International Sushi Day takes place each year on June 18 to celebrate the traditional Japanese meal turned global phenomenon. Raw fish and rice, often enclosed in seaweed, has gained a strong foothold in the Western world over the last few decades, but not without initial doubts and skepticism. Here’s everything you need to know about Sushi’s history and the significance behind International Sushi Day.
History of Sushi
Sushi, much like many other popular foods, was derived from another dish called Narezushi, a salted fish stored in fermented rice for months at a time. Japan and Southeast Asia had their own versions of Narezushi, but often times the rice was discarded and fish was eaten as a source of protein. Modern day sushi uses the same ingredients, but different methods of cooking and serving.
In the Edo Period, between 1600 and 1800, sushi as we know it today was established in Japan. While each region had its own variation, it would often include fish and vegetables wrapped in rice mixed with vinegar. Later in the Edo Period, nigiri sushi emerged, which consisted of a mound of rice with a piece of fish draped over top.
So how did sushi make its way around the world? In 1923, the Great Kanto earthquake disrupted the economy and left thousands of Japanese citizens displaced. Forced to leave, many Japanese people immigrated to new countries, consequently spreading sushi around the world. Initially, North American and European countries were slow to embrace the dish, as raw fish was not generally consumed. But over time, sushi became an international sensation.
In the US, sushi was said to have gained traction in the late 1960s when a restaurant called Kawafuku Restaurant opened in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo. From there, more and more sushi restaurants began popping up outside of Little Tokyo and Japanese cuisine started gaining popularity, especially among Hollywood celebrities. Soon after, major metropolitan cities like New York and Chicago followed suit and the late 1980s, sushi was a full-blown craze.
Significance of International Sushi Day
International Sushi Day was first established in 2009 for one simple reason: to encourage more people to eat sushi. The day was invented by Chris De May, a relatively unknown Facebook user who created his own Facebook page devoted to sushi. The page became rather popular over the years, so De May came up with the idea to celebrate International Sushi Day on June 18.
Not to be confused with National Sushi Day which takes place on November 1, the international iteration is meant to raise awareness about the truths and myths about sushi. The healthy dish epitomizes the combination of traditional and modern, and the day is an opportunity to introduce others to sushi who have never tried it, enjoy it from a local Japanese restaurant or make it at home.
In past years, many US restaurants have offered specials on sushi rolls and bento boxes, so sushi lovers should look out for similar deals on International Sushi Day 2021.