• 16th century Foreign Influences:
– Korean-style (or Mongolian) Teppan yaki
– Portuguese Tempura and Castela cake
– Indian pepper.
– Chinese Ramen
Early Modern Japan (17th to 19th c.)
• Agricultural Boom: Peace Dividend
– Columbian Exchange: Sweet Potatoes, green
beans, maize, red peppers, pumpkins,
watermelon, spinach, chili peppers, peanuts
– Spread of beriberi as polished rice became
– Hunting declined, except wildfowl;
domesticated pig, chicken popular
"What we think of as the traditional
Japanese diet of steamed rice accompanied
by soup, one or more side dishes, and
pickles, developed slowly... Even samurai
families often had a daily diet of coarse
grains or rice mixed with other grains with a
side dish of fish or something extra for the
master, but only soup, pickles and possibly
boiled vegetables for the rest of the family
and the servants." (Hanley 1997, 86)
• "in Japan, one-pot meals had one or more
grains - usually including rice - as their base,
and other foods, particularly vegetables,
were added appropriately during the cooking
process." (Hanley 1997, 79)
• Shinano: 20 different rice strains,
buckwheat, beans, daikon radish,
vegetables, grasshoppers, horse chestnuts,
• Vinegar and salt are preservatives, pickling
• Stuffing fish with salted or sugared rice causes
fermentation, a technique from China.
• Fresher versions, using rice wine vinegar,
develop in the 1600s, become urban staples
• Usually eaten with ginger, mustard and/or soy,
for health and flavor.
• Nigiri rice ball sushi develops in the early 19th
century in Edo as street food.
– Finger food from stalls, chopsticks at the theater.
• Wasabi mostly elite seasoning until 19c.
• Nori seaweed (actually algae) wrappers were
luxury foods until 1950s British botanist
Kathleen Drew-Baker discovered their
reproductive cycle. Now mass-produced.
More popular in US than in Japan.
• Raw fish an elite delicacy (and fisherman's
food) from earliest recorded history.
• Most of Japan is coastline, so elites could
always get fresh fish, but seasonal varieties.
• Modern refrigeration and ice manufacture
makes it middle-class food
• Modern fishing technology and prosperity
makes it cheaper, available for everyone.
• Now fresh and raw fish is the standard, not
salted or preserved.
• Japanese restaurants in the US West, but not
popular except with expatriate Japanese.
• 1970s, with rise of Japanese economy and
health food fads, sees West coast sushi
• Spreads to other major cities in 1980s.
• New Global Ingredients: mayonaise, avocado,
cream cheese, spicy sauces
The Right Way To Eat Sushi
• Diversity of Traditions
– Regional (Tokyo/Osaka, etc.)
– Common v. Urban v. Elite
• Seasonal "rules" develop from pre-refrigeration,
pre-industrial transportation era
• Purity, simplicity, delicacy based on kaiseki elite
Zen influence, blends with pop culture in 20c.
• mid-20c Wartime rationing created "eat
everything/no preferences" culture
• Susan Hanley, Everyday Things in Premodern Japan: The
Hidden Legacy of Material Culture, UCP, 1997
• William Wayne Farris, Japan to 1600: A Social And
Economic History, U Hawaii Press, 2009
• Edo: Art in Japan, 1615-1868 by the National Gallery of Art,
• Michael Ashkenazi, Jeanne Jacob. The Essence of
Japanese Cuisine: An Essay on Food and Culture. Curzon
• Trevor Corson, The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi from
Samurai to Supermarket, Harper Collins, 2007.
• Pictures by Jonathan Dresner
• Crocheted Sushi by Karin McAdams