cities of Osaka, Kyoto, Okayama, Onomichi and Matsuyama. Some restaurants serve sushi in a bowl covered with a lid after steaming it with seiro, but some serve sushi in individual-sized seiro after steaming it.

Method of preserving seafood which has led to sushi

"Cultivated Plants and the Origin of Agriculture" (1966) written by Sasuke NAKAO described that this method was one of cultural complexes of swidden cultivation of 'hill folks in Laos and tribe doing swidden agriculture in Borneo Island.'
"Sushi Book" (1970) written by Osamu SHINODA described that preserved food of fish meat of hill folks in Southeast Asia was the origin of sushi, and was developed as a means of preservation of fish which was seldom available due to the highlands. "Dietary Culture in Monsoon Asia based on the Research on fish sauce (soy sauce-like fish sauce) and Nare-zushi" (1990) written by Naomichi ISHIGE and Kenneth RUDDLE took plains in the northwestern part of Kingdom of Thailand and in Myanmar for instance, and described that the method to preserve seafood which was established along with rice cropping in paddy lands was handed down to subsequent generations.

In China, the character '鮨' appeared in "Jiga" (Erya) established in the fifth to third centuries BC, and Jiga had a description that 'fish was so-called sushi.'
"Shakumei" (Etymological Dictionary) established at the end of the second century described that '鮓' referred to pickled fish (pickled with salt and rice), and was eaten after being fermented.'
However, after "Guangya" (Expanded Erya) edited in around the third century, '鮓' (pickled fish) was defined to be the same as '鮨' (salted fish) which had been defined as being different, which showed that '鮓' was not such a popular food. Based on various kinds of records, Osamu SHINODA positioned it as 'foreign food originating from the southern area' of China (which means the Han race here), that is to say, food imported from Southeast Asia.

"Yoro ritsuryo code" (code promulgated in the Yoro period) (718), one of the Japan's oldest reference records, and "Shozeicho" (balance sheets of tax rice) (729 - 749) also had descriptions of sushi, and it is considered that sushi had existed long before the reference records. Osamu SHINODA, Naomichi ISHIGE and so on considered that this sushi had been foreign food, and had been imported to Kyushu in Japan from areas around the Yangtze River in China, along with a rice-producing culture. "Shinsenjikyo" (899-901) defined a pronunciation of '鮓' as '酒志' (sushi), and "Wamei-ruijusho" (encyclopedia edited in the Heian period) defined a pronunciation of '鮨' as '須之' (sushi).

Sushi in Japan

In 'Shukeishiki' of the "Engishiki" (927) in the Heian period, tribute articles from various districts were recorded, and many words of 鮓 and 鮨 were found in such records. A characteristic was that many of tribute articles were contributed from northern part of Kyushu, northern part of Shikoku, Kinki and Chubu district, but none were forthcoming from areas north of Kanto. Although materials were scarce to learn the detailed process used at that time, it is believed that sushi originated from 'honnare' sushi (genuine fermented sushi) referring to Nare-zushi which was made by fermenting fish (or meat) with salt and rice, and was eaten after removing rice (Kumano region has yogurt-like 鮓 (sushi) called 'Honnare-zushi,').

In "The Diary of Chikamoto NINAGAWA" (1473 - 1486) in the Muromachi period, sushi named 'namanare' appeared.
(For reference, the term 'honnare' was a word coined by succeeding generations against namanare.)
Namanare refers to sushi that was slightly fermented, and eaten with rice. Honnare mostly remains only as 'Funa-zushi' in Shiga Prefecture, but namanare remains as a local dish in various places in Japan.
A reason why namanare remains today in many places may be that short-time fermented makes it eatable earlier, but, in "Face of Sushi" written by Terutoshi HIBINO, he pointed that this might be because people felt that 'it would be a waste to discard the rice.'

With the passage of time, various methods were used to accelerate the fermentation of sushi like using sake, sake lees, or koji. And from the 1600s, examples of using vinegar came to be seen here and there.
"Nabae" (Essay of Yasutaka OKAMOTO) written by Yasutaka OKAMOTO described 'a doctor whose name was Yoshiichi MATSUMOTO, invented sushi using vinegar in the Empo era (1673 - 1680), and this sushi was called Matsumoto-zushi.'
However, Terutoshi HIBINO mentioned that 'it was hard to regard him as the inventor' because there were no other materials on 'Matsumoto-zushi,' and a cook book before the Empo era also described sushi using vinegar. Regardless of who invented sushi, as a result of using vinegar in making sushi, and the advancement in technology of brewing vinegar, sushi which was acidulated with vinegar without waiting for fermentation, so-called 'Haya-zushi,' came into being.

Origin of new sushi

Senryu (humorous or ironical haiku), 'Form rice of sushi by hand as quickly as a sorcerer forms a round shape with fingers,' in "Yanagidaru" (a collection of senryu) (1829; year when the haiku was made was 1827) was the first description of Nigiri-zushi appearing in literatures. It is said that Nigiri-zushi was invented by Yohe HANAYA of 'Yohe's Sushi,' or by Matsugoro SAKAIYA of 'Matsu no Sushi' (commonly called name; original name of shop was Isago Sushi). (For details, refer to Edomae-zushi). According to "Morisada Manko," conventional sushi in Edo mainly referred to Kansai-style Oshi-zushi. However, when it was invented, Nigiri-zushi instantly became popular among Edo natives, and was sold everywhere in the city, and at the end of Bunsei era, shops selling 'Edo Sushi' also appeared in Kansai. In the last year (1844) of the Tenpo era, a 'sushi vendor' who carried Inari-zushi about for sale also appeared. At around this time, Maki-zushi also took root, and at the end of Edo period when the atmosphere of Restoration came close, a line-up of sushi which is also popular today came into being in a burst.

From around 1897, due to industrialized ice making, even sushi restaurants could easily obtain ice, and some restaurants started the installation of electric refrigerators at around the end of the Meiji period. The progress in fishing methods of coastal fisheries and in the distribution also led to a dramatic improvement of the environment handling fresh fish and shellfish. Foodstuffs for Edomae-Nigiri-zushi which used to be vinegared, soaked in soy sauce or cooked came to be used in fresh gradually in many cases. It was also the time when the number of kinds increased, nigiri (a rice ball) which used to be big was downsized, and a transformation to a form similar to present-day Nigiri-zushi started.

It is said that as a result of dispersal of sushi chefs from Tokyo devastated by the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, Edomae-zushi spread all over Japan.

Sushi after the war

Soon after the World War II, under circumstances where food control was strict, the Emergency Restaurant Business Measures Ordinance was enacted in 1947, and it became impossible to openly operate sushi restaurants. In Tokyo, volunteers of sushi shops association stood up for a negotiation, and succeeded in obtaining an official business license processing on commission to make a trade of one go (unit of volume, approx. 0.18 liters) of rice for ten pieces of Nigiri-zushi (or four rolls of Maki-zushi). Since sushi shops not only in Kansai but also in various places in Japan followed this, only Edomae-zushi came to be sold at sushi shops across the country. For reference, if ten pieces of Nigiri-zushi had been made from one go of rice, the size of nigiri would have been rather big, and been as big as nigiri recalling the size of nigiri, so-called 'large piece,' in the period from the Edo period to the beginning of Meiji period.
A sushi chef knowing that time said, 'we have operated a shop by preparing a bag to put dummy rice in and putting the bag at the shop to get away from the control.'

In the high-growth period after the war, street stalls were already abolished on hygienic grounds, and although there were shops serving sushi at a moderate price, the idea that sushi restaurants were classified as high-class restaurants took root. Comics settling on the subject matter of office worker often showed a situation where a husband going bar-hopping until late at night bought and brought a box lunch of sushi in order to pay his court to his wife. Heiroku Sushi,' "conveyor belt" sushi bar, opened in Osaka in 1958, and 'Kyotaru Company, Limited' and 'Kozosushi So-Honbu Co., Ltd.,' takeout sushi shops selling sushi at a moderate price, also opened. In around 1980, due to such sushi bars and shops completely became popular in various places in Japan and was visited by families, sushi regained the common touch.

"How to Make Home-Made Sushi" written in 1910 by Seizaburo KOIZUMI who was a descendent of Yohe HANAYA already introduced peppered Maki-zushi using ham (or cold meat) as a filling, and Edomae-zushi (Haya-zushi) had an aptitude for accepting various kinds of foodstuffs. In the 1970s, sushi had a burst of popularity mainly on the West Coast of the United States, and the 'California roll' developed under such circumstance had a great success and was brought back also to Japan. New ingredients for sushi and sushi' in the "Textbook of Sushi Techniques" in 1975 introduced as many as 100 kinds of new ingredients for sushi such as caviar, porcino, lobster, natto (fermented soybeans), junsai (water shield) and so on. Present-day sushi shops serve each and every kind of foodstuff as sushi, while sushi shops which stick to classical foodstuffs and technique also enjoy high popularity, and are regarded as a high-class restaurants serving expensive sushi. Sushi is a cuisine eaten out in most cases, as home-made sushi decreases.

To the world's 'sushi'

When the long national isolation ended and the Meiji period started, many Japanese people emigrated to South America and North America as immigrants, and Japanese communities were established in various places. It was 1887 when 'Yamatoya,' the first Japanese restaurant in the United States of America, opened in San Francisco. In Los Angeles, 'Miharashi-tei,' Japanese restaurant, opened in 1893 in an area which came to be called little Tokyo later, a soba restaurant opened in 1903, a restaurant of tenpura (Japanese deep-fried dish) opened in 1905, and a sushi restaurant opened in 1906. Japanese restaurants in little Tokyo before the war played the role of a cafeteria mainly for Japanese-Americans in a community which expanded to the scale of several tens of thousands of people at the maximum. However, the Japanese-American community broke down in the form of compulsory confinement because Japan became an adversarial country during World War II.

For a while after the war, little Tokyo had only one sushi restaurant which started operation in the 1930s and served Inari-zushi, Maki-zushi, and sushi just topped with fish on the cut-out vinegared rice. A glass box to put ingredients in was shipped overseas in 1962, and a 'sushi bar' equipped with authentic sushi counter was established in the corner of 'Kawafuku,' long-established Japanese restaurant. After that, 'Sakaegiku,' and 'Tokyo Kaikan' which invented the California roll were also equipped with glass cases in 1965, and the number of 'sushi bars' increased to three. Initially, there were almost no white people who ate sushi, but, in the 1970s sushi came to be accepted in white society, and grew to the extent of being called a sushi boom in the latter half of the 1970s.

Reasons why the resistance to raw fish and dried laver was removed and sushi grew to the extent of being called a boom were that an image that sushi was low in fat and a healthy food took root, and the style of ordering sushi to a sushi chef face-to-face over the counter interested them. A Customer enjoyed sushi specially made for him/her by taking a seat in front of sushi chef familiar to him/her and ordering this and that like ordering cocktail at a bar, and a sushi chef invented new sushi one after another in order to respond to a customer's request using a character of Maki-zushi that it was easier to give a variety to Maki-zushi than to Nigiri-zushi.
In addition, under the encouragement of a topic that a Jewish lawyer who was attracted by sushi opened a sushi restaurant by headhunting a sushi chef, and famous Hollywood actors and actresses with whom such lawyer had many contacts visited the restaurant every night, it became a status symbol to become a regular customer of a sushi restaurant, a so-called 'sushi connoisseur.'

Due to synergic effect of subsequent Japanese economic foray, a sushi boom ignited in Los Angeles rapidly spread to various places in the world, mainly in the United States of America. In 1983, 'Hatsuhana,' sushi restaurant in New York, was rated as a 4-star restaurant in the restaurant assessment by the New York Times, which showed that by around this time, an image was improved to the extent that a sushi restaurant valued as being equivalent to a high-class French restaurant appeared. At present, 'sushi' is part representative of Japanese food as well as teriyaki and tenpura, and many Japanese restaurants outside Japan contain sushi on their menus. Sushi enjoys high popularity especially in North America, and it's not rare that sushi is also sold at supermarkets even in local cities as well as in big cities.

Sushi restaurants around the world operated by and serve sushi prepared by non-Japanese people such as Chinese or Korean people have increased, and a percentage of sushi restaurants which are operated by and serve sushi prepared by Japanese people have decreased relatively.
Therefore, even dishes prepared in a manner largely far (or departing) from a Japanese traditional manner of preparing sushi came to be sold as 'sushi.'
Some sushi shops serve cuisine made by just putting fish or Chinese food on non-vinegared rice as 'sushi.'
(For the part about training of sushi chef outside Japan, refer to 'Sushi chef' stated above.)

For this reason, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Japan announced a plan to 'assess Japanese food for the purpose of correct understanding of Japanese food' covering Japanese restaurants outside Japan. Some Western countries considered that such plan might disturb the birth of a new food culture, and took a critical look at the plan. An expression that the 'Sushi Police are coming!' used in the article dated December 24, 2006 of the Washington Post, newspaper in the United States of America, was also picked up excessively also in Japan.

Even in Russia achieving a remarkable economic growth, the sushi boom rises, and fanciers of sushi increase mainly in the wealthier categories. Due to spread of sushi culture worldwide by Japanese people, another phenomenon that prices of ingredients for sushi rise suddenly occurs.

Form of sale and consumption

Sushi is served as a dish in sushi shops including sushi restaurants, "conveyor belt" sushi bar and so on. Sushi restaurants sometimes provide a home-delivery service. In the case of home-delivery service, a size of one piece of Nigiri-zushi is often bigger than that served in the restaurant. Reasons why sushi served in the restaurant is made smaller are that a restaurant hopes customers will order more pieces of sushi, and a small size may be better when sushi is eaten as nibbles for drinks. It is said that a larger piece of home-delivered sushi means a restaurant's courtesy containing an apology for lost freshness.

Assorted sushi box or small packs containing about two pieces of Nigiri-zushi are sold at a sozai corner (selling corner of daily dish) of supermarkets or at underground sozai corner of department stores. Some chain sushi shops sell takeout sushi in the form of shop selling bentos (lunch box). Maki-zushi and Chirashi-zushi are often made at home.

Although sushi used to be actively sold outdoors, many street stalls selling food using fresh food such as sushi and so on were controlled on hygienic grounds by the beginning of Showa period. Street stalls handling sushi appeared in Korea and the Kingdom of Thailand in recent years, but it is preferable to pay attention when eating it.

Sanitation

Nigiri-zushi is made through a process of combining vinegared rice with perishable seafood by hand, and bacterial contamination is inevitable in the process. Therefore, it is preferable to eat sushi immediately after making it in summer. Since there is a risk that the odor will spread to rice or neta, it is considered that strong-smelling strong detergent, bactericide and so on are not used to wash hands. However, sushi chefs make efforts to wash hands carefully after going to the toilet. Some people say that since cooked rice is sticky in general, most dirty things and pathogenic bacteria are removed after making at least ten pieces of Nigiri-zushi. Furthermore, vinegar (acetic acid) has an antiseptic effect. Some customers may care about sanitation like refraining from ordering sushi for a while after a sushi chef leaves from and returns to the counter. However, in any way, this is a matter of imagination, and it is true that sushi is safe food from the viewpoint of actual hygiene.

In other countries, work done by hand is considered unsanitary, and there are regulations demanding sushi chefs wear thin rubber gloves or plastic gloves, but, Japan has no such custom because a method of preparing seafood eaten in fresh by hand is a very general method conducted even at home, and it is considered that rubber gloves or plastic gloves may dull a delicate sense of touch by chef's fingers. However, sushi chefs making takeout sushi at supermarkets or making sushi at "conveyor belt" sushi bars sometimes wear gloves even in Japan.
Nowadays, thanks to worldwide popularity of Japanese food, there is also a tendency to consider that 'sushi made by hand is the best' among non-Japanese people calling themselves so-called 'connoisseurs.'
This does not only stick to a tradition, but there is a reason that western people want to protect their own image that 'Japanese sushi chefs are as hygienic and clean not causing food poisoning even when making sushi by hand.'

Check

Many sushi restaurants do not present a price for each piece of sushi. It is said that this is because ingredients for sushi are affected by market prices. Of course, if being asked, a staff will definitely give information on prices.