How Sushi became an Expensive Delicacy

Originally, sushi was just a finger food served at YATAI (a street vender’s stall or a food wagon) for customers who would usually stop by after a night of drinking. The chef attributed with starting these in the Bunsei era (1818) was named HANAYA KOUBEI.

At first, he started to serve various seafood items marinated in vinegar; broiled foods, stewed foods, steamed foods, and raw sliced white meat fishes and red tuna. The first sushi tane served by this wagon was gizzard shed (Kohada) and it was served as Nigiri sushi.

Then, in 1840, a sushi restaurant called Matsu no Sushi opened and changed all this. It was a regular restaurant, except it specialized in sushi. It became quite popular. Soon after this, a high-end restaurant called Yobee Sushi appeared in Edo. Following the lead of these two restaurants, many of the other sushi vendors in the area began opening up formal sushi restaurants.

The First Appearance of YATAI Sushi Carts

The time when yatai sushi first appeared is said to be between the end of the Meiji era and the beginning of the Showa era (1910~1935). At the time, these yatai were greatly appreciated by and very popular with the citizens of Tokyo. As stated earlier, the yatai is where tuna was first served before being used at sushi restaurants.

The Start of Japan's Restaurant Businesses

In the early part of 1657, a big fire called Furisode Kaji started in Edo and burned almost half the city away. After this, when the city was being rebuilt, chefs from all over Japan gathered together and decided to start Nisho-bai (food and restaurant related business). Ever since then, it has been said that within Japan, the "eating out" culture become more and more prevalent within Japanese society.