How many types of SUSHI do you know??

What would you imagine when you hear the word ‘sushi’? Sushi is basically the food of the combination of raw fish and vinegared rice and the world of sushi is deeper than we expect. The range of sushi is not only sushi rolls we see in a western eatery next to burritos, or nigiri known as ‘authentic’ sushi in Japan. 

As sushi has been artistically modified and globally localised, there is even a Japanese book called “Sushi Japanese people do not know”. But actually, it happens within Japan too; some types of local speciality sushi I am going to introduce in this article are not known broadly among Japanese people.  

Oh, here are just a few lines to explain terminology. The word sushi transforms into ‘zushi’ when it is combined with another word to specify the type of sushi. The naming is usually either;

(1) making method +sushi (e.g.: maki[roll] zushi, nigiri[shaped by hand grab] zushi ) 

(2) ingredient +sushi (e.g.: Inari zushi)

Well, I stop trying to explain the delicacy in words. Excuse me for making you hungry with a lot of sushi photos when you continue reading below. 


Nigiri zushi 

Nigiri zushi is composed by ‘shari’ a hand-shaped (nigiri) rice part and ‘neta’ a fish/egg slice on it. It is one the most commonly seen in Japan now, though it used to be typical in Tokyo (Edo, at that time).

Nigiri was a kind of fast food. Then this type of sushi became very popular and accessible among people at any income level all over Japan when casual and affordable kaiten zushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurants appeared.

It is probably only the elderly in West Japan who still regard pressed sushi as the typical ‘sushi’. In contrast to kaiten zushi, the bar-counter type of sushi restaurants is generally fancier than kaiten zushi now. Yet, you can still find affordable standing sushi bars in cities (e.g. at Temma in Osaka or Ueno in Tokyo).

Nigiri is served whenever celebration happens. It is enjoyed usually along with wasabi, soy sauce and gari (ginger pickle: upper left in the last picture, surrounded by fake grass partitions in the sushi plate in the picture below ).

Typical Japanese standing party set

Gunkan (which literally means ‘war ship’) is a subcategory (according to my classification! ) of nigiri, which ingredient is, for instance, cod roe, tuna flake or whitebaits. the shari rice has nori seaweed sheet around it to support the separatable neta. 

Aburi zushi(sushi with slightly roasted neta) is my favourite type of sushi. Especially, a little fatty neta like salmon and yellowtail becomes even more supreme in this way, because the flavour of fish fat and crispy roasting aroma beautifully harmonise with each other.  


Maki zushi

Futomaki (thick sushi roll including multiple ingredients) and hosomaki (thin, simple one) compose the category of  ‘maki’. 

Also temaki zushi is a common home-made style makizushi. 

Photo by Japan Centre 

California roll, which is very common in western countries are also a kind of makizushi. 

California roll is popular; comparatively easy to make, the colourfulness provokes appeitite and arrangeable with cooked ingredients.   in western countries served as fashionable western sushi, for example, at The Tokyo sushi bar SHARI. 


Nare zushi

This might be the oldest type of sushi. Nare means fermented; sushi started as a way of preservation of fish, fermented with salt and rice. 

Photo by Haccola

It might be interesting to put eating the very original sushi in your to-do list of Japan travel.


Oshi zushi 

Oshi zushi, or pressed sushi is typical with grilled fatty mackerel. The sushi is really good with beer.

pressed sushi with roasted mackerel

Regarding a restaurant to taste that, I would recommend you to visit Izuju Kyoto.

Hakozushi(boxed sushi) of Izuju

There are other types of oshi zushi such as Kakinoha zushi (sushi wrapped with persimmon leaves), and masuzushi (pressed trout sushi) .

Kakinoha zushis of sea bream and salmon


Chirashi zushi

Chirashi, as it means ‘scattered’, has different types of ingredients scattered (but with considered balance) on vinegared rice on a large plate. The typical day Japanese people eat this dish is Hinamatsuri day of March 3rd,  the day to celebrate girls’ growth.

Our cooking class guests made this !

Also, how about making this lovely floral Chirashi zushi for your loved one’s birthday? 


Inari zushi

You might have heard of Inari shrines, for example, Fushimi Inari shrine. Inari shrines have foxes as the messengers of the god of agriculture and harvest. And in Japanese myths, the foxes’ favourite food is ‘abura agé’, the thin, brown tofu fries, which is used for outside of inari zushi. Therefore, sushi wrapped with seasoned abura age is called inari zushi. This sushi kind holds such a metonymy based on Japanese context in its name…!

By the way, my genius friend made these Rirakkuma inari zushis. Cuteness exploded! This was a great attraction at our Hanami (cherry blossom gazing party) last year. 


Others: vegetarian sushi etc.

This is not a typical type but great experience for vegetarians and those who want to try new, good food. The best yasai zushi (vegetable sushi) was at Itadakizen. 

Good ones available at Itadakizen restaurants

Other local sushis such as mehari zushi in Wakayama region (though it is rather a rice ball wrapped with takana leaf pickle) or cute decorative types such as temari zushi or hana zushi are not so known as nigiri even among Japanese people. Now you know more sushi types than many Japanese people 😉 Next step is to try each of them!


Related tours:

Request the type of sushi you wish to make, when you order a cooking class! 

Our Tenjinbashi tour could lead you many attractive taverns including a good and affordable sushi place! 

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A tourist guide, showing everywhere in Japan. Guide hundreds of people from all over the world every year. Born in Osaka, lived in Australia and Sweden. Traveled in more than 50 countries.


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