Meibutsu Delicacies: Toyama's Masuzushi


Do you like sushi? Looking for a good travel snack? Interested in Japan's feudal history? Think those things don’t go well together? Toyama Prefecture would beg to differ.

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Toyama, located along the Sea of Japan coast in western Honshu, is an oft-overlooked part of Japan, but that in part contributed to the creation of one of its most famous meibutsu delicacies. Back in the Edo period (1603-1868), there was a policy of sankin kotai. Simply put, the Shogun (who ruled over Japan) forced all of the families of local daimyo (feudal lords) to reside in Edo (modern day Tokyo), and the Daimyo themselves would have to travel back and forth between Edo and their homes. The daimyo, seeking the Shogun’s favor, would bring gifts unique to their homelands. For Toyama, that meant delicious salmon. However, how could they transport salmon fit for a Shogun over a long journey? 

Enter Masuzushi

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Masuzushi was born from the necessity of needing to preserve and transport fish over days-long journeys. Specifically, Masuzushi is a type of sushi where cured salmon is placed atop a bed of rice in a circle. The rice and salmon is then wrapped in bamboo leaves and pressed. The pressure removes excess oxygen and the chemicals from the bamboo leaves serve to keep the fish and rice fresh. When opened, one is able to enjoy a unique type of sushi that tastes the same whether it’s freshly made or opened a week later.

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 Fast forward a couple of hundred years and Masuzushi is still one of Toyama’s most prominent regional specialities. If you’re heading to Toyama, there are many Masuzushi specialty restaurants, and just about every rest area and major train station will offer travel-friendly servings to take for yourself or as a gift.
 
If you aren’t going to be in Toyama, you can find Masuzushi at most regional food fairs that feature food from around Japan.  Of course, if you happen to be in Tokyo, you can just head over to the famous Mitsukoshi department store and visit Masunosushi Hompo Minamoto, where you can pick up some delicious masuzushi for between 900-1800 yen (depending on the size you select).

So there you have it...

...Toyama’s meibutsu delicacy! If you are a fan of sushi and/or Japan’s feudal history, I say zehi, grab yourself a slice of this round, delicious meal!

Mike B