Course:HIST104/Section 98A - Group C

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History of the California Roll
HIST 104
Section: 98A
Instructor: Joy Dixon
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Important Course Pages
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Course Discussion


Japanese Immigration to America

People from Japan began migrating to America in large numbers due to the 1868 Meiji Restoration. The Meiji Restoration is a period in Japans history where the country returned to the direct imperial rule of their emperor Meiji, this brought about major social, economic, and political change to the country[2]. Due to the Meiji Restoration, Japan was having a tough time with their transition to a modern economy. Large-scale unemployment and bankruptcy occurred, and this economic downfall caused many civil riots. All these caused many Japanese people, mostly farmers or laborers, to migrate to America because of job opportunities, especially the boom of the sugarcane industry in Hawaii in 1868. Between 1885 and 1894, over 28,000 Japanese immigrants went to Hawaii to find work and escape the hardships in their own country. In the beginning, almost three quarters of the Japanese immigrants returned back to Japan but as years passed, that went down to only a quarter. After the Americans took over to islands, they were planning on putting a ban to limit the largest number of immigrates admitted into the country to about 2%. In anticipation of this ban, plantation owners brought over 26,000 more Japanese to America to help out on their plantations. The American government voided all the Japanese contracts to the plantations and then the Japanese people were free to move over to mainland America, most settled on the west coast. At first the Japanese worked as agricultural laborers but earned less money than the whites doing the same job. Eventually, because of their work ethic and because of spending longer hours at work they were able to buy their own farmland by out paying the whites. The Japanese became tough competition for the white people of America and as their reputation for hard work spread, they soon got paid more than the white Americans.

Throughout the years, Japanese immigration to America has stayed steady and as of the 2000 census, there were 1,148,932 Japanese people in America. The growth rate for the Japanese in American population between 1980 and 1990 was 20.5%[3] . However, after 1990, the percent dropped to 9.4%. This is due to the fact that there are currently very few Japanese people migrating to America and that many of the Japanese are involved in interracial marriages.

Japan International Relations

From the mid 1800s and onwards, Japan was growing a global presence. They began to be recognized internationally, because of their valued light industry and their efficient shipping and exporting companies. [4]The companies responsible for these services or products were able to grow into large corporations or into zaibatsus, because of Japan's governments involvement in providing subsidies for the country’s businesses. This allowed businesses to sell light industry products like silk and cotton for less. More importantly, Japan’s support from their government allowed them to lower their shipping rates and compete with the British in the 1890s which helped them get accepted as a member of the European freight conference in the early 1900s.[5] This was significant as it gave them less restrictions when shipping worldwide which proved beneficial by gaining more customers throughout World War I and II.

The freight conference proved to be even more valuable post World War II as it gave them the necessary tools to combat the economic depression of the war and to create a strong relationship with the United States. By being a member of the freight conference, it gave Japan permanent membership to its benefits. This allowed Japan to spend its resources efficiently across their many needs while being able to continue trading at a relatively consistent rate by using other country's ships that belonged to the freight conference.[6] Post World War II, Japan relied on the United States for much needed resources and trading gave a more thorough look of Japan's value which improved their relationship.[7] The United States, as the country largely responsible for others post war, had to also adapt and introduce new items into the global market from countries that were struggling to strengthen their economy and prevent them from being taken by communist nations.[8] As a result, more Japanese products were widely accepted into the global market which gave them more customers, along with the growing nation, the United States. Economical gains and less restricted borders allowed Japan to place many of their corporations internationally and borrow popular ideas.[9] This secured and strengthened their economy as well as their international relationships while insuring that they used practiced and proven business and industrial models. Japan's government involvement in their businesses allowed them to compete and establish an international presence that grew and formed new relationships which allowed them, with the help of countries like the United States, to insure a place in the global market.

Japan’s Rice Production and Fishing Industry

Rice has been Japan’s main crop for more than 3000 years and is served for almost all meals of the day. During the Edo period, 1603 to 1868, rice not only played a major role in people’s diets, but served as a measurement of a lord’s wealth.[10] The production of rice is also viewed very importantly as a way to preserve the Japanese culture. As a result, this led to a very firm belief of self-sufficient stable supply of rice which has created many conflicts with the United States. Japan’s rice industry has implemented many heavy protectionist policies and in 1985, rice imports from the US barely totaled 0.2% of the total domestic consumption.[11] Even when Japan was under great pressure from the US to open up trade to foreign rice, the Japanese government continued to provide subsidies to domestic rice producers and impose tariffs on any imports thus allowing producers to charge consumers at a much higher price than the world price. Many farms continue to produce rice; 85% of the 2.3 million farms plant rice yearly.[12] It wasn't until the late 1980’s, due to the pressure from many trading partners did the country began to open its borders to foreign rice.

Japan’s fishing industry is divided into four categories: coastal fishing, distant water fishing, aquaculture and recreational fishing. However, in the history of the industry, it is Japan’s distant water fishing that has suffered the most due to the adoption of the Exclusive Economic Zone by the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea in 1982.[13] The UNCLOS also put down legal foundations on the management of anadromous species like salmon.[14] This gave a halt to Japan’s off-shore salmon fishing because negotiations with the Soviets failed after jurisdictions were passed on to the coastal states in whose river such species originated. Japan’s tuna fishing was also declining when tuna fishing was placed under joint management which created international catch quotas and regulations on tuna fishing practices.[15] As a result of this, Japan’s tuna boats reduced from 1150 in 1980 to only 661 in 1997.[16] With stricter regulations and a decline in salmon and tuna fishing, many fishing companies invested in other countries and owners registered their boats on other unregulated waters. To this day, Japan continues to have the world’s largest fishing fleets and accounts for nearly 15% of the global catching; however, this also led to claims that Japan’s fishing is depleting fish stocks like tuna.[17] As a result, there is a huge focus now on developing and putting into practice new technology that will help sustain the future of Japan’s great and vital fishing industry.

The History of Sushi

Sushi originated in Southeast Asia, referenced in Chinese scriptures in as early as the second century. [18] Known as nare-zushi, this dish featured salted fish stored in fermented rice; only the fish was consumed, and the rice was discarded. This was introduced to Japan, and became an important source of protein. [19]

During the Muromachi period, extending from 1336 to 1573, two types of sushi were found in Japan: hon-tare and namanare. Hon-tare was the original type of sushi Namanare was the most popular; this was partly raw fish wrapped in fresh rice. [20]

Haya-zushi appeared during the Edo period in Japan, lasting from 1603 to 1868. This type of sushi was unique to Japan in that this is when the rice and fish were eaten at the same time. The rice was not used for fermentation; the rice was mixed with vinegar, fish, or vegetables. During this time, local flavors of sushi were created, including Osaka, Oshi, chirashi, and nuku sushi.[21]

Sometime during 1827 to 1829 was when raw fish was combined with sushi, as opposed to the fermented fish of previous styles. This occurred in Edo – modern-day Tokyo – as nigiri-zushi. Nigiri-zushi featured oblong rice and slices of fish. [22] Nigiri-zushi was created by Hanaya Yohei, and was a fast-food style of sushi, as it was not fermented, allowing it to be made quickly, and could be eaten with chopsticks, making it far more convenient.[23]

Nigiri –zushi spread throughout Japan after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. This disaster displaced a great many nigiri-zushi chefs through Japan, thus introducing this style of sushi to many new places.[24] This is the style of sushi most widely known today.

The Osaka area tended towards oshi-zushi. This sushi is compacted and topped with raw fish, and cooked ingredients; it is square-shaped, as it’s assembled in a wooden box and then cut into squares.[25]

The origin of California Roll

The practice of eating raw fish has been a foreign and unusual concept to many North Americans throughout most of the 20th century. According to Laemmerhirt, Sushi entered the United States at the end of the 1950's, shortly after the conclusion of the Second World War.[26] The first Japanese restaurants were 'opened in the 1960's by Japanese expatriates for Japanese businessmen.' Despite the growing number of Japanese restaurants, however, many North Americans felt that eating raw fish was 'unhygienic and unsafe' and they preferred 'cooked' Japanese foods instead, such as 'teriyaki, tempura, and sukiyaki.' However, with the rapid increase in Japanese immigrants along the pacific rim, coupled with globalization and consequent exchange of cultures, popularization of 'Americanized' versions of Japanese Sushi became very promising.[27] The success of this 'exotic' Japanese cuisine is thought to have initiated in 1973 at 'Los Angeles's Tokyo Kaikan restaurant by a chef called Ichiro Manashita.'[28] One may argue as to the credibility of this historical record as it is relatively easy for a layperson to roll a rice filled 'nori' or 'dried paper-shaped seaweed' with an ingredient of his or her choice, and name it to his or her preference. On the other hand, the term 'California roll' is commonly referred as a 'confection of cooked crab, avocado and mayonnaise inside a roll of sushi rice, probably bound with a strip of nori seaweed.'[29] This definition distinguishes it from other forms of Sushi and Japanese foods, and in that sense Manashita deserves recognition for creating this unique 'maki' or 'roll.' Regardless of its origin, it is certain that the popularization of the California roll provided foundations for the successes enjoyed by authentic Japanese restaurants and their acceptance in the minds of many North Americans.


  4. William Wray, "Opportunity vs Control: The Diplomacy of Japanese Shipping in the First World War," in Greg Kennedy, ed. The Merchant Marine in International Affairs, 1850-1950,London,Frank Cass, 2000, 61.
  5. Hilary Conroy, "Japan's Postwar Economy," The Economic History Review, Vol. 11, No.3, 1959,560.
  6. iBid, 560-561.
  7. Jermone B. Cohen, "Japan's Economy on the Road Back," Pacific Affairs, Vol. 21, No. 3, 1948,279.
  8. iBid, 277-279.
  9. Noboru Yamamoto, "The DevelopingEconomies," Wiley- Blackwell Journals, Vol. 1, 1962, 89.
  10. "Rice Farming in Japan." Facts and Details. n.p. n.d. Web. 26 Jul 2011. <>.
  11. Moody , Steve. "Japan Rice Trade Policy Overview." Japan-101 Web. Japanese Department, Brigham Young University.n.d. Web. 25 Jul 2011. <>.
  12. "Japan Rice Around the World." FAO International Year of Rice. n.p. n.d. Web. 26 Jul 2011. <>.
  13. "Fishing Industry- Japan." BookRags. MacMillan Reference USA, n.d. Web. 25 July. 2011. <>.
  14. "Fishing Industry- Japan." BookRags. MacMillan Reference USA, n.d. Web. 25 July. 2011. <>.
  15. "Fishing Industry- Japan." BookRags. MacMillan Reference USA, n.d. Web. 25 July. 2011. <>.
  16. "Fishing Industry- Japan." BookRags. MacMillan Reference USA, n.d. Web. 25 July. 2011. <>.
  17. "Economy of Japan." Wikipedia. n.p. n.d. Web. 25 July. 2011.<>
  18. "History of Sushi - Sushi Main - Sushi Encyclopedia." Sushi Encyclopdeia - The Ultimate Information Source for Sushi. Web. 30 July 2011. <>.
  19. "History of Sushi." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 30 July 2011. <>.
  20. "History of Sushi." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 30 July 2011. <>.
  21. "History of Sushi - Sushi Main - Sushi Encyclopedia." Sushi Encyclopdeia - The Ultimate Information Source for Sushi. Web. 30 July 2011. <>.
  22. "Food Forum." Kikkoman Corporation. Web. 30 July 2011. <>.
  23. "Food Forum." Kikkoman Corporation. Web. 30 July 2011. <>.
  24. "History of Sushi." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 30 July 2011. <>.
  25. "Food Forum." Kikkoman Corporation. Web. 30 July 2011. <>.
  26. Iris-Aya Laemmerhirt -Imagining the Taste: Transnational FoodExchanges between Japan and the United States. The Japanese Journal ofAmerican Studies, No.21 (2010).
  27. Walter F. Carroll - SUSHI: Globalization through Food Culture: Towards a Study of Global Food Networks.
  28. Alex Renton - Observer Food Monthly, Sunday 26 February 2006.
  29. Alex Renton - Observer Food Monthly, Sunday 26 February 2006.