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Unraveling the Origins of Sashimi - Fact #3: Sashimi is NOT Sushi

Updated: Aug 7, 2023



The term "Sashimi" represented in Japanese characters as ”刺身,” literally translates to "Sliced Meat." While fish Sashimi is the most well-known type, it's essential to note that Sashimi can also include vegetables and meat such as beef and poultry in Japan.


The consumption of raw meat has been a practice observed by various cultures across the world. For instance, Eskimos consumed raw Whale meat, and Native Americans consumed raw Buffalo meat. The exact origin of humans eating raw meat remains a question. Some Japanese archaeologists suggest that raw fish consumption may date back to the Jomon Period (14,000 BC–300 BC).


Historically, the first sighting of Sashimi or consumption of sliced raw fish was recorded in China around 823 B.C. However, records after that period are scarce, leading to the belief that the custom might have ceased due to concerns about food poisoning or parasite infections from raw fish.


In Japan, the earliest historical sighting of Sashimi dates back to the 8th century. During this time, instead of soy sauce, ginger vinegar and mustard vinegar were used, as soy sauce was considered a rare and expensive item produced in limited quantities.


Various fish species were used for Sashimi, including Tai/Red Snapper, Carp, Suzuki, Buri (Japanese Amberjack), and Katsuo (Bonito).


Sashimi gained popularity during the Edo period (1603-1868) and evolved into a recognized "meal." This was made possible due to the abundant supply of fresh fish suitable for raw consumption in the Edo (Tokyo) area and the mass production of soy sauce. The use of soy sauce helped reduce the fishy smell and enhanced the fish's flavor.


Today, Sashimi dishes are enjoyed not only in Japan but also in numerous countries worldwide, each with its unique twists:

- Russia (Nanai People, freshwater fish from Amur River or Heilong Jiang)

- China (Fujian province, Grass Carp or 鯇鱼)

- Singapore and Malaysia (魚生)

- Hawaii (Poke)

- Chili and Peru (Cebiche/Ceviche)

- Netherlands (raw herring)


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