Artistic sushi, made by placing ingredients in a mold and pressing them

Osakazushi offered by an old-established sushi restaurant, Yoshinosushi, is called "hakozushi," which is made by placing various ingredients, including sea bream, sea eel, egg and shrimp, in a single wooden box (hako) in a manner that emphasizes the beautiful combination of colors.

Due to its distinctive culinary culture and cuisine, Osaka is known for a variety of delicious foods. This issue of Brand-New Osaka focuses on sushi, a food popular among Japanese and foreigners alike. Osaka's traditional sushi is called "Osakazushi" meaning "sushi of Osaka." Mr. Takeshi Kadokami, a food columnist, tells us how Osakazushi developed in the history of Osaka's culinary culture.

Sushi evolved from fermented, salted fish

Sushi is Japan's traditional food made of vinegared rice and fish. There are several kinds of sushi, the most famous of which is nigirizushi, vinegared rice hand-molded into an oval shape and topped with raw fish.

Sushi is said to originate from the practice of fermenting salted fish in rice, which was introduced to Japan from the Chinese continent and Southeast Asia more than 1,300 years ago. In the western part of Japan, this original form evolved into bozushi, rectangular-shaped vinegared rice topped with a whole fish that had been dipped in vinegar, and then into oshizushi, made by compressing the rice and fish in a wooden box-like mold.

On the other hand, nigirizushi dates back to the 17th century in Tokyo. Sushi grew popular among the people of Tokyo as a kind of fast food that was easy to prepare and could be eaten on-the-spot.

How to make hakozushi

How to make 1

A sushi chef of Yoshinosushi shows how to make hakozushi. First, vinegared rice is placed in the wooden box, and then shrimp, egg, sea bream and other ingredients are arranged colorfully on top of the rice.

How to make 2

A wooden lid is placed on the ingredients and pressure is applied to the lid.

How to make 3

The wooden box is removed and the pressed sushi log is sliced into bite-sized pieces for serving.

Sushi became increasingly popular and sophisticated in Osaka, the city of merchants


Another prestigious sushi restaurant, Sushiman, is famous for oshizushi topped with sea bream, which is called kodaisuzumezushi.

In the 19th century, creative sushi chefs in Osaka began to incorporate their ingenuity in making oshizushi, using expensive seafood such as sea bream, sea eel and shrimp, and mixing some ingredients in sushi rice. This elaborately designed oshizushi was unique to Osaka, and was not seen in other parts of the country, and was thus called "Osakazushi."

In those days, Osakazushi was too expensive for most people and it was served only on special ceremonial occasions, such as weddings. Live-in staff, who left their hometowns and employed in Osaka, took great pride in buying Osakazushi for their families when returning home, because doing so indicated their success in Osaka.

In long-established sushi restaurants, chefs still take their time when making Osakazushi, separately cooking each ingredient carefully, faithful to the tradition of Osakazushi. Today, Osakazushi is more affordable than it was in those earlier days. When you visit Osaka, don't miss the chance to try Osakazushi, one of Osaka's specialties.

This article is written with the cooperation of:

3-4-14 Awaji-machi, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi
Phone: +81-6-6231-7181

Kodaisuzumezushi Sushiman:
4-5-11 Koraibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi
Phone: +81-6-6231-1520


Takeshi Kadokami

Mr. Kadokami is a food columnist, who serves as an editor-in-chief for "Amakaratecho," one of the best known culinary magazines in the Kansai region. He has written many articles about foods and frequently appears in the media, including TV, radio and magazines.

From: Brand-New Osaka vol.5 (2007.7.)