Japanese Food Culture: How Sushi Became A Global Food

The world is transforming at a very high rate, connecting people from different walks of life and thus diversifying culture. The interaction of people has not only improved tourism across the globe but has also improved trade as people have gone international. It is this interaction that has led to diversification, with people opening up businesses to other countries and as well having their culture influencing others. In this line of culture, dressing codes and religion have been massively influenced by people adopting new styles and converting into new religions. However, the greatest cultural exchange is found in food. The world has different cultures, most of whom share or don’t share cuisines, but the opening up of the world borders by improved transport and the technology has enabled cultures to change and taste other cultures' cuisine. The Japanese cuisine, Sushi, is one of the traditional foods that have had a massive influence on cultures across the globe, spreading mostly the American soil and establishing roots as a dominant food type in a foreign land. There are various reasons that can be attributed to the global expansion of Sushi cuisine from Japan and this includes globalization, market exchange, and also redistribution.

Globalization refers to the process by which businesses develop international influence, thus operating on a global platform. The rise of Japan as an international business destination contributed to a great extent, the spread of Japanese cuisine, Sushi. Due to globalization, Sushi has now gone global, and at the time businesses were living in Japan, the love for the cuisine was inseparable, compelling them to start similar restaurants in their countries. Market exchange, on the other hand, refers to the exchange of goods and services. Global regulations on fishing and pressures from environmental awareness organizations forced the Japanese to diversify their supply chain. The Mediterranean was the main ocean where tuna fishery was being done, and the mass production brought along the urge for market expansion, which saw Japan open markets in places like America, where there was ready demand. Redistribution involves the distribution of something in a different manner with the aim of achieving higher social equality. Sushi has a connection with the socioeconomic class making it affordable to people of all classes. Besides, the production of the Tuna may now look less Japanese, as many people and countries have diverged into fish farming. Due to this, the price for Sushi has been lowered, making it affordable for people of all socioeconomic status. 

According to Carroll (2009), Sushi was initially Japanese cuisine but later spread to the rest of the world through globalization. The author takes the food as the baseline of the article, making further investigations as to how the different foods were able to disperse from their original owners to being adopted by new cultures. The article cites that tracing food networks and the dispersion of food culture across the globe can be the best way to explore globalization and its impacts. Therefore, to make a better impression, the article provides an example of sushi food to study its globalization and effects. Sushi is a type of food associated with the Japanese culture and to which most of its consumption was for the locals and business people. To trace the globalization impact, the author traces the role of fish on Japanese identity as well as the spread of Sushi as a global food. According to the article, Sushi was only known in Japan, but the impact of globalization was soon felt after the region was opened up through business. Many traders who dined Japanese cuisine could not help the food and thus carried the tradition with them, starting Japanese restaurants in their countries. Through this, the cuisine was spread by business people as they loved its taste.

Bestor, in his 2001 journal “How Sushi went global. Foods and Food Ingredients Journal of Japan” uses the case study of Tuna to explain the concept of globalization and the eventual global distribution of Sushi. Through the case study, Bestor shows how the Japanese fish market exploded to provide Sushi not only to their nation but also across the globe. The technological advancement contributed to a huge level the growth and redistribution of Tuna fish to the rest of the world. Heavy machineries were used in fish harvesting, which ensured a continued supply of fish throughout the seasons, and this enabled Japan to introduce their unique cuisine to the rest of the world and at the same time, maintain the supply of fish to the already established markets. According to Bestor, Tuna gained a global acceptance due to its unique mode of cooking, in which sometimes it was eaten raw. According to House, (2018), Sushi first came to be known in the United States and gained popularity in the mid-1960s. The author uses California as the basis of its study, which had the conducive factors that allowed the spread of Sushi in America. The article states that America had a high demand, and it is these demand-side forces that opened the market for the famous sushi food in the U.S. According to the article, the United States' establishment of Sushi can be inferred as part of the broader public acceptance of the Japanese cuisine. The curiosity of trying a new type of food caught the attention of most people to which upon trial found it mouthwatering. As a result, an increase in demand was witnessed, and considering there was already a steady supply of Tuna from Japan, the market continued to widen, attracting new people, and this is how the Sushi cuisine became famous.

Longo (2011), in his article “Global Sushi: The Political Economy of the Mediterranian Bluefin Tuna Fishery in the Modern Era. Journal of world-systems research” states that the Bluefin tuna fishery in the Mediterranean has had a long history of human interaction. In recent times, it has become one of the leading sources of Bluefin tuna for most nations such as Japan. The fishery process was set off in large part by the growth of global fish markets that were driven by the valuable sushi and sashimi market as well as the other aspect of overfishing in other parts of the world. Besides the Mediterranean, fish production has also been effectively produced through fish farming, which has made it easy for the tuna fish to reach its market while it is still fresh. The readily availability of the Bluefin tuna induces demand as its supply is ready. Through this, the Mediterranean creates a pool of fish through which the sushi cuisine can be readily enjoyed without the big hustles of finding the commodity that is essential for the preparation of Sushi. 

Another main reason as to why Sushi spread globally is due to its socioeconomic acceptance. Before the 1970s, Sushi was not common but come to be well known in the U.S in the late 1980s. Sushi was sold in some expensive restaurants that made it difficult for people to afford it. However, after the 1980s, the cuisine has gained widespread acceptance across the globe, with its success being globalization and localization through which global popularization of cultural products like Sushi gained authenticity. Currently, many of the Japanese Americans run sushi bars to which serve localized Sushi at affordable prices for the common people. Due to its availability and low prices, Sushi gained widespread acceptance from being a Japanese meal to a global meal for everyone, including people of low socioeconomic status.

Just like any other business, the sushi cuisine was more than a local recipe. The Japanese introduced it to the business people who traveled to Japan and it is through this that they paved way for its globalization. It is with no doubt the business people, especially from America, as it is in this nation that we find sushi restaurants. Among the factors that can be attributed to sushi, global status includes globalization, redistribution as well as the wide acceptability to the people. Sushi offers an alternative to the local cuisines, and this is the reason why it was widely accepted. Currently, sushi is no longer a Japanese cuisine as it is consumed all over the globe, with people going ahead to fish farming to feed the growing demand.


  • Bestor, T. C. (2001). How Sushi went global. Foods and Food Ingredients Journal of Japan, 41-54.
  • Carroll, W. F. (2009). SUSHI: Globalization through food culture: towards a study of global food networks.
  • House, J. (2018). Sushi in the United States, 1945–1970. Food and Foodways, 26(1), 40-62.
  • Longo, S. B. (2011). Global Sushi: The Political Economy of the Mediterranian Bluefin Tuna Fishery in the Modern Era. Journal of world-systems research, 17(2), 403-427.
  • Ng, W. M. (2001). Popularization and localization of Sushi in Singapore: an ethnographic survey. New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies, 3, 7-19.
16 December 2021
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