Sushi 101 Story of Sushi 2018-01-30T20:49:29+00:00

History of Sushi

To unearth the beginnings of sushi, we have to go back hundreds of years ago to ancient Asia – specifically Southeast Asia – where something called narezushi, or fermented sushi, was first developed. This ancient sushi was actually a way to preserve fish by salting it, wrapping it in fermented rice and then storing it in barrels for months at a time. The fermented rice kept fish from spoiling and was usually discarded when the fish was ready to be eaten.

Eventually this fish preservation technique made its way to South China, before arriving in Japan around the eighth century. That’s right, more than 1,000 years ago – we’re talking ancient food here!


More time passed and our ancient sushi evolved once again into haya-zushi, or fast-sushi, during the Edo period in Japan (17th – 19th century). This new haya-sushi was assembled so that both the rice and fish could be consumed at the same time. For the first time in ancient sushi history, the rice was not used for fermentation; and vinegar was introduced to the rice!

Fast forward a few hundred years to the Muromachi period in Japan (14th – 16th century), where the ancient narezushi was replaced by namanare, which means semi-fermented. Namanare was partly-raw fish that was wrapped in rice and consumed fresh before it changed flavors. This sushi was no longer simply a way to preserve the fish, but rather a new dish in Japanese cuisine.

Towards the end of the Edo period (early 19th century), nigirizushi was introduced, consisting of a pillow of rice with a slice of fish draped over it. A man by the name of Hanaya Yohei is generally credited as the inventor of nigirizushi during this time. However, this early nigirizushi was a little different than what you would see at one of our sushi bars. Fish were usually marinated in soy sauce or vinegar, or heavily salted; and some fish were cooked beforehand – this was mainly done because modern refrigeration had not appeared yet. Each piece was larger than today’s standard with one piece equivalent to the size of 2 pieces today. Once modern refrigeration arrived, sushi made with raw fish began to reach more and more people.

In 1923, the Great Kanto earthquake devastated Tokyo and, as a result, many nigirizushi chefs were displaced throughout Japan, spreading sushi throughout the country. By the late 20th century, sushi had spread worldwide. With its increasing popularity, sushi has evolved into several variations that are usually found in the Western world, but rarely in Japan. These variations were initially inspired by the creation of the California roll to suit the Western palate.

And that’s where the story ends…for now.