Sushi explained

Why is it okay to eat sushi with your hands?

Because it started off as a street food that was eaten that way, and because it’s the best way off holding the topping and rice together as you tip it upside down and dip it in the soy sauce

Why is green tea only called agari in a sushi place?

Why is shoyu (soy sauce) called murasaki in a sushi bar?

Why does sushi in Japan vary so widely in price?

Why does wasabi spiciness go up your nose?

Why do they use different vocab in a sushi place to other restaurants, like “gari” instead of “shoga” for ginger?

Why pickled ginger with sushi?

Clears the palate. Note- Not generally put on the sushi! But then again, at 100 yen a plate place, why not eat it how you like?

Why is there always vinegar in sushi rice?

It helps keep the fish fresh, and reproduces the taste of what sushi originally was, which was fish preserved in gone off rice

Why is it okay to eat sushi with your fingers?

It is considered good form to dip your sushi in the soy sauce topping first, which is very hard to do with chopsticks

Why matcha powdered green tea with sushi, and not leaf green tea like most restaurants?

Clears the palate???

If sushi is supposed to be fresh, why is it okay to let it go round and round for hours in a conveyor belt sushi place?

Why do sushi chefs press it together with their bare hands?

To show that it’s an art they are putting their whole life and soul into

Why is sushi sometimes served right off the counter?

To show the place is amazingly clean and to get back to its informal street food roots


  1. dmizer said,

    April 28, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    The vinegar in rice is precisely what makes sushi … sushi. This is why sushi can still be sushi even though it’s topped with cooked fish, vegetables, egg, or even by itself. The kanji for sushi means “sour”, though it is no longer used for anything other than the food. Raw fish (as well as other kinds of raw meat like chicken and horse) is called sashimi.

  2. alexcase said,

    April 29, 2008 at 2:26 am

    Don’t know about the original kanji for sushi, but the kanji used for sushi now is usually 寿司 (the first kanji means long life or congratulations, don’t know about the second) or sometimes 鮨 (which is a variation on the kanji for fish)

  3. Mike said,

    January 1, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Sushi varies so much throughout japan, because the local areas used what they had to put on their spiced rice. Japan had a history of seasonal near starvation. They eat fermented beans for instance. the famous bean sprout was last years bean stores that started to sprout.

  4. Mike said,

    January 1, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    “Murasaki” Means “purple wisteria blossom”, this could be a brand name used exclusively in sushi bars???

  5. Mike said,

    January 1, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    copied from

    tea – agari

    The tea served at sushi restaurants is called agari instead of o-cha (the general term for green tea). The word originally meant “the last cup of tea,” but somehow it came to refer to the tea served in sushi restaurants. Most Japanese tea cups are much smaller than this one.

    Do you know why restaurant tea cups are so much bigger?
    Many years ago, a man choked on a large piece of sushi and did not have enough tea in his small cup to help him dislodge it. Since then, sushi restaurants have served tea in a big cup to prevent choking.
    The first sushi restaurants were managed and run by the chef. Big tea cups were used so that the chef could concentrate on making sushi instead of constantly refilling customers’ tea.
    In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, sushi was often served at portable stalls on the street. The big, thick cups were used to help keep tea warm for long periods of time outdoors.

  6. alexcase said,

    January 2, 2009 at 8:38 am

    Thanks for the three comments Mike, the agari ones were very interesting and new to me- and here on Japan Explained 3 explanations are better than one!

    “murasaki” means purple, and is a general sushi insider slang rather than a brand name. Still haven’t come across the story of where it comes from

    Not sure which question you are answering in your first comment, but it could well be an answer to “Why is natto a common kind of sushi?” Answer- it was a partly fermented food, just like the original sushi before they started using fresh fish and rice with vinegar

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