Guide to Eating Sushi in Japan

In Japan, food is all about simplicity. Learn how to eat OG sushi from the kings of fish.

Guide to Sushi in Japan

Contrary to popular American belief, the word “sushi” does not directly translate to “raw fish”. Rather, “sashimi” means raw fish, while “sushi” refers to the vinegared and fermented rice typically surrounding the goods. Sushi in Japan is a big deal and quite simple at the same time. Arm your hands with some chopsticks, and learn how to poke your way through sushi in Japan.

Teach You To Sushi

Teach You To Sushi

Authentic Japanese sushi offerings have evolved to include several very simple combinations: rice on the inside, rice on the outside, fish or no fish, and cooked or raw vegetables. A hand-pressed oval of rice, or Nigiri-zushi, is most popular abroad. Typically topped with shrimp, tuna or yellowtail, nigiri-zushi seems simple but is considered a Japanese culinary art. Sushi rolls–formerly known as “maki-zushi” (or cut rolls)--keep the rice compacted by wrapping the roll in nori (or seaweed). A scattered but delicious mess, chirashi-zushi is essentially sashimi served over a bed of sushi and vegetables. No matter the presentation of any one piece, the freshness of the ingredients and care with which it is prepared is key.

Order Up

Order Up

The Japanese are particular about how they deliver their prided product. Rather than hiring an aspiring actor (aka underpaid waiter) to take your order, the tables at proper Japanese sushi restaurants are set up to encircle a skilled chef, who discusses each of the ingredients in-depth before dishing out the pieces. Fast food restaurants opt for conveyor belts instead of the chef’s toss. You’ll watch as a variety of individual pieces or rolls pass in front of you and grab whichever ones look ripe for the face-stuffing.

OTP Fun Fact: Where the lady sushi chefs at? The Japanese are insanely particular about the construction of sushi and sashimi. All of the components in these bite-sized meals must be handled with the utmost precision and a slew of factors affect the final outcome. Since women normally have higher body temperatures than men, female sushi chefs are rare due to the belief that their hot hands will warp the rice and fish.

Decorate Your Dish

Decorate Your Dish

Raw fish and seasoned rice; this is what the world’s gone mad for? Yes, plus a few common condiments.That green stuff you see is wasabi. Don’t overdo it unless you’re trying to clear a cold; the authentic stuff is extremely hot. Soy sauce on the side is used for enhancing the flavor of the fish. While Americans go full-throttle and soak the rice in soy sauce, the Japanese normally use just a dab (if any at all) on the fish itself. The slices of salmon-colored, perfumey stuff are ginger (or “gari”) . Marinated in sugar and vinegar, gari is supposed to be used to cleanse your palate in between sushi tastings.

Let’s Talk Beef for a Second

Let’s Talk Beef for a Second

Unless you’ve had Kobe in Japan, Macao, or China, you’ve NEVER had Kobe beef. The ONLY true Kobe beef comes from a pure lineage of Tajima-gyu cattle, born only in the Hyogo prefecture (Kobe is a city in this area) and fed off of local vegetation. Real Kobe beef can ONLY be processed in slaughterhouses that do not export to the US. So why are you paying $100 for a regular-as-rice cow? Us sneaky Americans like what we can’t have. Throughout the USA, wagyu cattle are being raised to produce faux-kobe. The marbleization of the meat may be similar but if you’re a fan of technicalities, well, Kobe it ain’t. And now back to the sushi...

Subway Sushi

Subway Sushi

Popularized by the recent documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Sukiyabashi Jiro is the best sushi restaurant in the world. You’d expect rats on rice from the underground and perhaps picking up some sushi from the subway isn’t the best idea anywhere else but Japan. But across from a Tokyo subway stop, in what could just as easily be a basement janitor closet, you'll find pure sushi perfection. The 86 year old legendary chef, Jiro Ono, is sushi's version of the Soup Nazi. There is no menu - Jiro puts sushi on your plate and you eat it with your hands – no chopsticks. Don't ask for soy sauce or wasabi. In fact, just keep your fucking mouth shut and eat what you're given. The ingredients, preparation, order, and timing are a complex science your yankee mind cannot comprehend. When you finish your 20 pieces of sushi and sashimi perfection, leave your $400, cash only, on the bar and don't let the subway turnstile hit your ass on the way out.

Japan is undoubtedly the king of fish (and queen of super weird porn) and their simple approach to sushi is a beautiful thing. By this point, you may have guessed that the infamous California roll doesn’t root back to Japan. From chicken teriyaki rolls to cream cheese rolls, nonsense rainbow rolls and faux-crab concoctions, American cuisine has been cashing in on sushi by bulking it up with all kinds of junk. Eat the real deal, raw.