The History of Sushi: Japan’s National Treasure 

Sushi is a world-famous dish that has captured the world by storm for decades. From its humble origin as street food in Japan, sushi has evolved into a kind of national emblem for Japan, capturing the hearts and souls of millions around the world. The history of sushi itself is a story worth exploring, as it will help you to appreciate the art behind good sushi as well as the Japanese unique philosophy of living.  

Early Sushi History 

Sushi as we know it today is vastly different from sushi back in the era of Feudal Japan. The earliest form of sushi is known as narezushi, which is simply fish stored in fermented rice for months. The fermentation of rice will prevent fish from spoiling, thus preserving it and guaranteeing food supply for the upcoming months.  Narezushi did not originate in Japan, but it originally came from Southeast Asia instead. As rice cultivation was introduced to Japan, so was the dish.  

Feudal Japan Sushi  

Changes in sushi coincided with the changes in Japanese diets as well as the invention of rice vinegar, an important ingredient in Japanese cuisine. This led to the creation of namanare, or namanari. Compared to the older narezushi, namanare took half as much time to ferment, and Japanese people would eat the fish along with the rice for the first time. This is a habit that will define how sushi is eaten for centuries to come.  

The Edo Period saw the most sweeping changes to sushi. It was in this period that a third type of sushi, haya-zushi, was developed, forming the foundation for sushi as we know it today. Haya-zushi was not fermented like its predecessors. Instead, vinegar was added to the rice to impart the characteristic sour taste. Thus, sushi was no longer a fermented dish, but rather a fast-food dish that could be prepared within just a few minutes. 

Modern Sushi Variations 

Haya-zushi gave birth to the modern variations of sushi that we know and love today. The talented artisans in Japan used their endless imagination to create many regional variants, enriching this amazing delicacy.  


A staple in every Japanese restaurant, nigirizushi consists of an oblong-shaped mound of rice with a piece of topping on top. The topping can either be fish or other kinds of seafood such as squid, octopus, eels, or even eggs. This dish would often be served along with wasabi for the best taste. The origin of the dish dates back to the Edo era, when the legendary chef Hanaya Yohei invented and perfected the dish at his shop in Ryougoku.  


A chirashizushi dish would include rice and other toppings mixed together in a bowl. This is a filling and easy-to-make dish, which is why it is so popular with local Japanese. In Japan, locals would typically eat this dish on the Girls’ Day and Children’s Day, two important holidays in the country.  


Inarizushi is a variant of sushi that uses tofu instead of seafood. A typical inarizushi would include a pouch of fried tofu containing sushi rice inside. The dish originates from Shinto lore. Foxes, the mythic messengers of the god Inari, are said to especially enjoy tofu, so the Japanese created this dish to commemorate them.  


One of the most popular variants of sushi, makizushi is a cylindrical roll of rice and fillings, which are usually raw fish or seafood. The wrapper is usually made from seaweed (nori), but sometimes, the chef also uses thin omelette or shisho leaves.  

This ubiquitous dish first appeared in the 18th century in a cookbook. Over time, the dish has evolved to accommodate a wide variety of fillings as well as wrappers. Because of how easy it is to make makizushi, plenty of regional variations exist. Of particular note is the ehoumaki, which is typically only eaten at the Setsubun festival in Japan. Local people would hold this massive maki in their hand and then eat it while standing in a certain direction for good luck.  

Bringing the Taste of Japan to Your Home  

Sushi has traditionally been eaten at restaurants or sushi lines in Japan, and it has become very popular in the West. However, due to the lack of access to high-quality ingredients, it is very difficult for Western chefs to reproduce the alluring taste of authentic sushi.  

With over 20 years of technical experience in the frozen food industry, OrienBites brings the authentic taste of Asia to you with our selection of delectable sushi dishes, made by passionate artisans with knowledge of traditional methods. Our sushi offers the authentic taste of Asia with the convenience of modern technology. 

Sushi boasts not just amazing taste but also a rich history that dates back to hundreds of years. If you wish to bring this delightful dish from Asia to your customers, OrienBites offers the perfect solution to help you get started. Contact us now for more information on our range of products.