Niigata's Murakami City: Enjoy Fun Events, Sightseeing, and Local Cuisine!

Savoring Sushi! A Complete Guide To Sushi And Useful Tips

This service includes sponsored advertisements.
article thumbnail image

Sushi is a dish that anyone visiting Japan should try! This comprehensive guide explains the sushi varieties, how to eat sushi, as well as the manners one should heed. You will also find information on sushi restaurants and even sushi souvenirs!

Latest update :

Sushi - Simple Yet Refined Japanese Cuisine

What Is Sushi? Types, Manners, And Top Places To Eat It

Sushi is a classic Japanese dish where slices of fish or seafood are combined with white rice that has been flavored with vinegar. Standard sushi refers to "Edo-style sushi" and as suggested by its name, it originated in the city of Edo (former name of Tokyo) during the Edo period, and was originally considered to be a fast food! Sushi in the past was also much bigger than it is today, and came in far fewer varieties.

We will get more into detail later, but present-day sushi comes in different forms such as "nigiri" (hand-shaped), "maki" (rolled) and "chirashi" (a bowl of rice with various sushi toppings). It had been considered an exclusively high-end cuisine for some years after the Second World War, however around the 1980's when takeaway sushi and conveyor belt sushi restaurants became popular, a new business sprung up that made sushi into a more casual dish. Lately, sushi can even be found in convenience stores and supermarkets as well.

Sushi has become a representation of Japanese food around the world and many visitors to Japan come seeking it during their travels. In this article, we will introduce the most important information people should know about sushi.

Table of Contents:

1. Types of Sushi
2. Sushi Toppings
3. Maguro - What Is It?
4. Sushi Warnings For Pregnant Women
5. When At a Sushi Restaurant
6. Terms at the Sushi Shop
7. How to Eat Sushi and Manners
8. How to Order Sushi
9. Where to Eat Sushi (Michelin Guide, Tokyo, Osaka, Budget Friendly Shops)
10. Experience Sushi Making For Yourself
11. Sushi Goods and Souvenirs

Types of Sushi


Nigiri is a sushi where a small scoop of vinegar rice is topped with fish, seafood or other ingredients. This is one of the most popular forms of sushi, requiring the masterful skill of a sushi chef.


Makizushi is a type of sushi where rice is spread on a sheet of seaweed and various ingredients are laid out and then rolled up together. There are thicker rolls called futomaki with more fillings and thinner rolls with lesser fillings called hosomaki. A famous maki that was created outside of Japan is the California roll.

Gunkan Maki

Gunkan maki is a sushi made with a small nigiri sized rice ball that has been wrapped with seaweed and topped with additional ingredients. The name derives from how the sushi looked like a ‘gunkan’ or warship. Salmon roe is usually served in this form.

Chirashi-zushi (Bara-zushi)

Rice laid inside a wooden sushi bowl or box and topped with a variety of ingredients is called chirashi zushi or bara zushi.


Vinegar flavored rice that is stuffed inside abura-age (fried thin tofu slices that have been cooked in a sweet sauce) is called the inari-zushi. Historically, it has been considered to be a food of the commoners and is widely popular among people of all ages. At times it accompanies soba or udon noodle sets.


Oshi-zushi is a type of sushi where vinegar rice has been topped with ingredients and pressed together. Common toppings include mackerel, red snapper, and salmon. In Toyama prefecture, there is a regional specialty where oshi-zushi is topped with cherry salmon, wrapped in a bamboo leaf and packed in a special wooden container.

Kaki no Ha Zushi

Kaki no ha zushi or persimmon leaf sushi is a regional dish from Nara where pieces of salmon or mackerel sushi are wrapped in persimmon leaf and aged. The name comes from how it is served with the persimmon leaf.

Types of Sushi Toppings

With countless numbers of toppings used in sushi, this time we would like to introduce the more common ones found in restaurants.

Nigirizushi Toppings

Maguro (Tuna)
A popular topping for sushi is the tuna. Depending on the part of the fish, the name varies from maguro (red meat), chutoro (semi-fatty tuna), and otoro (fatty tuna). We will get into more detail later in this article.

Ika (Squid)
Another classic topping that is simple in flavor is the squid. It is recommended to be eaten earlier in the meal.

Tako (Octopus)
Like the squid, this is another classic that is also popular among small children.

An international favorite!

Tai (Red Snapper)
This is one of the most commonly known white fish that is also recommended to eat earlier in the meal due to its light flavor.

Hamachi (Yellowtail)
The ones that have a nice amount of fat are notably delicious.

Aji (Atlantic Horse Mackerel)
A popular topping that has a distinctive scent, but is very tasty.

Sanma (Pacific Saury)
This is also another glossy skinned fish like the Spanish mackerel.

Ebi (Shrimp)
There are many types of shrimp used in sushi such as the red shrimp, white shrimp and sweet shrimp.

Hotate (Scallops)
A type of shellfish with a soft texture and bold flavor.

Shime Saba (Mackerel in Vinegar)
This is mackerel that has been cured with vinegar. It has a distinctive taste that may not suit all palates, but many are great fans of this topping.

Tamago (Egg)
A sushi with an egg omelette on top that is popular among consumers of all ages. Some say that you can determine the quality of the sushi shop just by how the egg omelette is made.

Kazunoko (Herring Roe)
Did you know these were the eggs of herring? It is an ingredient that is frequently eaten during the New Year and at celebrations.

Anago (Eel)
This piece normally has a special sauce and does not require soy sauce when eaten. It is best eaten toward the end due to its bold flavor.

Gunkan Maki and Makizushi Toppings

Ikura (Salmon Roe)
When people imagine a gunkan-style sushi, many think of the salmon roe.

Negitoro (Fatty Tuna with Scallion)
This is the fatty portion of the tuna that is made into a paste and is mixed with scallion.

Tekka Maki (Tuna Roll)
Tekka maki is a rolled sushi with the red meat of tuna in the center. It is a popular roll among consumers of all ages.

Kappa Maki (Cucumber Roll)
A sushi roll with a slice of cucumber in the center. The name derives from the cucumber being the favorite food of the mythical Japanese creature, the kappa.

Natto Maki (Fermented Bean Roll)
A classic roll where natto (fermented soy beans) is rolled inside the sushi.

Shinko Maki (Pickle Roll)
A sushi with Japanese pickle rolled inside. This is usually a good type to eat if you want to clean your palate before trying something different.

Unexpected Toppings

Not everything can work as a sushi topping, but there are plenty of unique toppings found at sushi-go-rounds or casual sushi shops. The great part of sushi can also be how your imagination and curiosity can be tested.

- High-end beef sushi
- Corn sushi
- Pineapple gunkan maki
- Gyoza dumpling sushi

And much more. If you find a unique sushi dish, why not give it a try? Perhaps you may like it more than you imagine.

Other Dishes Found at Sushi Restaurants

Miso Soup
Almost every sushi shop carries miso soup. The comforting flavor and the warmth match very well with sushi.

Chawan Mushi Custard
A savory custard with chicken, shiitake mushrooms, egg with broth that has been steamed is called the chawan mushi. It is frequently found in conveyor belt sushi.

At family-friendly restaurants and conveyor belt sushi shops, there are many types of desserts. Having some pudding, ice cream or even a parfait after sushi is a great way to wrap up a meal.

What Is That Special Sushi Topping "Maguro"?

Savoring Sushi! A Complete Guide To Sushi And Useful Tips

Photo by Pixta

"Maguro" or tuna may be considered to be a slightly special topping out of all the various sushi types. The tuna itself is a large fish and depending on what part is eaten, the name of the part changes. Largely divided into akami, chutoro, and otoro, the name varies according to the amount of fat contained within the cut itself. The way the tuna is prepared also comes in many variations such as negitoro, aburi (roasted) and more. Due to this, the tuna is sometimes referred to as the "King of Sushi".

Let us take a look at some of the variations of tuna below.

Maguro (Red Meat)
When maguro is ordered, it is usually the red meat of the fish. It contains very little fat and you will be able to enjoy the flavor of the tuna fully. The price range is on the reasonable side as well.

Chutoro is a fattier part of tuna than the red meat, but not as fatty as the otoro. It is considered as a part that is well balanced. Usually, the price is slightly more expensive than the red meat.

Otherwise known as fatty tuna, the rich flavor and texture that melts right in your mouth is the biggest trait of otoro. It is considered to be the most expensive part of tuna out of the three.

Taking the remains of the red meat from in between the bones, the tuna is ground down to a paste and mixed with scallion. Negitoro is commonly eaten on top of a rice bowl or as a maki roll.

Aburi means ‘grilled’, and like the name suggests, aburi is a piece of tuna where the surface has been grilled. The grilled fatty tuna is considered to be exceptional!

Tekka Maki
Rolled sushi with tuna in the center is called tekka maki.

Sushi Warnings For Pregnant Women - Know Before You Eat

According to the documents released by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in 2005, seafood is considered to be a very important and healthy part of a balanced diet, however, there are some facts that pregnant individuals should be aware before consuming certain types of seafood.

There have been cases where certain marine creatures consume a high volume of mercury - whether it be from their prey or from directly consuming these contaminated items. Thus, there is a possibility of a pregnant woman passing on mercury-related birth defects to her unborn fetus if she consumes an excessive amount of fish or seafood. Please make sure to check what you can and cannot eat before heading to a sushi shop.

According to the studies, the following are cautioned against:
Yellowback sea bream (kidai), striped marlin (makajiki), helicolenus (yumekasago), southern bluefin tuna (minami maguro), blue shark (yoshikirizame), Dall's porpoise (ishi-iruka), splendid alfonsino (kinmedai), giant beaked whale (tsuchi-kujira), swordfish (mekajiki), Pacific bluefin tuna (kuromaguro), bigeye tuna (mebachi maguro), buccinidae (echo-baigai), sperm whale (makko kujira), short-finned pilot whale (kobiregondo) and the bottlenose dolphin (bando iruka).

Non-dangerous seafood include the following:
Yellowfin tuna (kihada), albacore (binnaga), bluefin tuna (mejimaguro), canned tuna (tsuna), salmon (sake), Atlantic horse mackerel (aji), mackerel (saba), European pilchard (iwashi), Pacific saury (sanma), Japanese amberjack (buri) and the skipjack tuna (katsuo).

If there's something you are unsure of, check the website of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan or discuss with your doctor in advance.

Reference article: (Japanese)

When At a Sushi Restaurant

Surprisingly, not many Japanese people know how to properly eat sushi at restaurants, but the basic manners are the same regardless of where you eat. Whether you are at a high-end restaurant or at a casual conveyor belt sushi shop, let us explain the unique terms and manners used specifically at the sushi shop.

Terms At A Sushi Shop

At sushi restaurants, there are specific "terms" that are used among the chefs. If you are aware of these following terms, you are one step closer to becoming a sushi specialist. (Please note that these terms are used among chefs and do not need to be used at restaurants. It is more polite if you do not use it and simply know it as background knowledge.)

Due to its purple color, soy sauce is referred to as "murasaki" (purple). It is used as a condiment in sushi.

Wasabi is referred to as namida (tears). This name was given to it as the spiciness of the wasabi brings tears to some people's eyes. For those who cannot handle spice well, you may ask the chef "namida nuki" (no tears) and they will remove the wasabi for you.

Sliced ginger pickled in sweet vinegar is called the gari. It frequently accompanies the sushi and neutralizes the distinctive smell of the fish.

Green tea in sushi shops is referred to as the agari. At sushi shops, green tea is commonly served to help you digest the fat of the fish and to clean your palate when eating different types of sushi.

A term used to refer to the sushi rice.

Toppings or ingredients used in sushi are called the neta but this mainly refers to fish and seafood.

Manners and How to Eat Sushi

What Is Better? Chopsticks or Hands?

Whether you eat with your hands or your chopsticks, there is no wrong or better way. For those who are not used to using the chopsticks, it may be better if you use your hands in fact. When using your hands, hold the rice with your thumb while holding the topping with your pointer and middle finger.

Where Do You Put the Soy Sauce?

It is recommended to put a little bit of soy sauce on the topping. If the rice is drenched in the soy sauce, you will ruin the flavor of the topping of the sushi and it will fall apart easily.

Are You Allowed To Eat in One Bite?

It is actually suggested for you to eat nigiri or rolls in one bite. It is considered to be uncouth if you eat sushi in small bites or tear it apart with your teeth. Sushi enthusiasts consider eating with the topping on the bottom best as you can better savor the flavor of the fish instead of the rice.

Careful of Strong Smells Like Perfume and Cigarettes!

At high-end sushi restaurants with counters, please be careful and not wear too much perfume or cologne that has a strong smell. To enjoy sushi to the fullest, you must be able to take your time to indulge in the flavor. While the number of sushi restaurants that allow smoking has certainly decreased, if you plan to smoke, please be courteous to other customers and ask if it is acceptable before lighting up.

For more information about manners when eating sushi, please read How To Eat Sushi Like A Pro.

How to Order Sushi

The Order to Eat Sushi

While there are no set rules in eating sushi, did you know there is a recommended order when eating sushi? Generally, it is best when sushi is eaten from the "lightest flavor to the boldest flavor". For instance, starting with bland flavors such as red snapper or squid and work to fatty fish such as toro and anago eel that is flavored with a sauce.

However, this is not a rule, so you are welcome to create an order of your own that suits your preference.

How to Order at a High-End Restaurant with a Counter Top

Ordering sushi at the counter can make you a little nervous at first, but there is no need to get scared. As we mentioned earlier, it is recommended to follow the general order, however, you are welcome to order according to your preference.

This may be a great opportunity to ask for the "osusume" or recommendation from the chef. Please note that if you happen to order something not listed on the menu, the price may be difficult to find out. At counter top sushi restaurants, it is a great place to enjoy the sushi as well as the atmosphere.

How to Order at Casual Sushi Shops and Conveyer Belt Sushi Shops

Basic manners are the same as high-end restaurants, but it is recommended for you to enjoy the casual feeling. When visiting restaurants with your family, especially with small children, conveyor belt sushi shops may be a good option. Aside from sushi, there are many other dishes along with plenty of desserts to suit everyone's tastes. You can pick whatever comes along on the conveyor belt or you can request from the chef or the staff directly.

Many conveyor belt sushi shops tend to color code their dishes to determine the price. You may want to check the prices and the color of the dishes before ordering.

Where Do You Eat Sushi? From Popular Restaurants, Conveyor Belt Sushi Chains and More

Famed Michelin Star Sushi Restaurants in Tokyo

Sukiyabashi Jiro Main Branch / Ginza
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza, 4-2-15 Tsukamoto Sogyo Building B1
Website: Sukiyabashi Jiro
Phone number: 03-3535-3600

Sushi Saito / Roppongi
Address: Tokyo, Minato, Roppongi 1-4-5 Ark Hills South Tower 1F
Website: Not available
Phone number: 03-3589-4412

Sushi Yoshitake / Shinbashi
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza, 8-7-19 Suzuryu Building 3F
Website: (Japanese)
Phone number: 03-6253-7331

Umi / Gaien mae
Address: Tokyo, Aoyama, 3-2-8
Website: (Japanese)
Phone number: 03-3401-3368

Sushi Kimura / Futakotamagawa
Address: Tokyo, Setagaya, Futakotamagawa 3-21-8
Website: Sushi Kimura (Japanese)
Phone number: 03-3707-6355

Sawada / Ginza
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza, 5-9-19 MC Building 3F
Website: Not available
Phone number: 03-3571-4711

Sukibayashi Jiro Roppongi Hills Branch / Roppongi
Address: Tokyo, Minato, Roppongi 6-12-2 Roppongi Hills, Roppongi Keyakizakadori, Roppongi Hills Residence B Tower 3F
Website:Sukibayashi Jiro
Phone number: 03-5413-6626

Nishi Azabu Taku / Nishi Azabu
Address: Tokyo, Minato, Nishi Azabu 2-11-5 Kapalua Nishi Azabu 1F
Website: Not available
Phone number: 03-5774-4372

Hatsune Zushi / Kamata
Address: Tokyo, Ota, Nishi Kamata 5-20-2
Website: Hatsune Zushi (Japanese)
Phone number: 03-3731-2403

Sushi Mizutani / Shinbashi
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza, 8-7-7
Website: Not available
Phone number: 03-3573-5258

Harutaka / Shinbashi
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza 8-3-1 Ginza Denno Building 6F
Website: Not available
Phone number: 03-3573-1144

Sushi Restaurants in Tokyo

Aside from the listed restaurants above, Tokyo has plenty of sushi shops that vary in atmosphere and price. For more details, please refer to the articles below.
Sushi Restaurants in Tsukiji and Ginza
Tsukiji fish market carries a great variety of fresh seafood every day. Located near the fish market, many stores in Ginza carry delicious sushi. There are also many stores that also are English-friendly as well! For more information on recommended sushi restaurants in the area, the following articles may come in handy.
Sushi Restaurants in Roppongi
Attracting many visitors from outside of Japan, Roppongi also has many delicious sushi shops and restaurants.

Sushi Restaurants in Shibuya
Right in the trendy spot of Shibuya, there are many sushi restaurants that you can casually stop by after shopping.

Sushi Restaurants in Shinjuku
Located in the heart of Tokyo, a range of sushi restaurants according to your budget and needs can be found right here.

Sushi Restaurants in Asakusa
As one of the hottest tourist locations in Tokyo, trying sushi in the city of traditions is definitely worth a try.
Sushi in Asakusa? Check Out These 13 Stops!

Famed Michelin Star Sushi Restaurants in Osaka

Sushidokoro Jinsei
Address: Osaka, Osaka, Chuo, Shinsaibashisuji 2-1-3
Website: Not available
Phone number: 06-6211-9111

Sushi Chiharu
Address: Osaka, Osaka, Fukushima, Fukushima 5-12-14 Coop Fukushima 1
Website: Sushi Chiharu
Phone number: 06-6450-8685

Sushidokoro Amano
Address: Osaka, Osaka, Fukushima, Fukushima 1-6-4
Website: Not available
Phone number: 06-6454-7008

Address: Osaka, Osaka, Kita, Sonezakishinchi 1-5-7 Mori Building 1F
Website: Not available
Phone number: 06-6345-7344

Sushi Harashou
Address: Osaka, Osaka, Tennoji, Ueshio 3-8-9
Website: Not available
Phone number: 06-6773-5518

All-You-Can-Eat-Sushi Restaurants

For those who want to eat as many sushi as they can, a sushi buffet is recommended. From unique shops to high-end sushi buffets, there are many to choose from. 

Conveyor Belt Sushi Chain

Hamazushi (Japanese)

One of the major franchises in the world of conveyor belt sushi chains is Hamazushi. As of 2015, with over 415 shops nationwide, they provide budget-friendly sushi starting at 100 Yen per plate on weekends and 90 Yen per plate on weekdays.

Sushiro (Japanese)
As of 2016, there are over 440 shops in the Kanto, Kansai and Chubu areas of Japan. It is a major sushi chain that provides sushi for 100 Yen a plate (except exclusive toppings that come with one piece per plate instead of two). It is popular among customers of all ages.

Muten Kurazushi (Japanese)
With 370 shops nationwide as of 2015, with many entertaining presentations, it is very widely recommended for families with small children.

Kappazushi (Japanese)
This large conveyor belt sushi chain has over 330 shops as of 2015 and is known for their original sushi with a twist. Their salad gunkan rolls are one of their most popular.

Sushi Choshimaru (Japanese)
A conveyor belt sushi chain in the Kanto area, mainly Chiba, Tokyo, Saitama and Kanagawa prefectures.

Gattenzushi (Japanese)
This chain also is widely popular in Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Tokyo and Kanagawa prefectures.

Genkizushi (Japanese)
Aimed at a wide range of consumers, this conveyor belt sushi chain is considered to be a hot spot in Shibuya among international visitors. 

Uobei (Japanese)
A lower cost conveyor belt sushi operated by the same parent company as Genkizushi.

Triton (Japanese)
A conveyor belt sushi that is widely popular in the Hokkaido area. They are known for their fresh toppings.

Kanazawa Maimonzushi (Japanese)
Aside from Kanazawa, they also have a shop in Osaka. Kanazawa Maimonzushi is known for their fresh toppings from the northern sea and the Sea of Japan.

Experience Sushi Making

To become a professional sushi chef, you will be needing years of training, however, if you grasp the basic techniques, anyone can make tasty sushi at home. There are many locations that offer tours or workshops that teach you the basic steps of sushi making. This would be a great opportunity to make a special sushi of your own.

Why not learn how to make sushi in the land of sushi? It would surely make for a great memory of your trip!

Sushi Goods and Souvenirs

Tools to Make Sushi

Sushi Oke (Sushi Bowl)
With a sushi bowl, you can make your own chirashi zushi easily! You can also purchase a fan with the bowl to cool down the rice before making your sushi.

Shamoji (Rice Scooper)
A rice scooper can come in handy when mixing the rice to make chirashi zushi or scoop out the rice.

Makisu (Sushi Mat)
A sushi mat is used to make rolled sushi. On the mat, a sheet of nori seaweed, rice, and ingredients used to fill the roll is placed before it is made into a roll.

Oroshigane (Grater)
A grater is nice to have when making fresh wasabi.

Characters Inspired by Sushi

Nekozushi (Japanese)
A mysterious creature with a cat sitting on rice. Its unique characteristics are drawing many fans.

Sushi Yuki (Japanese)
A popular character used as a stamp in the chat app, "LINE".

Osushi Sentai Sharidaa (Japanese)
A sushi toy where the rice is used as the main motif.

Dakkozushi (Japanese)
The mascot character of the conveyor belt sushi chain, Sushiro.

Souvenirs Related to Sushi!

Key Chain

A classic souvenir you can find at many souvenir shops in tourist-centric places such as Kyoto and Asakusa. You can even find it at shops that carry small trinkets or even 100 Yen shops.

Tiny sushi shaped erasers are very cute and nice to pass out as gifts for friends. You can find them in large variety shops or stationery stores.

Another very popular souvenirs are the realistic looking food samples. Aside from tempura, there is sushi as well. If you go to Kappabashi in Asakusa, you will find many shops carrying a wide range of fake sushi.

Suitcase Covers (Japanese)
If you want to be different and get a unique souvenir, why not change your suitcase into a sushi?

Written by

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting. Some of our articles contain affiliate links. We kindly ask our readers to exercise careful judgement when making a purchase or booking a service online.

Top Articles

There are no articles in this section.