Sushi Vocabulary and Jargon

Among Sushi Glossary (sushi definitions, sushi terminology, sushi terms, sushi vocabulary, sushi jargon), there is a word called “Fucho (符牒)” which is unfamiliar even to Japanese. It would be cool if you knew, but it wouldn’t be embarrassing even if you didn’t. However, these terms are used between pros. It seems senseless if customers use them and sushi chefs might find it off-putting. In order to avoid this type of situation, We have make a collection of terms, their meanings, and origins.



To bring out the deliciousness by searing the skin and melting the fat. Used on a type of fish with fat between its skin and meat.



A Japanese sushibar term for green tea. A term for green tea at a Japanese sushi bar, which helps freshen the mouth by washing away any fatty taste.


Agaru  (あがる)

This is fish that have died naturally without being killed after being caught. Or, fish that was killed after being caught, but the rigor mortis has worn off earlier than planned and become soft. This type of fish has a significantly lower commercial value.



Red vinegar made from sake lees, characterized by a strong flavor, slight sweetness and its reddish color.



Lean tuna, cut from the back of the fish. See also Maguro.



Things that are older. Food ingredients that need to be used earlier. The opposite of this word is “Otouto”.


Ara (アラ)

Parts of a fish left over after it is cut and trimmed, such as its head and backbone.



A red-colored component found in organisms such as salmon, shrimp, and crab. It has been drawing an attention for having an excellent anti oxidative effect and oxidation prevention.



Wasabi (Japanese horseradish) other than the ones from Izu Amagi, which is called “Honbamono“.



Oshizushi of mackerel, a specialty of Kansai region. Initially it was not a square-shaped sushi pressed with a box like it is now. It looked like a boat and it is said that the name “battera” originally comes from the Portuguese word meaning boat.



Regular rice that is not vinegared.



Fish, whose head and internal organs have been removed.



Edomae means sushi using fish from the sea that lies before the Edo town. Although the fishes caught only in Tokyo Bay are not enough to feed numerous sushi lovers. The excellent work of Edomae sushi chef in which the ingredients are vinegared or seasoned with soy sauce after salted, a common method for longer preservation.



To sprinkle salt lightly all over an ingredient. Causing an effect of making it salted, extracting moisture, and tightening its texture.


Furi-yuzu (振り柚子)

Shigezo Fujimoto was also the first sushi chef to sprinkle grated yuzu peel (Furi-yuzu) on conger eel, using a grater to make the yuzu zest. This is now just considered to be common practice.



It means Squilla. The Japanese word for Squilla is “shako,” which is a homonym for the Japanese word for “Garage”, giving birth to this slang term.



A sushi-bar term for pickled ginger. Pickled ginger that helps cleanse the palate after eating fatty sushi like Ohtoro.



Squid legs.



Wooden sushi plate



Relatively low-cost sushi ingredients, such as gizzard shad and horse mackerel. Bluefin tuna used to be also called gezakana in the Edo period, for losing its freshness easily.


Go-jio (強塩)

Cover mackerel generously with salt after cutting into three filets. Shake enough salt so that it looks like a road covered with a layer of pure white snow. This technique of salting is called strong salting (go-jio).



Sushi made by wrapping dried seaweed around vinegared rice, topped with salmon roe and sea urchin which is easy to crumble on top.



Egg omelet



To throw away a part of something or the whole thing that cannot be used for ingredients.


Handai (飯台)

For your information, using Handai (a wooden sushi rice mixing bowl) is a simple shortcut to make delicious sushi rice. You could use a regular bowl instead, but Handai absorbs excess water and prevents sushi rice from getting soggy. If you want to hold a successful sushi party at home, I highly recommend using Handai on this occasion.



Plant leaves used as dividers and decorations when sushi is served. Mostly bamboo leaves in the Kanto region.



Referring to when fish have just started to come on the market and they are highly sought after even though they are still not mature in flavor.


Hikarimono(光り物 )

Fish sliced for serving with the silver fish skin left on. Typical of Iwashi, Aji, Sayori, Sanma, Kohada



Mantle of shell


Hirazukuri (平作り) : Hiragiri (平切り)

A method of cutting which gives thickness to each slice so that the texture of sashimi can be enjoyable. This is mainly used for tuna.



This is a method of cutting off the medulla oblongata and aorta of a fish, essentially keeping the body alive while killing the fish. There is also a method of inserting a thin wire, like a piano wire, into the backbone. This technique paralyzes the nerves while at the same time suppressing the putrefied substance that comes from the spinal cord. Using the ikejime method extends the time until rigor mortis starts, and makes it easier to maintain freshness, while at the same time preventing raw fish odor and damage to the body by inserting a butcher knife into the base of the tail to drain the blood and keep oxidized blood from running throughout the body.


Ikemono (活け物)

Refers to the fish which is distributed alive in a water tank and such, in order to be used for ikejime. Sometimes it also means the fish after ikejime is done.


Ikizukuri (活き造り)

A dish using fish such as red seabream. Cut off meat for making sashimi and leave its head, tail and large bone as the way they are. Then put all back to get her in its original form.



A small boiled squid stuffed with sushi rice, Kanpyou, chopped Shiitake mushrooms, Oboro, and etc.



A traditional Japanese seasoning made by boiling down Japanese sake with pickled plums etc.



A shape that curves down on each side, like the edges of the paper of a folding fan. This is the ideal shape of nigiri-zushi when viewed from the side.



Maturing. By preserving fish in refrigerator with adequate water content and temperature, the umami taste will be condensed. The maturing period is usually a couple of days, sometimes it lasts for weeks.


Kamijio (紙塩)

Kamijio is a technique to add a slightly salty flavor by sandwiching fish (such as plain flavored white-flesh fish and adductor muscle) between misted washi (Japanese paper) with water, and sprinkling salt over both sides of washi. The amount of salt using here should be less than furijio. After letting it sit for a couple of hours, it will be salted lightly through washi.



A unit for counting sushi



Using one side of a fish’s body to make sushi.



One-sided love:Abalone, for having a shell on only one side of its body.


Kazari boucho(飾り包丁)

Small cuts onto the ingredients in order to make it look beautiful.


Kazu no Fucho(数の符丁)

When amateur sushi customers hear the practice of, “Kazu no Fucho,” when paying the bill, they get uneasy. Perhaps you’ve been in this situation. It’s not used very often today, but let’s break it down for reference. 1 is “pin,” 2 is “nonoji,” (or “ryan”), 3 is “geta,” 4 is “dari,” 5 is “menoji,” etc.


Kakushi boucho(隠し包丁)

Make slits onto the firm ingredients in order to make it easier to bite.



It means Cucumber. There are a few theories as to where the name for the Kappa roll came about. Some say it’s because the legendary “Kappa” creature’s favorite food is cucumber while other’s say it’s because the appearance of the sushi resembles the head of the Kappa. 



To cut fish for sushi topping shapes after slicing into three fillets and taking off skin, bones and such.


Kizu(木津)Dried gourd shavings.



The fish ingredients marinated between sheets of kelp and then let sit overnight in the refrigerator.


Koke  (コケ)

Fish scales



Powdered horseradish (a.k.a. wasabi daikon), which is reasonable but has a weak flavor.



Purple layer seaweed pressed into thin sheets. It is essential for sushi roll and Gunkanmaki. High-quality one is flavorful, shiny, and has a smooth texture.



To eat norimaki at the end of a course of nigiri sushi. This action indicates that “this sushi is going to be the last one to eat.”



This is the tool used to wrap nori rolls. It’s also called “sudare.” 



Making sushi with one whole fish.



Young bluefin tuna (Maguro) which weighs about 10 to 20kg.


Meso (メソ)

The young fish like Japanese conger (Anago) and Japanese eel (Unagi). Skinny and small ones about 20cm in length. “Meso” is a corrupted form of “misotsukasu”, meaning a child who isn’t counted as an adult.



Red seabream (Tai) caught during the time of the barley harvest (early summer) is skinny after laying eggs and doesn’t taste good.



Sushi bar term for soy sauce.



The middle bone part when fish is cut into three fillets. Or the meat attached to this part. Used especially for tuna, becoming ingredients for tekkamaki, negi toro and etc.


Namida (ナミダ):Sabi(サビ)

Wasabi has a pungent taste which removes fishy smell from the ingredient, thus the fish becomes tastier many times as much.


Namida maki(ナミダ巻き)

Vinegared rice and thin strips of Wasabi rolled in seaweed


Nami no hana (波の花)

A sushi term referring to salt, for being made from seawater.



Fish have already passed their peak condition, which the Japanese start to miss in the late season


Neta (ネタ):Tane(タネ):Sushidane(寿司ダネ)

Sushi bar term for the fish topping in nigiri sushi. These days the general population also uses this term, but “Tane” is a code word coming from switching the syllables of “Neta” which is the Japanese word for sushi topping. In the past the terms “Tane” and “Sushi-dane” were used. 



Low-cost sushi ingredients.


Nikiri (煮きり):NikiriShouyu(煮きり醤油)

Nikiri is a short form of nikiri shouyu in which an alcohol-evaporated Mirin, Sake, Soy sauce and Dashi broth are added together.



Simmered or boiled foods



To get a check and make a payment by customers at a sushi restaurant and elsewhere. This stems from modesty on the part of the restaurant and is an abbreviated form of, “We are sorry to trouble you by being so inhospitable as to mention payment after you went out of your way to come here.” If the customer says it, it means, “I want to get out of this inhospitable restaurant as soon as possible so get me the bill now,” so you need to be careful.



To bind toppings to sushi rice, such as white fish and egg, with seaweed like a belt (obi) for a kimono.



Usually, salt, sugar and Mirin are added to mashed shrimp meat, and then roasted in a pan until they are smaller flakes.



Serving sushi made with live seafood such as prawns.



The price and menu content are easily understood when ordering “Okimari”. The rank of “Tokujou”, “Jou”, “Nami” are often used. Order additional sushi as you like for a more fulfilling experience.



A way customers choose and order sushi they want to eat. If you clearly know what you like and want to enjoy eating at your own pace, ordering “Okonomi” your choice of sushi, would be best.



Leaving the topping selection to the sushi chef and eating what they recommend.



This is a general term for miso soup or a clear soup called “suimono.”



To have a seat at the counter and eat by ordering okonomi.






A small dish for soy sauce



Food ingredients that are used later.






Sakari season is before the fish spawn and they feed actively, acquiring a high fat content



While cherry blossoms are in bloom, Red seabream (Tai) comes into season and increases its deliciousness.



To fillet fish and cut into blocks (saku) in each part. (Toro, red flesh and etc. in tuna, for instance.)


Sanontouo (三温糖)

One of the types of sugar. The one that using sugar extracted from sugar cane and such, and being crystallized.



Cooked rice mixed with sweet sushi-vinegar in which sugar and salt are added. In sushi term it is called “Shari”.



White vinegar made from rice, characterized by smooth and refreshing sour taste.


Sogigiri (そぎ切り)

A method of cutting which makes a slice thinner with a greater surface, by holding the knife diagonally and cutting in line with the cutting board. Usually used for white fish with firm flesh because it is easier to be eaten when served thin.



Eggs of shrimps and crabs, folded and protected in their parents’ legs after being laid.



Refer to carrying out an extra preparatory step for edomaezushi toppings, such as brushing with Nitsume, or steeping fish in vinegar.


Suimono (吸い物)

A type of soup in Japanese cuisine. Mostly the clear broth soup, seasoned with salt or soy sauce in the simmering dashi soup.


Sujime (酢締め)

A process of sprinkling salt over fish (mostly for silvered-skinned fish) in order to take out extra fluid or fat (using osmotic pressure), and then soaking it in vinegar to bring out Umami and improve its storage stability.



A set of inari-zushi and maki-zushi.



Long ago the sushi chefs sat down to make sushi in both indoor and outdoor shops. Before long, the outdoor food stand form was brought indoors and it was after that when sushi started to be made standing up and that work was called, “Tachi” or standing work. Then, the customers seated at the counter in front of the sushi chef started to be called, “Tachi.”



Salt water which is around 3 percent salt about the same as seawater, usually used for preparing thin body fish and seafood before cooking. Soak fish in tate jio and make it salted evenly because sprinkling salt can make it too salty for thin body fish by furi jio.



This is the word for Kanpyo-maki. It looks like a gun, which is called “Teppo” in Japanese. Also, when you eat it, it’s like getting shot with a bullet of spicy wasabi, which is another reason for the name.



Sushi chefs use something called tezu (hand vinegar) when making sushi. They set a bowl of tezu within reach and constantly moisturize both hands. Tezu is effective in sterilizing hands and cooling palms at the same time. It is simple to make just by mixing water and vinegar. The concentration is usually about 10 to 30 percent.



Items used as garnishes for sashimi, with the purpose of adding color, cleaning away odor, and so on. This is not the word only referring to finely sliced daikon radish. Spices such as wasabi is also one kind of tsuma.



Short form of Nitsume. Soy sauce, Mirin and sake are added to the soup in which Anago eel was boiled, and then boiled down until it gets thick sweet.



Sushi isn’t “made,” it’s marinated or “tsukeru.” There was a lot of work that involved marinating in soy sauce and vinegar, so the kitchen was called the “tsukeba,” which means the marinating spot.



This is the board that sushi is placed on at the counter. These days the sushi is generally served on a plate or Haran and there are very few restaurants that place sushi directly on the Tukedai.



A rolling technic of putting sushi rice on the outside, and seaweed on the inside.



Eggs inside of shells before being laid, such as shrimps and crabs.



This refers to the decrease in meat quality seen in tuna. When the fish is caught in a net and fights it, the body temperature increases and the blood oxidizes, which changes the color of the meat. This is called “Miyake” which is roughly translated as “burning the meat”. A “Miyake” tuna is hard to spot from external appearance. There are times when, what looks like a good tuna, is auctioned off and when the chef cuts into it, it’s actually “burnt”. This is a situation all tuna brokers wants to avoid at all costs.



A cooking method of grilling fish fillet with a little bit of skin left, over high heat for a short time and cooling it down. Its purpose is transferring the roasted skin fat into the meat. Used mainly for fish with thick and hard skin, like Mackerel (Saba) and Chicken grunt (Isaki).



Bamboo leaves used for a decoration. Called yama (mountain) because they are gathered only on mountains.



A process to cook just on the surface such as meat and fish,which is dipped in boiling water and shaken quickly.



There are times when sushi rice is cooked in the way called Yutaki. Yutaki is the process of cooking rice from hot water. Boil the water in a pot first, and then add the rice at the temperature you can’t put your hand in. This could be used in situations like you need the rice as soon as possible, or you cook a large amount of rice.


Wara-izumi (藁いずみ)

Also called Warabitsu. This is a rice tub made of straw.



Seasoning method of fish such as Maguro tuna in dashi joyu, which was developed in the late Edo period in order to preserve fish longer.



So what did you think? Knowing these terms may help you enjoy your meal at a sushi restaurant even more and if you can catch what they’re saying, then you might feel more sophisticated. But now that you know the code, make sure you don’t accidentally say things like, “Agari kudasai,” or “Murasaki kudasai,” or “Oaiso kudasai.”

Revision date: October 26, 2020