Collection from Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Cultural History
The roots of sushi is said to trace back to the curcian carp sushi of Oomi (currently Shiga prefecture). This dish continues to be served there to this day. The nare sushi, an ancient sushi fare enjoyed one thousand years ago, is a typical variation of this original entree and was prepared by pickling fish meat with rice and preserving the fish with the lactate acid produced through the fermentation of the pickled preparation.
The rice was thrown away and only the fish was eaten. Over time, as the method of rice cooking changed and as vinegar came to be made, the rice-sushi (ii sushi), a preparation mostly comprising rice, was born.
Kodai suzume sushi
(small sea bream sushi stuffed
in an opened fish)
Thereafter, we see the birth of contemporary creations, such as Kansai's saba-no-bouzushi (pressed mackerel sushi) and the shoutai no suzume sushi (small sea bream sushi). Eventually, the box sushi, a delicacy made by pressing rice and fish packed into a box, arrived on the market. Meanwhile, the haya sushi (early sushi) arrived as well. Ripening more quickly by adding vinegar to both the fish and rice, this type of sushi paved the way to the rise and development of the nigiri sushi (the hand-rolled or hand-formed sushi).
Whether you are talking about the Kansai-school sushi or the Edo-school nigiri sushi, what they both have in common are their ingredients of fish and rice, which are made delicious by the sourness of vinegar. They are both testament to a historic food culture peculiar to Japan—one that was cultivated over the passage of a long time.
Kansai sushi assortment
(thickly rolled sushi, mackerel, prawn, sea eel battera)
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