Sushi is the Japanese person’s soul food, and at the same time, you could say it is the most famous Japanese cuisine worldwide. Maybe it was that sushi itself had features favored by people around the world, such as the simple form of raw fish on top of rice, an easy-to-remember name, and trends toward healthy living in recent years.
In addition, sushi has built up an image as an easy-to-prepare food. This is because if you ask friends from other countries if they can make any Japanese food, they’ll often respond, “Sushi nara* dekiru yo” “Sure, I can make sushi.” Perhaps it is sushi’s simplicity, similar to the sandwich which can be made by anyone, along with the image of that simplicity, which made sushi famous around the world.
But it seems to me that, among Japanese people, there is still a deeply-rooted attitude toward sushi as something to be made by professional artisans (chefs), and as a special food to be eaten out. Of course sushi is also sold at supermarkets and convenience stores, and we even have conveyor belt sushi. Enjoying hand-rolled sushi at home is popular as well, but still, for ordinary Japanese people, sushi remains a luxury food to be eaten away from home, the king of dining out.
This special feeling toward sushi in Japan may be due to the fact that we all know that becoming a sushi chef requires a high degree of skill. The way that the important sushi ingredient “shari” (cooked rice) is molded makes the difference between sushi that tastes good and sushi that does not, and they say it takes 10 years to be able to do that part perfectly. Of course, one also needs to have a good eye for “neta” (the ingredient that goes on top). Putting one’s soul into that very simplicity, that is where the characteristic skill of the Japanese artisan lies, and that is what makes sushi a special food.
It is fascinating that although sushi itself has spread worldwide, the original image and skills associated with sushi have hardly crossed the border.
*Grammar notes: Although “nara” can be used in many ways, here it is used to mean that, under limited conditions, something is possible.
<Making a dentist appointment>
Uketsuke: Ashita gogo wa ikaga desuka?
Anata: Gogo wa chotto. Gozen chuu nara aiteirundesuga.
Receptionist: How is tomorrow afternoon?
You: I can’t do the afternoon. If it’s in the morning, I am free.
<In a job interview >
A: Nihongo ga hanase masuka?
B: Hai, nichijyou kaiwa nara dekimasu.
A: Can you speak Japanese?
B: Yes, in everyday conversation, I can speak it.
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