As most of you know, sushi is a very popular dish in Japan. However, this article will focus on a certain type of sushi: masuzushi. Masuzushi is “pressed trout sushi” in English. As you can tell from the name, instead of having a normal slice of trout on top of the sticky rice, masuzushi is made with salted trout that has been pressed, giving it a different texture from normal types of sushi. These kinds of pressed sushi are called oshizushi. Vinegar is added to the rice used for masuzushi. The trout is pressed by spreading bamboo leaves in a round wooden container (called a wappa), and placing the trout on top of the leaves after it has been properly salted and seasonings have been added. Next, while pushing down on the vinegary rice and trout, the bamboo leaves are wrapped around the sushi and pressing it into a cake shape. After, it is cut into triangular slices, making it look like tiny sushi pie slices.
Masuzushi originated in Toyama prefecture, which is located on Japan’s main island and is bordered by the ocean. This sushi has an interesting history, originating in the Edo period. In the spring, cherry trout swim up-river in the Jinzu River which is located in Toyama. The people in Toyama were able to catch many trout during this season, thus masuzushi was made. During the Edo period, many merchants made masuzushi and travelers who stopped at teahouses at the foot of the bridge located by the Jinzu River ate it. From that time, it became increasingly popular among travelers in the region. It is also said that in the early 18th century masuzushi was sent to the shogun of Japan who was known to love gourmet food. The shogun was extremely impressed with the masuzushi and it became a delicacy in Toyama.
One of the modern day reasons that masuzushi has become so popular and widely distributed originated in 1912. Masuzushi started to be sold in train stations at that time. It has been a popular ekiben (train station lunch box) since 1912 and is still a popular choice of ekiben today.
There are about 40 manufacturers of masuzushi in Toyama city alone! Each and every store is different, each creating their own versions of masuzushi. Some of the ways manufacturers make their masuzushi different are; the amount of time the masuzushi is pressed, the strength of the vinegar, the selection of the part of the trout to use for the sushi, rice that completely encases the trout, trout that is placed on the bottom instead of on the top, and even masuzushi that has a bamboo tube that gives it a more high class feel. There are also some sellers of masuzushi who will allow you to make it yourself!
Currently, in addition to the many stores which specialize in masuzushi, at Toyama Station or other stations in the general area you can also buy it. Masuzushi is also sold on the trolley in the limited express train that runs through these stations. You can also purchase it at department stores, supermarkets, service areas along the highway in Toyama, or even convenience stores. If you are not in the Toyama area, masuzushi is also sold at places like Tokyo Station or Osaka Station. If you have the chance, you should definitely try this delicacy with a rich history!