Hakozushi: Osaka-style Sushi

Sushi is easily the most recognizable Japanese dish worldwide. For many tourists visiting Japan, trying out authentic Japanese sushi is often a top priority. However, what most people think of as sushi is actually Tokyo or Edo-style sushi. What most people don’t know is that there is an entirely different style of sushi that is indigenous to the Kansai region. It’s called hakozushi, also known as Osaka-zushi.

What is Hakozushi?

Hakozushi is sushi that is pressed in a box (hako) with marinated fish on top. This dish was a fairly economical meal as it made use of cheap kinds of fish, such as sanma (mackerel pike) or saba (mackerel).

One of the benefits of using already-cooked fish is that people didn’t have to eat it right away. Instead, they would take it with them to the theater in Dotonbori. Additionally, people believed that leaving the sushi for a while would enhance its flavor as the taste of the fish would blend and seep into the rice.

However, around the Meiji Period, people began using more expensive kinds of fish. They also began to take advantage of the different colors and textures of the ingredients to make the sushi more decorative.

In fact, battera, commonly eaten at home in Osaka, is also one of the kinds of hakozushi, too. 

Battera is mackerel oshizushi with kelp on top. You can eat kelp too. 

Eating Hakozushi 

Although Osaka sushi was formerly very famous, nowadays, other types of sushi, such as nigiri sushi, which are less expensive and easier to prepare, have become more popular. Consequently, it is now rare to come across oshizushi restaurants. In Osaka, supermarkets occasionally offer hakozushi for sale, but often it is not particularly impressive. In my opinion, it is often too soft, or the flavor of the seasoning of the fish is not well quite right.

Hakozushi. Hako means square. As you can see,  it is. 

Nowadays hakozushi is always a very attractive dish to order. In addition to hakozushi, other types of Osaka-zushi can include chirashi-zushi and mushi-zushi, all of which offer a visually stunning arrangement of ingredients. 


One thing you might notice is that no soy sauce or other seasonings come with the dish. Hakozushi takes hours to prepare, allowing the flavors of fish and rice to meld together. Since the sushi already has a gentle flavor, it is customary to enjoy it without any soy sauce or wasabi. Although you may not feel particularly full after eating hakozushi, it is a great choice if you want to experience the taste of authentic Osaka.


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