The origins of sushi are unknown. However, when the topic comes up, especially late at night while friends or family are clustered around the fire with warm saki—or any other perfect storytelling scene—a folktale is often told as the explanation for sushi, our modern delectable cuisine that we enjoy here in Kirkland. The folktale begins with an older woman who lived during Japan’s ancient times, hiding her rice stores away from thieves in nearby osprey nests. As the story goes, once the threat had moved on, the woman went back to the nests to discover that her rice had fermented and that scraps of fish eaten by the osprey had become mixed in with her rice. The concoction proved to be very tasty and, ever since, sushi has become a beloved staple of many people’s diets, not only in Japan, but here in Kirkland and around the world.
Personally, we think the thought of eating fish scraps partially eaten by birds and hiding food in osprey nests sounds absolutely unappetizing, though the romanticism of the story is delightful. Another tale that is told about sushi’s origin that is a little bit more believable is the discovery during the fourth century that fish placed in cooked rice causes the fish to ferment. Due to the spread of Buddhism and its practitioners not being allowed to eat meat, rice and pickled fish or nare-zushi, translated into “aged sushi,” became popular.
Like many delicacies, sushi continued to evolve throughout the centuries and the processes of making it as well. Hanaya Yohei, in the 1820s, made nigiri sushi—sushi served over balls of rice—popular. During the 1820s, sushi was mainly found served by roadside carts, but with the Great Kanto Earthquake, land became incredibly cheap, causing those cart-peddling sushi-makers to move their craft inside and ever since, sushi has been served indoors. Sushi made its way to the U.S. by way of L.A.’s Little Tokyo and, soon, celebrities and others of the cultural elite were enjoying the delicacy at a Hollywood sushi restaurant. The love of sushi soon spread to New York and Chicago and, eventually, even to us in Kirkland!
If you have a craving for sushi, come to Sushi Joa in Kirkland to get your fill of delicious sushi and other delectable Japanese-inspired cuisine.