History of Sushi
The traditional form of sushi is fermented fish and rice, preserved with
salt in a process that has been traced to
Southeast Asia, where it remains popular today. The term sushi
comes from an archaic grammatical form no longer used in other contexts;
literally, "sushi" means "it's sour", a reflection of its historic fermented
The science behind the fermentation of fish packed in rice is that the
vinegar produced from fermenting rice breaks the fish down into
acids. This results in one of the five basic tastes, called
Japanese. The oldest form of sushi in Japan, Narezushi still very
closely resembles this process. In Japan, Narezushi evolved into Oshizushi
and ultimately Edomae nigirizushi, which is what the world today knows as
Contemporary Japanese sushi has little resemblance to the traditional
lacto-fermented rice dish. Originally, when the
fermented fish was taken out of the rice, only the fish was consumed and
the fermented rice was discarded. The strong-tasting and -smelling
funazushi, a kind of narezushi made near
in Japan, resembles the traditional fermented dish. Beginning in the
Muromachi period (AD 1336�C1573) of Japan,
was added to the mixture for better taste and preservation. The vinegar
accentuated the rice's sourness, and was known to increase its life span,
fermentation process to be shortened and eventually abandoned. In the
following centuries, sushi in
into oshi-zushi. The seafood and rice were pressed using wooden
(usually bamboo) molds. By the mid 18th century, this form of sushi had
The contemporary version, internationally known as "sushi," was invented
Hanaya Yohei (�A������l; 1799�C1858) at the end of
period in Edo.
The sushi invented by Hanaya was an early form of fast food that was not
fermented (therefore prepared quickly) and could be eaten with one's hands
roadside or in a theatre. Originally, this sushi was known as Edomae
zushi, because it used freshly caught fish in the Edo-mae (Edo
Tokyo Bay). Though the fish used in modern sushi no longer usually comes
from Tokyo Bay, it is still formally known as Edomae nigirizushi.
Sushi is a typical Japanese food with over a thousand years of history
and tradition. It has become perhaps the most visible example of Japanese
cuisine in other countries. Consists of cold cooked rice dressed with
vinegar that is shaped into bite-sized pieces and topped with raw or cooked
fish, or formed into a roll with fish, egg, or vegetables and wrapped in
seaweed or stuffed in a small tofu pouch.
Below is a list of the most important etiquette at a sushi bar:
1. Never "whittle" your chopsticks.
If you have to, do it under the table so the chef can't see you! Doing so
implies that the chef is cheap.
2. If you use your chopsticks to pick at a communal dish, use the back ends
of your chopsticks.
Never pass a piece of food with your chopsticks to another person's
chopsticks, as this maneuver is reserved for handling cremated bones.
3. No soup spoons.
Lift your soup bowl to your mouth, and use chopsticks to push the solids
towards you. "Slurping" is for noodles but be respectful of others at the
4. Eat the sliced pickled ginger with chopsticks as a palate refresher not
as a salad. The taste is quite strong, and these are only meant to be taken
in small doses between dishes.
5. Dipping sauce mixing: You are adding a touch of flavor, NOT immersing
every grain of rice.
Mix just enough soy to use; leaving a pool of soy mix is both wasteful and
insulting. It is also good manners to only use sauce on the fish part of
your sushi, not the rice.
6. Eat all you take.
Try to eat all the food that is ordered, as it is considered bad manners to
7. It is generally considered best form to eat sushi in one bite.
In Japan, sushi is served in small, bite-sized pieces. In the U.S., the size
of sushi pieces tends to be a little larger, but most should still be edible
in one piece.
8. Depending on how traditional the sushi bar is: Ordering anything more
than sushi and sashimi from the chef behind the bar is considered rude.
Order everything else from the waiter/waitress. You can tell the sushi chef
when you are done, but ask the waiter/waitress for the check. In Japan the
people who handle food do not handle the money.
9. DO NOT ASK YOUR SUSHI CHEF "Is that fish fresh?" Of course it��s fresh or
the chef should not be serving it.
Try the fish; if it is not fresh, don't go back!
10. You are not expected to offer a drink to your sushi chef.
If you do have a drink with him, he will likely toast to your health (Kampai).
Sometimes buying a drink for your sushi chef will get you a free special
sushi roll or something similar, but don��t rely on it!
11. Use the wasabi sparingly.
Used originally in the 19th century to kill parasites in the sushi fish, it
is a common misconception that wasabi is a Japanese horseradish. It is
true, however, that many restaurants outside of Japan use dyed horseradish
to imitate it. Whichever version you have in front of you, beware, it is
12. Clean your hands before visiting the sushi bar.
When your waiter or waitress brings you a hot towel before the meal,
remember that it is for wiping your hands.
13. Sushi is finger food.
You may use chopsticks to pick up the sushi pieces, but they may be clumsy
tools. Using your fingers in this case is perfectly acceptable.
14. Leave a tip.
Although in Japan the service charge is included with the total cost of the
meal, American sushi bars are different and work on the same tipping
principle that every other restaurant does.
15. Learn a few Japanese phrases.
As with any culture, it is polite to learn a little bit of the language, if
only to show your respect.
means ��thank you��; and
can be used as ��excuse me�� when you want to call the waiter or waitress.
Traditionally the Japanese will say
at the beginning of a meal, and
at the end. Although not every sushi bar is managed by Japanese-speaking
people, many of them are and it is very good manners to be prepared.
16. Don��t pour sake for yourself.
If you are at a sushi bar with someone you respect you should show proper
respect by filling their sake cup when empty. Not showing this respect can
be considered rude. Usually the younger person or junior person in the
company will pour for the older person or more senior in the company.
17. Don��t ask for a knife.
Sushi is not a tough food; your fingers or chopsticks are all the tools you
18. Ask the chef for a fish recommendation.
Fish is a seasonal animal, and the catch of the day will vary throughout the
year. Asking the chef for his opinion not only shows that you respect him,
but will likely get you top-quality sushi.
19. Know a little bit about the sushi. Nigiri sushi
is fish or roe over balls of rice;
are rolls of sushi;
is a hand roll of sushi;
is raw fish with no rice. Read our sushi guides for more information!
20. Do not smoke at the sushi bar!
Heavy smells, including perfume and aftershave will cover up any subtleties
in the food and will disturb any other people sitting next to you at the