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Here's why Japan is famous for sushi

22 September 2020 08:17

Fuel your Japanese escape

Fuel your Japanese escape

No jaunt to Japan is complete without sampling sushi. Join us as we take a look at the story behind the seafood...

What's special about Japan's sushi?

The better the quality of fish, the better the sushi. This rule applies around the world, but in the cuisine's spiritual home things are a little more complicated. A sushi chef – or itamae – can train for up to ten years to become a master of the trade. Lessons start with menial tasks, before apprentices are given permission to cook rice and progress through the ranks. In fact, 'sushi' actually refers to the preparation of rice, which must be at room temperature, while other food called neta, must be fresh.

Where does Japan's history with sushi begin?

The story of sushi begins in second-century China. Fish were placed in rice and allowed to ferment to keep the food edible for longer before the rice was eventually thrown away. It wasn't until the seventh century that the techniques made their way to Japan and rice was included as part of a meal. By the early 19th century Hanaya Yohei started placing the fish on top of rice to give us finger sushi or edomae sushi.

How important is sushi to Japan today?

Although sushi is widely available in supermarkets and restaurants across Japan, the food is generally considered a treat to be eaten as part of celebrations. Only 6.9% of locals eat sushi at a restaurant at least once a month: the regular eaters are called "sushimen" or "sushijo". Despite this, sushi restaurants in Japan made ¥1.55 trillion (£11.3 billion) in revenue during 2018, up from ¥1.35 trillion (£9.9 billion) in 2009.

Where can I go in Japan to find their famous sushi?

There are over 30 Michelin-starred sushi restaurants in Tokyo alone. Although their reputation for quality usually comes at a price, there are plenty of restaurant options at the more affordable end of the dining scale. Those looking to experience the hustle and bustle of sourcing quality ingredients should head to Tsukiji Fish Market. One of the largest fish markets in the world, it opens for guided tours throughout the year.

What else is Japan known for?

Tourists often flock to Japan during the cherry blossom season. Between late March and early April, the picture-perfect petals can be found at the foot of Japan's highest peak, Mount Fuji, and in the green spaces among city streets. If culture is what you're after, Shinto and Buddhist temples are a common sight across the country in some truly mesmerising settings. That's not to forget the traditional tea ceremonies, ramen restaurants, hot springs and other uniquely Japanese sights and sounds that have entertained guests for hundreds of years.

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