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 History of Sushi

Sushi originated as a means for preserving fish and is thought to have originated in China. Narezushi is believed to be the earliest form of sushi that appeared in Japan around the 8th century.

Narezushi was a way to preserve fish and was pickled with rice and salt. Initially, only the fish was eaten and the rice thrown away.


Sushi & Sashimi

Narezushi started with fresh, clean raw fish and was pressed between layers of salt and rice, with a stone placed on top for weight. The stone was eventually replaced with a cover.  After storing for a few months, the fish was ready to eat.

In the 18th century, a chef named Hanaya Yohei eliminated the fermentation process and served something which resembles the sushi eaten today.

Sushi is NOT raw fish, but today refers to vinegared rice used in making sushi.  This should not be confused with Sashimi, which is the raw fish.

Nigiri sushi is fresh, delicate pieces of sashimi pressed on top of vinegared rice.  Nigiri sushi means squeezed sushi and was originally a specialty from Tokyo.  It was actually called Edo-mae, meaning in front of Tokyo (Edo is the old name for Tokyo) because the fresh fish came directly from the fish market at Tokyo Bay. 

How To Order Sushi

Japanese Sushi Bar

Experienced sushi lovers are referred to as sushi-tsu.

Tsu in Japanese means an expert at something.

At a sushi bar, a sushi-tsu will usually begin with a selection of sashimi.  

Beginning with sashimi not only lets the chef show off his best and freshest fish, but shows respect to the chef when you let him present you with his choices. If you would like the chef to select for you, say "Omakase". If you have foods/ingredients that you don't like or can't eat, do let them know.

Sushi chef training is intense and requires long hours. Chefs often apprentice for several years before they're allowed to handle pricier cuts of fish.

When sitting at the sushi bar, just tell the chef what you want. In the U.S. this can usually be done in English.  Most places will have little table tent cards with both the English and Japanese.  In the U.S. do not be surprised to find that some of the people behind the bar do not speak Japanese.


Sushi Etiquette

Sashimi is eaten with chopsticks, never fingers. Sashimi is dipped in a small dish with soy sauce and wasabi (Japanese horseradish), to taste. Wasabi is powerful stuff, and is great when you have a cold or stuffy nose!

Sushi is a finger food, particularly nigiri sushi.  Chopsticks are optional so you don't need to try to demonstrate your chopsticks skills here.  Pick up the sushi in your fingers, turn it over so that you lightly dip the fish, NOT the rice, in the soy sauce. The rice is NOT to be dipped in soy sauce.

Do not bite off a piece and put the remainder back on the plate.  If, however, you are eating at a restaurant that does not understand sushi is supposed to be bite size, you may have no choice.

NOTE: many sushi chefs take great pride in preparing original and unique sushi and will have already applied a special sauce of flavoring so be cautions about just dipping it in soy sauce and wasabi.

You may also receive a new small dish for soy sauce.  Do not add wasabi to the dish, as it has already been placed on the fish by the chef.  AND, if you are dining at a sushi bar where the chef prides himself on creative offerings, particularly with special sauces, do NOT dip your sushi in soy sauce. 

The chef will let you know the proper way to eat each selection: to DIP or NOT to dip. If you like it extremely spicy, ask the chef for extra wasabi when ordering.

Useful Sushi Bar Vocabulary


A Japanese proverb says...

"The pleasant experience of eating something you have never had before, will extend your life by seventy five days!"



Slang for green tea (standard meaning = completed)


Japanese radish served shredded as a garnish


Slang for ginger, eaten to cleanse palate


Slang for egg, or tamago (standard meaning = jewel)


Sushi Chef




Sea Urchin


Slang for seaweed (standard meaning = grass)


Slang for soy sauce (standard meaning = purple)


Slang for wasabi (standard meaning = tears)


Live, or "dancing shrimp", a delicacy




Slang for wasabi


Slang for "no wasabi" on the sushi


Vinegared rice used for sushi


Hand roll, looks like an ice cream cone


Extra large tea cups 


Useful Expressions at the Sushi Bar



Said to the chef meaning "Please choose for me"


Said before eating any meal



sama deshita

Said at the end of any mean, meaning "It was a feast"

Oaiso kudasai

Please give me the check

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