The Sushi Economy

I bought the Japanese version of this book which was published in April. I was astonished by the Sasha Issenberg’s research work. I’ve been recommending to everyone to read the book. I think it’s a real contribution to the area after Theodore Bestor’s Tsukiji(This book was also translated into Japanese last year.)

Tuna wasn’t served as sushi so often at the beginning of Edomae(Tokyo)-style sushi era. Most of fish were from Tokyo Bay and they were marinated for sushi. As frozen technology advanced, people started delivering tuna from remote areas. Then, tuna sushi became very popular in the country. Now, everybody associates good sushi with good tuna.

The book told us that JAL(Japan Airlines) first started air-shipping tuna to Japan in 1972 because JAL cargos had a one-way traffic problem caused by Japan’s exportation of goods such as cameras and small electronics. This event was the inception of the forming of a global supply chain of tuna to Tokyo Tsukiji market. The author mentioned about Thomas Friedman’s a Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention, two countries with Macdonald’s would never go to war with each other. As Sasha implied, eating a sushi meal leads you to the global food supply chain. You may verify the sushi version of it among countries where sushi is revolving on a conveyer belt.
Was tuna a profitable business? Actually, sushi chefs in Japan hate customers who eat Toro(fatty tuna) sushi a lot. The price of tuna fluctuates throughout the year. Also, the margin is so thin because nobody pays $50 just for one or two pieces of tuna sushi. Sushi chefs see the profit through the whole sushi meal. If customers ask for sake or beer, chefs are very happy. Furthermore, chefs have to keep tuna in their limited stock space for their loyal customers. Nobu Matsuhisa said in the book that his business hit a break even point even after his restaurant became reputable and many of its customers ordered the chef’s choice menu known as omakase. Please don’t be selfish for tuna tonight.


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