This book critique is on the book, “The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a modern delicacy. ” by Sasha Issenberg. This is a Fact based book about the sudden explosion of the availability of Sushi and Tuna to the world. The book takes you through the changes in the economies and cultures on display. The book follows several key people and events in the story of the globalization of Sushi. Several years ago Sushi restaurants were tough to find in a suburb or in the Midwest.
Sushi was historically associated with the very wealthy and affluent people of America, however in Japan it was a staple as easily locatable as a hotdog in New York. The book is separated into 4 different parts. The first section is about the freight economy, the second is the food economy then the fish economy and finally the future economy. To summarize the book I will discuss each section. Japan Airlines is the major player in the Fish Freight economy. In the 70’s Japan Airline was used to transport fish from Canada to the Japanese fish market. There was not a big market for tuna.
It was fish that was not readily available for the Japanese economy. Japan had strict import and export rules so it was discovered that all these planes leaving Japan full were returning virtually empty to the Tarmacs in Japan. The major issue with raw fish is that as soon as the fish is out of water it is continually losing value. The Fish Economy was steady for the Cod fisherman and the lobster and shrimpers. Tuna was seen as a nuisance to fisherman. They destroy nets and is a worthless meat yielding only a few bucks a pound. Sushi is an intimate meal with a precisely trained chef and restaurant diners.
The typically Sushi spot was composed of several diners sitting at a bar eating what the chef that knows them by name prepares. The relationship between the chef/owner and the patrons is very close. Sushi chefs are often times compared to as Samurai; the chefs even use samurai swords to cut the fish with such precision. The food economy has changed the overall sushi economy as well. In the 1970’s through current times the world has been ever growing and in need of immediate gratification. The world also idolizes celebrities and the wealthy. In this time period people have been looking for healthy alternatives to fast food.
Los Angelos has been extremely influential in the development of the Sushi cuisine as we now know it. Prominent actors began frequenting the restaurants and became interested in ownership. Richard Dreyfus and Robert De Niro were among these. De Niro became especially enthralled with Sushi chef Nobu Matsuhisa. De Niro became partners with the lifelong chef and friends. Matsuhisa was a Japanese sushi chef that followed his dreams all over the world. His love for the culture and cuisine even put him in movies like Austin Powers and Casino. The sushi culture is very exclusive.
Tyson Cole is a white college student whom took his summer job as a chef and pushed the envelope of tradition. He combated the long time tradition that to be a Sushi chef one must first be Japanese. The future economy of the Sushi game lies in the borders of China and India. The growth possibilities are huge. The major challenges needed to overcome are infrastructure and simple refrigeration. Some Sushi restaurants have penetrated the walls of the two most populated countries in the world. However they were unsuccessful the growth possibilities will increase in the next few decades. The book discusses trade controls on the fishing industry.
Several years went by as fisherman began stripping the ocean of the bluefin tuna. Governments have seen this and enacted trade quotas on a per company basis. This was an allotment of fish to the fisherman. On an ecology stage it played out to be a positive play on the fish. However the amounts that many fishermen could catch was much lower than years before. The Sushi culture is a Japanese elite status that is a very noble process. The majority of Sushi chefs are Middle aged Japanese men. For years and even still it is thought that an authentic Sushi restaurant is made up of a Japanese Chef and raw fish.
This is an industry culture that was not able to accept different ethnicities into it until Tyson Cole pushed his way to the top. The culture is beginning to open up as the Sushi is moving around the world. The Sushi story is concentrated on an intimate nostalgic niche market. This is a personal industry that is extremely difficult to multiply and copy as a corporate chain. The growth of Sushi into China will be a slow process due to the inability to be able to accept the chain model of the Sushi restaurant. The uniqueness of the Sushi market has given the American fish market an advantage over the Japanese.
America was in a Geographic position to force Japan to allow more imports. The Blue-fin Tuna became a most sought after delicacy in the matter of a few decades. This is one of the most lucrative established industry changes. The Sushi industry is truly an age old trade that will continually span the globe as long as there are fish in the sea. This book was extremely educational and interesting. I picked this book because I enjoy Sushi. The book was very thorough in explaining everything from catching the fish, farming the fish, and transporting and trading the fish.
There were also stories of encouragement inside the overall story. The smaller stories were about individuals who followed their dreams and attained total success. Nobu Matsuhisa’s dream put him on the silver screen and business partners with Robert De Niro. Tyson Cole’s dream discovered as he watched and learned from a Japanese chef. He overcame the race barrier and became a Sushi chef as well. The book was an easy read, except for the pronunciation of several names and locations. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of Sushi as well as the idea that there are still huge opportunities in old industries.