Have you ever wondered who invented the delicious sushi you love so much? Well, the origins of sushi can be found in "nare-zushi", a type of sushi that was common in the Edo Period (1603-1868). Made of fish, salt and rice that was left to ferment, this sour-tasting sushi actually took months to make. At around the same time, shops started selling sushi made with marinated fish or rice, which was then rolled or packed in boxes, in order to save time. In fact that was the "birth" of sushi. Anyhow, towards the end of the Edo Period, there was a man who repeated the process of trial and error in order to create a type of sushi that was easier to make as well as eat - this young man was Yohei Hanaya.
During the 18th century, Edo (present day Tokyo) experienced a boom in food stalls that were akin to contemporary fast food restaurants. As part of the expanding take-out menu, nigiri-zushi has been invented, apparently during the first quarter of the 19th century.
Yohei Hanaya gets credit as nigiri zushi's inventor. Obviously, there are many different kinds of sushi. Hanaya though, is called the father of "nigiri-zushi" or the "hand-pressed" type of sushi. Even Japan's largest vinegar maker, Mizkan, calls him the "father" of sushi.
So, after selling his sushi at street stalls, Hanaya established his own restaurant, well-known as "Yohei's Sushi," that specialized in hand-pressed sushi.
As The History of Nihonbashi Uogashi points out, during the early 19th century, Japanese people didn’t hold tuna in high regard. Nowadays, obviously, tuna (or maguro) is one of the most important fishes found in sushi.
The visual beauty of nigiri-zushi, as well as its freshness and quick preparing time, made it really famous. Hanaya's sushi was close to what you would find nowadays. For instance, besides hand-pressing the sushi, he also used a dab of wasabi and vinegared rice - practices that evidently still continue.
Hanaya's sushi became so popular that soon others began borrowing his creation.
However, even though Hanaya was credited with one of Japan's most iconic meals, the government didn't initially recognize him or his creation.
But, today, Yohei Hanaya lives on through nigiri-zushi, Japan's most famous raw fish dish.