Shiki Facts

The History of Sushi

How Sushi Began: The History

Sushi has been around for a surprisingly long period of time, although not in its present form. It has changed greatly and become an art form as well as a creative and tasty dining experience. The history of sushi is an interesting tale of the evolution of a now both simple and complicated food. What was to become modern sushi was first mentioned in China in the second century A.D. Originally, sushi arose out of a way of preserving food. Fish was placed in rice and allowed to ferment, which allowed an individual to keep the fish edible for some time as the fermentation of foods with the right kinds of bacteria is not just safe, but can be quite nutritious as well. The rice was thrown away and the fish was eaten when needed or wanted.

The method spread throughout China and by the seventh century, had made its way to Japan, where seafood has historically been a staple. The Japanese, however, took the concept further and began to eat the rice with the fish. Originally, the dish was prepared in much the same manner. In the early 17th century, however, Matsumoto Yoshiichi, living in Edo (the city we now know as Tokyo) starting seasoning the rice with rice wine vinegar while making his ‘sushi’ for sale. This allowed the dish to be eaten immediately, instead of waiting the months it might normally take to prepare the ‘sushi.’

The Evolution of Sushi: From Then to Now

In the early 19th century, a man by the name of Hanaya Yohei conceived a major change in the production and presentation of his sushi. No longer wrapping the fish in rice, he placed a piece of fresh fish on top of an oblong shaped piece of seasoned rice. Today, we call this style ‘nigiri sushi’ (finger sushi) or “edomae sushi” (from Edo, the name of Tokyo at the time) and is now the common way of eating Japanese sushi. At that time, sushi was served from sushi stalls on the street and was meant to be a snack or quick bite to eat on the go. Served from his stall, this was not only the first of the real ‘fast food’ sushi, but quickly became wildly popular. From his home in Edo, this style of serving sushi rapidly spread throughout Japan, aided by the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923, as many people lost their homes and businesses and moved from Tokyo.

After World War Two, the sushi stalls were shut down and moved indoors, to more sanitary conditions. More formal seating was later provided (the first iterations were merely an indoor version of the outdoor sushi stalls) and sushi changed from ‘fast food’ to a true dining experience. Sushi spread around the globe, and with the advent of the promotion of seafood, this unusual style of serving seafood was quickly adopted by western cultures, always eager for something new, especially something that had grown as sophisticated and unique as sushi.

Modern Sushi: What We Know!

Sushi is one of the most widely-eaten foods across the country. Even the least-adventurous diners among us have likely at least tried a sushi roll such as a California roll – and thanks to the continuous spirit of innovation among chefs, there are always new rolls and dishes to try.

This centuries-old Japanese staple has become a modern classic, and there are now hundreds of different sushi rolls you can try – with new rolls being created every day. From sushi using non-traditional ingredients such as raw and cooked beef, to other modern innovations like sushi bowls and sushi burritos, chefs all around the country are constantly trying new things.

Even if you’ve never been a fan of traditional sushi rolls, it’s easier than ever to find a sushi roll that you’ll enjoy. And the history of this dish is far from over – in fact, it’s still being written! In the future, we expect that more chefs will continue to experiment just like Hanaya Yohei did – and craft new dishes using raw fish and other traditional sushi ingredients.

We can’t wait to see what the future will hold. But, until then, expect to find us holding a pair of chopsticks in one hand, a glass of sake in the other, and sampling all of the current sushi rolls and dishes that are on offer at sushi joints across the country. Join us, won’t you? And don’t forget to bring your appetite.


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