Sushi is considered an art form. It is elegantly arranged to enhance its simplicity and natural beauty. The method of preparation, shape and taste differ somewhat depending on the locality. Sushi is very attractive because it is prepared quickly before the customer's eyes by the sushi chef. Often nature and the outdoors are captured by using a plate resembling a fish in motion, a quiet river nook, or a deep pool. The fish itself evokes an image of the creature swimming through underwater weeds and roots.

In Osaka there is still an elaborate tradition of sushi pressed with rice in wooden boxes. This type of sushi is called hako-sushi. Commonly known sushi for Westerners come from the Edo (old name for Tokyo) tradition. They are hand rolled sushi called nigiri-sushi.

Contrary to most knives, sushi knives are sharpened on one side only which makes for a faster, cleaner cut.

 

 

Vinegared rice is the heart of all sushi. Despite what Americans think, sushi does not mean "fish" in Japanese but rather signifies any vinegared rice dish. The fish is sashimi. Wrap the two together in portions and sell it as sushi, and the name still refers to the rice, not the fish.

Sushi is a typical Japanese food with over a thousand years of history and tradition. Sushi actually began as a way of preserving fish. The raw, cleaned fish was pressed between layers of rice and salt by a heavy stone for a few weeks. Then, a lighter cover was used and a few months later it was considered ready to eat. Not until the 18th century did a chef decide to serve sushi in its present form and forget about the fermentation process altogether.

Maki sushi is a "rolled sushi" with narrow strips of seafood and crisp vegetables or pickles layered on a bed of vinegared rice and spread on a sheet of nori or seaweed, thus calling it "nori-maki sushi".
Nori-maki is the most well known sushi in the U.S. because just about any ingredient can be rolled into the center without using any fresh raw fish called sashimi.


 

 

 

The spirit of sushi is carried on over the centuries by "shokunin" (traditional master sushi chef). The Japanese are great believers in learning through apprenticeship. Before you are even allowed to pick up a knife you must work in the kitchen sweeping, doing dishes and other jobs for at least a couple of years. It may take ten years of training to be considered a master and become the head chef. The sushi chef is heir to the samurai tradition and upholds the ideals of the samurai- they are scholastic and gentlemen of high personal standards and unshakable self-discipline. They wear spotless ghi's and a knotted headband, evidence that they are serious about their work. Sushi is considered an art and in a country where cooking is highly regarded as a profession, to be a sushi chef is considered an honor. A sushi chef's knives are as important to him as a sword is to a samurai. His knives are made from carbon-steel that can be sharpened to literally cut a hair. A sushi chef has his own set of knives which can cost several hundred dollars apiece. He sharpens them before and after use, cleans them after every few strokes, and wraps them up and keeps them in a safe place every night.