Rice was introduced to Japan in the early days around the 3rd century.
Rice cultivation began to become more popular in the early Nara period. Rice was often used as a source of fermentation, and helped to form the basis of Sake, Soy Sauce, and Miso.
The art of sushi began during the Nara period as Narezushi (fermented sushi), where rice was cooked and packed with fish and fermented for over a 2 to 3 year period. The rich, umami filled fish would be eaten as a delicacy. This preservation process dates back to the 8th century, but is alive and well today. Often its smell is related to a strong blue cheese.
During the late Muromachi period, to shorten production times, the fermentation process would be cut short and the fish would be eaten before fully ripening – this type of sushi is called Namanarezushi. The fish would be slightly more raw, and the rice portion would be eaten instead of discarded as it was with the Narezushi.
As the popularity and demand of sushi grew, a need to speed production took place. So instead of fermenting fish and rice, the taste would be replicated with the use of vinegar. Oshizushi, a pressed sushi using vinegar rice and fish, is still very popular in the Kansai region.
In the late 1820’s, Hanaya Yohei is credited with the development of modern Nigirizushi (nigiri), where he combined the vinegar rice with raw fish. This style was developed in the city of Edo (Tokyo).
The 19th and 20th century brought about the greatest change and innovation in sushi, one that was driven not by need, but rather creativity and taste.
Nori seaweed in the dry sheet form developed using traditional paper making techniques in the early 1900’s. This brought about the common maki (roll) sushi.
This brings us to the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. At this time, sushi was introduced to the mainstream in California when a few restaurants in New York and California began producing a new wave of North American style sushi. To this day, we see a wide global range of raw, cooked, non-seafood and dessert sushi becoming popular across the globe – for example, frozen sushi is very popular in Scandinavia, as is dessert sushi in South America.
Founded in 1996, Bento Sushi is a company that understands the rich traditions of sushi, but is also committed to producing high quality and innovative sushi for the masses. So go check out your local Bento store, and see how far the history of sushi has come!