What is Sushi? And What Does It Mean to Japanese People? | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

What is Sushi? And What Does It Mean to Japanese People?

By Yae Mar 20, 2019

Sushi has become a familiar food all over the world, but what is sushi really? The image of sushi is so powerful that many foreigners will equate Japan to sushi.

For people who love eating sushi from other countries outside of Japan, have you ever wondered how Japanese feel about eating sushi, or if it is eaten in their daily lives? Or perhaps if there is any significance to eating sushi?

This article will show you what sushi is and what its significance it holds to Japanese people.

1. What is Sushi for Japanese People?

Asking the question: what is sushi?

When someone asks what your favorite food is, many will include sushi in their list of favorites because it is a popular food associated with expensive taste and special occasions. Well, what does Japan feel about this then?

When you walk around on the streets in Japan, you can see quite a few sushi restaurants scattered about including reasonably priced conveyor-belt sushi (what we call “kaitenzushi” in Japanese) or more expensive sushi bars prepared in front of you at a bar.

What is sushi to Japanese people? Sushi is considered a popular fast food, for instance, the same like such as following some popular fast-food from other countries:

・United States=burgers
・England=fish and chips
・Germany=curry wurst which is curry flavored sausage
・Italy=Panzerotti which is deep-fried bread
・New Zealand=meat pie
・Korea= Tteokbokki
・China=Chinese steamed buns

Sushi is a very quick and easy option for people to eat in a hurry. Unlike a full course meal starting with appetizers to desserts, sushi only needs about 15 to 30 minutes to finish for a quick lunch or dinner option, thus the point of fast food.

Here is an example of what might happen for two Japanese friends deciding where to get lunch for the day:

Japanese friend A: What shall we eat for lunch today? Any cravings?

Japanese friend B: Ummm, hard to decide. Not sure what I want to eat now.

Japanese friend A: How about eating sushi at Sushiro at the corner of this street?

Japanese friend B: Oh, sounds good. Let’s go there and eat. I start to feel like I can eat salmon sushi now.

Japanese friend A: Yeah, me too. I also want to eat that.

When you can’t decide what to eat for your lunch or dinner while you’re out, what comes up on your mind?

2. Sushi as a Culture in Japan

People say that Japanese people had started eating sushi around the end of the Edo period (1603-1868) and it all started from the mass production of soy sauce. The combination with raw fish and soy sauce maintains the freshness of the fish, this was a very significant discovery for Japan. After the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923, many sushi chefs in Tokyo went back to their home towns and hand-rolled sushi gradually became more popular in Japan.

Japanese people eat sushi quite often in Japan, approximately 2 to 3 times in a month and many Japanese people with children go to sushi restaurants (mainly conveyor-belt sushi) to enjoy eating sushi with their children without spending too much money. Sushi is considered a healthy soul food made with healthy ingredients such as vinegar, fish full of DHA, shellfish, and rice with vitamin B and E.

How often do you go out for eating sushi in Japan? Many foreigners seem to go out for eating sushi sometimes on the weekend and especially in Tokyo such as Omotesando, Shibuya, Shinjuku areas are their famous spots to eat sushi.

Why is sushi so significant for Japanese people?

Here are mainly three reasons such as follows:

1. Japanese people can eat quickly and not necessary to wait for a long time waiting at the table every they’re busy.

2. Japanese people can eat fresh fish all the time and it is a healthy food without free of any guilt compared to junk foods such as potato chips or high-calorie burgers.

3. Sometimes it can be so reasonably priced to eat sushi than buying raw fish at the supermarkets in Japan. People can’t get the really good fish (fresh, tasty and reasonable price) all the time so sometimes it’s better to go out for eating sushi.

Same things for the foreigners who are living in Japan. Many of them are using sushi restaurants by mainly following reasons in general:

1. People can order and eat sushi quickly and is a fast option during lunch breaks at work. No need to rush or get irritated waiting in a long queue.

2. People can adjust the volume of sushi by choosing the number of kans. Even they’re not so hungry but need to eat something, they can just order 2 or 3 sushi kans.

3. Wasabi included in sushi is quite popular among foreigners.

4. Even though some foreigners can’t eat raw fish, there are many kinds of seafood as well so you can have many options from the sushi menu.

5. You don’t feel any guilty by eating sushi because they’re mainly fish and rice and healthy.

6. For those who love Japanese sake, it pairs well with sushi.

Generally, many Japanese people go out for eating sushi 2 or 3 times in a month and so as for foreigners who are living in Japan. If you’re living near the sushi restaurants, you might be tempted into becoming a regular.

3. Sushi Boom!?

What is sushi? A sushi plater

Salmon sushi or maguro, the fattiest portion of tuna sushi, are very famous sushi toppings in Japan that everyone can enjoy. But did you know there are so many other interesting sushi toppings that chefs around the world have come up with? Here are some of the weirder sushi combinations as follows:

1. Sushi burrito

Literally, this is a combination of sushi and burrito. This interesting recipe was made by a San Francisco restaurant called Sushirrito, which offers fast and fresh sushi burritos daily!

2. KitKat sushi

Who would think sushi can be combined with sweets like chocolates? KitKat Chocolatory in Ginza has released a new era of sushi by using KitKats and crispy rice. Instead of using the real raw fish, they use an array of sweet flavors such as raspberry, Hokkaido melon, and so on.

3. Raw horse meat sushi

Have you ever tried raw horse meat originating from the Kyushu Kumamoto prefecture? Please don’t feel bad if you love horse riding, but once you try raw horse meat from Kumamoto prefecture, you’ll be amazed by the delicious flavors! Raw horse meat is a very popular and famous food in Kumamoto prefecture and turning it into sushi is also very popular now. If you have the chance to travel to Kumamoto prefecture, don’t miss the opportunity to try it!

If you want to try new things about sushi, how about trying some of those interesting sushi combinations once?

4. Sushi Abroad

What is sushi? What does it look like abroad?

Sushi around the globe has a different take on traditional Japanese sushi. Sushi that is deep fried, covered in an array of sauces, and so on are all different types of sushi that other countries have created. Trying different types of sushi and each countries interpretations of sushi can be fun and adventurous! Of course, it is also nice to remember what traditional flavors sushi has to offer, so please do try traditional Japanese sushi as well!

5. A Foreigner’s Experience With Sushi

Sushi is becoming very popular everywhere in the world as healthy Japanese food and here is the story woman from Spain who had experienced eating sushi both in her home country Spain and in Japan when she came over for her vacation.

Sushi in Spain=it’s good taste but still she felt something was missing. Sushi in Japan=sensitive and good seasoning moisture taste. The fish was fresh and thick.

Even many foreigners love eating sushi, many of them say “something is missing” from the sushi they eat in their own countries compared from Japan. Maybe the type of fish, salt and special seasoning that Japanese sushi chef use might be different from other countries. We can tell not only sushi case but any authentic cuisine tastes absolutely divine. For instance, the pizza you eat in Italy has a far better taste compared from those you try in other countries, right?

If you think about the local dishes in your home countries, you may think they taste the best ever better than eating the same dishes from other countries.

6. Does Sushi Have an Important Cultural Meaning for Japanese People?

Sushi has an important cultural meaning for many Japanese people. If you go out for eating sushi, you can see that sushi is liked by men and women of all ages at the sushi restaurants in Japan. Of course, not all the sushi restaurants can offer beautiful taste as we say negative evaluation, but if you try sushi from a proper sushi chef in Japan, you may feel that you can try sushi from anywhere else in the world.

For those who are crazy about sushi, there are many home-made sushi recipes that you can attempt to make yourselves so this might be the perfect challenge. Some Japanese people love eating sushi at their house with black vinegar instead of soy sauce since vinegar is considered healthier than soy sauce or salt goes well with sushi. But the great thing about making your own sushi is that you can completely customize what goes inside, so you can make healthier options or more crazy combinations without feeling a bit conscious of what others might think.

Have you already found your own favorite sushi restaurants in Japan? Even if you’re living abroad, how about planning a trip to come over to Japan to eat real traditional sushi? The good thing about sushi is that you can eat sushi all year around in Japan. If you feel a little uncomfortable eating fish raw, don’t worry. The fish in Japan is fresh because Japan is a country surrounded by the ocean! You could even go as far as saying that Japan is the fish kingdom.

Let’s all start eating healthy sushi in Japan!