Sushi Restaurant Basics

Finding a Sushi Restaurant

Look for a sign or curtain (noren) that says "sushi" in Japanese. Or look for the "SUSHI RESTAURANT" sticker widely used throughout Niigata. There are at least three different ways to write sushi in Japanese—"すし", "寿司" and "鮨"—so keep your eyes open.

Types of Seating

If you sit at the sushi bar, you will be able to watch the sushi chefs prepare the food, and you can view the varieties of fish and other ingredients lined up in the glass cases in front of you. If you prefer a more private and relaxing experience, you can sit on tatami mats at a Japanese-style table. Your host will guide you according to your wishes and the number in your party. You may want to state your preference in advance when making a reservation.

Types of Sushi

Nigiri ("molded" sushi)

This sushi is made from a hand-molded bite-size amount of vinegar-flavored rice ("sushi rice") dabbed with wasabi and topped with a slice of fish or other tasty tidbit. An order of "one" will usually get you one piece.

Gunkanmaki ("Battleship roll")

This style of sushi is often used to provide added support for toppings such as ikura (salmon roe) and uni (sea-urchin roe) that fall apart easily. The sushi rice is hand molded, wrapped with nori (dried, pressed seaweed), and topped with the item of your choice.

Norimaki ("Nori-wrapped roll")

Sushi rice is spread on a sheet of nori, the item of your choice is then placed on the rice, and the nori sheet is then rolled into a cylinder which is then cut into pieces to make this type of sushi. These rolls come in various styles with different names, depending on the size or ingredients: hosomaki (thin roll), futomaki (thick roll), kappamaki (cucumber roll), tekkamaki.(tuna roll), and others.


This is a wet towel that may be hot or cold which is used for wiping your hands and face. You may wish to use it repeatedly if you are eating your sushi with your fingers.

Shoyu sashi (Soy-sauce jar)

Pour some soy sauce from the jar into your little soy-sauce dish, and then dip the sushi into the dish before eating it. Pour out only a small amount, and then add more when you run out.

Shoyu zara (Soy-sauce dish)

This small dish, about 10 cm (4 inches) in diameter, is used for holding your soy sauce. Pour in a small amount of sauce form the soy-sauce jar, and then dip pieces as desired before eating. Note that not all sushi pieces require soy sauce; a few types come with their own special sauce, others may use salt, and still others should be eaten with no additional flavorings.

Agari or Ocha (Tea)

This powdered green tea, which is served hot, has a subtle aroma that does not overwhelm the delicate taste of the sushi. It refreshes the tongue and brings out residual flavors.

Hashi (Chopsticks)

Some shops provide disposable chopsticks known as waribashi which come fused together and are broken apart before being used. Feel free to eat sushi with your hands, however; it's a true finger food.


These are small wooden trays on which sushi pieces are served. Not all shops use these; some set the sushi on leaves or on plates.