The history of modern-day sushi is thought to date back to the Edo period (1603-1868) of Japan when there were few methods of preserving the fresh fish that came in from the Edo Bay, or modern Tokyo Bay, each day. Food stall owners used salt and vinegar to extend the shelf-life of fish and freshly cooked rice.Wasabi was also added to sushi as its antimicrobial properties are thought to help reduce the likelihood of food-borne illness.
To accommodate the many hungry, bustling residents of Edo, food stall owners would quickly press together the fish they had that today together withshari, the salted vinegared rice used for making sushi, to create what is now known asnigirizushi—nigirimeaning to press or squeeze.
Many contemporary traditions date back to this style of sushi, which is known asEdomaeand named for its origins near the Edo Bay. As such, part of the tradition ofEdomaesushi includes marinated, pickled, and simmered fish as well as the raw fish and seafood we see on sushi rice today.
About the author: The spark that lit Kevin Kilcoyne’s interest in Japanese culture began in elementary school through a friendship with his then classmate Keisuke. Since then, that passion has evolved and bloomed to encompass more than just video games and manga, leading Kevin to live in Japan as a participant of the JET program. During his time in Japan, Kevin sought out as many foods as he could, the experiences and taste memories lingering long after they had gone. Now he is forging a path to link his passions for Japanese food, history, and visual culture and is planning for his return to live in Japan once again. For now, you can find Kevin on Instagram (@waruishouten) where he posts his photography and illustration work. Keep an eye out for more posts and updates as Kevin delves more deeply into his passions for writing and food!