There are several notable differences between Japanese sushi and the sushi that is served in North American restaurants. First, most Japanese sushi contains some form of raw or treated fish. This is counter to what many Americans expect from sushi, as options such as tempura and vegetarian sushi are commonly available.
The original Japanese sushi is not at all like what is served today in Japan or North America. Originally, sushi was made through fermenting rice and fish. The fish was eaten, while the rice was then typically discarded due to its particularly strong flavor. Sushi directly translates to “it's sour”, a reference to the potent sour flavor of sushi. In modern times, there is only one region in Japan that still serves this sour style of sushi, which is located near Lake Biwa.
Modern sushi was invented much later, so that the Japanese people could enjoy food with their fingers while at the theater or at festivals. By providing good food that could be eaten without chopsticks, the era of modern sushi was born.
While sushi was designed to be eaten without chopsticks, many Japanese prefer to eat their sushi with chopsticks. Temaki, which is formed by placing ingredients within a nori cone, is one of the exceptions to this. There are several types of modern Japanese sushi, including sashimi, nigiri, inari, oshi, sukeroku and maki. Most Americans are familiar with sashimi, nigiri, inari and maki, as these are the types that are typically found in North American Japanese sushi restaurants. Sukeroku is another form of sushi commonly found in North America. This is considered a cheap sushi, and is often vegetarian. This is the type of sushi most commonly found in North American grocery stores for sale, and has been highly Americanized due to the fact it is vegetarian.
What sets Japanese sushi apart from North American sushi is often the quality. As Sukeroku is very popular, the cheaper sushi has found a foothold in American society. As ume ranked sushi is easier to make, it allows lesser sushi chefs to open restaurants in North America.
However, in Japan, sushi chefs spend years of training before they are deemed fit to serve high quality, or matsu, sushi. While it is possible to learn how to make sushi at home, the sushi that is homemade by Americans is typically ranked as ume, or the lowest quality sushi. If you wish to experience matsu Japanese sushi, you would typically need to go to an authentic Japanese restaurant.