A to Wa of Japan: Week 14

It’s time for A to Wa of Japan again! Last week’s post was about things beginning with し (shi) and we looked at Shimokitazawa (下北沢). This week we are looking at things beginning with す (su). A big thank you to everyone who joined in with suggestions this week:

UK Seikatsu suggested sushi (寿司), Sugamo (巣鴨 / ‘Harajuku for old ladies’, in Tokyo), sumo (相撲), Suzuki (鈴木 / a family name), Suzuki Seijun (鈴木清順 / a film director); lovelycomplex22 suggested suki (好き / to like), sumo, and suica (すいか / watermelon); Troo suggested sushi, SuICa (スイカ / a rechargable train ticket, like an Oyster card in London), sukiyaki (鋤焼 / a Japanese dish), sugoi (すごい / wonderful), Susanoo (須佐之男 / the Shinto god of sea and storms), sumi-e (墨絵 / inkwash painting), and Sumidagawa (隅田川 / a river); Japan Australia suggested sumo, Sunomata-jo (墨俣城 / Sunomata Castle in Gifu), sukiyaki, Sukiya (すき家 / a restaurant chain), and sushi; Jay Dee suggested sushi, sumo, Sukiya, sukiyaki, suupaa (スーパー / supermarket), suutsu (スーツ / suit), Subaru (スバル / an automobile manufacturer), Suzuki (スズキ株式会社 / Suzuki Motor Corporation), and Suzuki Ichiro (鈴木 一朗 / a baseball player); and Buri-chan suggested Susanoo.

As I don’t have a lot of time this week for research, I have decided to write about something I know quite well, and love…

Sushi (寿司)


Sushi is probably Japan’s most famous food, and even people who don’t know anything about Japan have usually heard of sushi, even if they haven’t tried it. Now, I find it hard to think of a time when there wasn’t any sushi in my life, but actually, when I was growing up I had never even heard of sushi. The most exotic food I ate when I was a kid was pasta, until I started being a little more adventurous and trying curry and chili con carne. But still, the idea of eating raw fish just wasn’t something I or the people around me considered 15 or 20 years ago. Eating sushi wasn’t an option for the likes of me anyway, as it simply wasn’t available where I lived.

These days, in the UK, sushi is everywhere. You can buy sushi in most supermarkets (although I wouldn’t recommend it) and there are lots of Japanese restaurants around, not just in big cities but in smaller places too. Even if you can’t find the ‘real thing’, there are places like Yo! Sushi, which sell pretty good food. Yo! Sushi was founded in 1997 (when I was 15), and opened its first store in Soho, London. But restaurants like Yo! Sushi weren’t, and still aren’t, in small towns like Bognor Regis where I’m from. If I want to buy sushi in Bognor Regis, my only real option is the supermarket, and I would only eat Tesco sushi if you paid me.

Yo! Sushi

Yo! Sushi

However, even with the growing popularity and availability of sushi in the UK, some people are still squeamish about it. The idea of eating raw fish just doesn’t appeal to a lot of people, which is why most supermarkets in the UK sell sushi-like food which doesn’t include any raw fish at all.

Tesco sushi

Tesco sushi – no raw fish

Sadly, many people who think they eat sushi all the time in the UK may have never tried the real thing. Having lived in Japan and eaten real sushi on more occasions than I can count, I have become a bit of a sushi snob (but not so much that I won’t eat at Yo! Sushi – it’s often the only option). The sushi in Japan is just so fresh and delicious, even when you buy it from the convenience store or supermarket.


Fresh sushi from a Japanese supermarket

Sushi comes in so many varieties, and can be bought in many ways. In Japan, you can buy sets like the one above in all supermarkets, and smaller sets which are suitable for lunch in most convenience stores. Sushi restaurants are all over Japan, and they can range from high-class, expensive fancy restaurants, right through to ¥100 a dish kaiten-zushi (回転寿司 / conveyor belt sushi) restaurants.

The sushi train!

Kaiten-zushi restaurant in Japan, with sushi arriving on the sushi train!

Regardless of where you buy your sushi in Japan, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

As far as varieties of sushi are concerned, I couldn’t possibly begin to list them all here. Also, new types of sushi are being created all the time. Sushi can be defined as ‘cooked vinegared rice combined with other ingredients‘. The other ingredients of sushi are usually raw fish or vegetables. Meat (both raw and cooked) is also sometimes used. Sushi can come in different shapes too, with the two main types being:

Makizushi (巻き寿司 / rolled sushi):

Sushi from Wasabi

and nigirizushi (握り寿司 / hand-formed sushi):

Yo! Sushi

Of course, makizushi and nigirizushi come in many different varieties too.

If you want to learn more about sushi, I highly recommend a handy little pocket-sized booked called The Sushi Menu, which explains about the different types of sushi, how to order sushi in Japanese, and the Japanese names for the fish used in sushi, in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.

The Sushi Menu

One of the great things about sushi is that there are so many different varieties – there should be something to suit everyone. I love salmon nigiri, any maki roll with avocado in it, and both tuna nigiri and tuna maki, but my absolute favourite sushi has to be aburi salmon (炙りサーモン):

Roasted Salmon Nigiri

Aburi salmon is very lightly grilled, but still partially raw, and just melts in your mouth. Even looking at this picture makes me drool.

So, hungry yet? What’s your favourite kind of sushi?


Next week we’ll start with せ (se), so please leave a comment below suggesting a topic for things beginning with せ. Topics can be anything, as long as they are connected to Japan – food, places, people, characters, whatever you want to hear about! Just remember that the words you suggest must be Japanese (for example, you can’t suggest ‘sentence’ for ‘se’, because ‘sentence’ in Japanese is ‘bun’, but you could suggest ‘semi’, which is a cicada.

I look forward to hearing your suggestions!  (*^_^)v

13 thoughts on “A to Wa of Japan: Week 14

  1. You can’t go wrong with sushi. It is such a popular food both here in Japan and around the world. There is so much choice here as well as you have the cheaper family friendly conveyor belt sushi restaurants like Kappazushi and also the more traditional sushi restaurants. A few suggestions for next week are: Sensoji, Sento, and Setouchi.


  2. I love sushi, especially any kind of sashimi. My favorite toppings are toro (tuna) and salmon! ^____^

    Suggestions for next week:
    Seto Naikai (Seto Inland Sea), Sendai (a city in Miyagi Prefecture)


  3. This is a great explanation of everything. I am a bit of a sushi snob myself! But when I’m home in Washington DC for a visit, I do the best I can because our family can’t go more than a few weeks without eating it somewhere!


  4. OMG! Picture of The Sushi Menu. I don’t know whether you knew it when you use the image, but the book was published by our company! Yay!

    Anyway, words start with せ
    Sekihan(赤飯 / rice boiled together with red beans, one of famous dishes for celebration), Setta(雪駄 / Japanese traditional sandal), Semi(蝉, セミ / Cicada, Their song makes Japanese feel summer), Zenigata Heiji(銭形 平次 / one of Japanese famous fictional hero of Japanese novel, film and TV in Edo period ), Zenigata Keibu(銭形警部/ Real name is Zenigata Koichi, famous inspector of TV anime series Lupin The Third)、Seikimatsu(聖飢魔Ⅱ / Japanese KISS, a rock band)


  5. I wouldn’t expect you to write a whole piece on it, but I feel I should suggest “Sebiro” (the Japanese word for a suit, written with the ateji 背広, but actually from the London street “Savile Row”, famous for tailoring). I think your best bet for a blog is probably Seto Naikai (瀬戸内海) – the Inland Sea, which is also the title of one of the late Donald Richie’s best-known books. Or how about sensu (扇子) – folding fans? Or there’s “serebu” – an abbreviation for “celebrity”, but one with a specifically Japanese implication of “middle-aged woman”?


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