Last Saturday, I went out to eat sushi at Sushi Stop with two of my friends and it made me excited both because I got to see my friends again and because now I can write a post about sushi that is relevant to something that just happened. Yes, I have been waiting to write this post about how sushi is globalized for a while, but now that I have gotten my fill of eel avocado and baked salmon rolls, I’m good to go!
The sushi industry in Japan was first driven by demand for fresh seafood, which was part of the traditional Japanese diet. After several processes of cultural diffusion, the sushi industry began to extend further from its hearth in Japan and make its name in countries abroad, with changes in both Japanese and American culture providing the stimuli to help cause that expansion. The 1970s was when this growth really started to take off as Japan was emerging as a competitive economic country and American tastes began shifting towards a healthier diet that included staple sushi ingredients such as fish and rice. As Japanese aesthetics also began to spread within the United States, these factors helped prepare the country to welcome the sushi trend.
While relocation diffusion played a role in sushi’s spread as people moved between Japan and the United States, exposing this new culinary fare to the West, much of the actual spread among Americans was a result of processes of hierarchical diffusion, passed down from influential figures to the common mass. Sushi began as a form of haute cuisine that was enjoyed by those who associated its exoticness with being cool. Popular movies in the 1970s such as The Breakfast Club depicted sushi as a foreign meal that was only really understood by the popular, preppy, and well-off character played by Molly Ringwald. Just as how celebrities and upper-class individuals help to set many of the trends that the masses adopt today, sushi trickled down from the top and many chose to take part in its consumption in order to be seen as hip and fashionable.
Today, around 30 million Americans eat sushi regularly and sushi bars have become popular in large cities across Europe and parts of Asia. The sushi industry itself has become globalized with fishing for tuna being done in waters near both New England and Spain, buying and selling being done in Japan, and cooking and preparing being done by diverse, sometime non-Japanese chefs, all around the world. Though sushi has been effectively globalized and various restaurants develop new and original sushi creations, it still remains in popular culture as a thoroughly Japanese product.
There’s so much more to learn about the globalization of sushi and you should definitely look up “How Sushi Went Global” by Theodore Bestor for a more extensive information. Mm, I’m getting cravings again!