The Story of ‘Sushi Rolling’ from China, Japan to Charleston ‘The Holy City’ of South Carolina

Posted on May 18, 2012


Originating from Southeast Asia during the 4th century BC, where preserved food of salted fish and fermented with rice was an essential source of protein for the Southeast Asian people.

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“Tohto Meisho Takanawa Nijyuu-rokuya-machi Yuukyou-no-zu” translates in English as “Feast in Waiting for the Moon at Takanawa, Edo on the Twenty-sixth Night” from the artwork series of Famous Places in Edo by the Japanese artist ANDO (UTAGAWA) Hiroshige. “A sushi stand shop is illustrated on the right panel of the three-folded pictures, with many other stands like grilled squids, tempura, 2-8 soba – buckwheat noodles, dumplings, etc.  The sushi stand is displaying nigiri-zushi of saba (mackerel, in blue colored) and other fish/sushi on wooden flamed plates.  On the evening of 26th July, people are waiting for the rise of the crescent moon at Takanawa, where very famous for this festival.”

The first sushi is called ‘nare-zushi’ where the rice natural fermentation was incorporated on the cleaned and gutted fish to preserve it. It was stored for couple of months of fermentation before the fish was taken out to be consumed while the rice that was used is discarded.

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It spread all throughout the houses of the people of the ‘Great Wall of China’ over time and it was only later, at around the 8th century, AD during the Heian period when sushi was introduced to the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ of the progressive country of Japan. They called ‘sushi’ as ‘seisei-zushi’ which was preferred to eat together with rice that became popular at the later Muromachi period. This kind of sushi was eaten while the fish was still slightly raw and the rice has not lost its savor. Thru this way, sushi rolling transcend to a cuisine rather than just a way to preserve food.

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By the time of Edo era, sushi rolling produced the haya-zushi, which was made as a way to eat the fish and rice together, this dish was uniquely established in the Japanese culture. As an alternative of being only utilized for fermentation, rice was mixed with vinegar and combined not only limited with fish but also with different dried preserved foods and vegetables. Even until today, each Japan regions still maintains its own unique taste by using local products in different types of sushi rolling that have been handed down for generations.

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This Japanese artwork is titled ‘Atake Matsuga-zushi’ by UTAGAWA Toyokuni III from Matsuno-zushi, a very famous sushi shop and said to be one of the originators of ‘nigiri-zushi’, as well as Yohei-zushi which depicts “the most left woman is holding a sushi tub with a pack of ginger on it, in which pressed mackerel sushi is filled supposedly cause it was shop’s specialty and very expensive, for a gift or on an errand.” Also, in the picture are the seven Japanese characters can be read from the right to left, ‘A-Ta-Ke-Ma-Tsu‘-Hon-Ten (H.Q.) on the horizontal shop curtain.”

At the dawn of the 19th century, when Tokyo was still known as Edo, mobile food stalls was dominating the food service industry at that time and invented the ‘nigiri-zushi’. Edomae which literally translate in English ‘in front of Tokyo bay,’ was where the fresh fish and savory seaweed for the ‘nigiri-zushi’ were harvested.

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As an outcome, it was also fondly called edomae-zushi and was Japanese favorite among the citizens in Edo after Yohei Hanaya, a very talented sushi chief who improvised the simple dish to a delicious delicacy. Even after the Great Kanto earthquake that shook Japan in 1923, nigiri sushi spread like wildfire throughout Japan as the skilled and creative edomae-zushi chefs from Edo who were unemployed were scattered all over Japan.

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In the wake of increased consciousness in health with the coming of age in 1980s, sushi rolls became one of the healthiest meals and got respected attention. The California roll was introduced as sushi bars have begun sprouting in the United States and reached the Holy City of South Carolina. Even with the introduction of hi-tech sushi machines for mass production of sushi, it still can’t hold a candle to the traditional sushi rolling with the delicate skills used by sushi chef, creating these little healthy edible masterpieces.

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‘California roll’

Sushi rolling at present has spread worldwide and is in the fusion phase between the style sushi (American) and for almost 20 years it is just starting to peak off as a culinary evolution because since there has no real revolutionary breakthrough likes the ‘California roll’. There are many new rolls created here and there but they are only variation of combination of existing sushi ingredients with different names labeled to them.

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A highly advanced technology sushi bar where you order on a touch screen computer by selecting the picture of the sushi you want to eat

Enrolling in a sushi rolling class is enjoyable and boosts your creativity skills while a good food option for any type of event. Incorporating a fusion of the classic and the American style sushi to your party would make your event memorable. Once again, sushi rolling has been proved to be a meta-morphing cuisine. It will be very interesting to wait and see what will be the next sushi rolling trend, what new sushi flavor will be created.

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“You should try the Fire-breather sushi roll, enrolling for a sushi rolling class of Holy City Catering with their wonderful Charleston, SC Venues and known to be one of the best sushi Charleston SC specialty of the Charleston, SC Catering Companies.

Don’t forget to like this article if you find this article helpful. Also, follow us in our Sushi Rolling articles to the latest sushi catering trends. Get in touch with us by telephone no. +1-843-762-3338, fax no. +1-843-793-4228, or you may also e-mail us at We are located in 1033-B Wappoo Rd., Charleston, SC 29407.”