The Origin of Sushi
Sushi is a traditional Japanese dish that comes in many forms:
If anyone refers simply to sushi, they are usually thinking of Nigiri sushi, which is classed as the King of Sushi!
The Man who created Nigiri Sushi: Yohei Hanaya
The next development came from a greengrocer’s son who devised a type of sushi that was easier to both make and eat. Yohei Hanaya, was born in 1799 in Fukui Prefecture. After working in the family business for 10 years, he left for the bright lights of Tokyo in 1818. Yohei changed jobs several times before creating his “nigiri”, meaning squeezed, sushi and starting to sell it from a box carried on his back. Ten years later, around 1828, when Yohei was in his thirties, he expanded his business and started a sushi selling stall.
Word soon spread of this new type of sushi that could just be popped into the mouth. “Nigiri-sushi” grew in popularity and Yohei’s business prospered.
The man who developed vinegar: Matazaemon Nakano
Even before Yohei created his nigiri-sushi, there had been “sushi booms” in Edo, the old name for Tokyo when “hako-zushi” (sushi shaped like a box) and “maki” (rolled) sushi became popular, and shops selling these lined the streets. In 1804, a man from Owari (modern-day Nagoya) visited Edo. Seeing the popularity of sushi for himself, he spotted a gap in the market.
=Matazaemon Nakano, the original founder of Mizkan, ran a sake brewery in Handa, a city on the outskirts of Nagoya. On his return from Edo, he began experimenting with making vinegar from the by-products of sake brewing. It took several attempts to get right, but Matazaemon finally succeeded. This was the birth of Mizkan Vinegar. Six years after he first had the idea, Matazaemon was shipping his sushi vinegar to Edo.
Sushi spreads all over Japan
The popularity of sushi in Edo, thanks to the availability of Matazaemon’s vinegar and success of Yohei’s nigiri-sushi, led to numerous sushi stalls springing up - until events intervened to temporarily curb the appetite for sushi.
Around 1833, a famine swept Edo, and with the reformation of the Temp Shogunate, a military government, luxuries were banned and sushi stalls attacked.
It was a difficult time for both sushi sellers and those who had grown to love eating sushi. But by now the reputation and popularity of nigri-sushi had spread from Edo to the countryside. By the beginning of the Meiji Period (1868), 40 years after he rolled his first piece of sushi, Yohei’s nigiri-sushi had truly “arrived” on a national scale.
Yohei Hanaya and Matazaemon Nakano; their legacies
Without the creativity of Yohei Hanaya, the “father” of nigiri-sushi, coupled with the foresight of Matazaemon Nakano, who produced the essential vinegar ingredient, our current culture of sushi might never have existed. From the time these two men met and shared their talents, the history of sushi has developed over another 170 years to gain converts all over the world.
This history and heritage of Mizkan Rice Vinegar brings us to the present day. Mizkan products are now used worldwide in many recipes and sauces from gourmet dinners to family barbecues and everyday meals at home.