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Know Your Sushi: Four Types of This Popular Japanese Dish You Should Know!

Learn about four delicious types of sushi and feel confident trying them or other Japanese dishes yourself!

Restaurant menu showing different types of Sushi
Menu of a sushi restaurant

Growing up as an otaku, I wanted to know everything related to Japan, including the food! I wanted to taste the dishes I often saw in anime, and Sushi was one of the first ones on my mind.

But when I stepped into a Japanese restaurant for the first time, I stumbled upon different Sushi names, sizes, and shapes — and felt totally lost!

This post is dedicated to everybody who likes Japanese food. Or anyone who feels like trying it but needs a little help knowing what to order.

What is sushi?

Sushi is a dish with rice cooked in vinegar as its base and has various fillings or toppings, such as raw seafood, vegetables, and eggs.It’s usually served in bite-sized portions, and there are multiple types of sushi.

Types of Sushi

If there are so many different kinds, why are they all called sushi?

The word "sushi" means “sour rice” in Japanese; no matter the toppings or fillings, sushi always includes rice. Each one is named according to the ingredients in it or the method of preparation.

1. Sushi Rolls

Makizushi, the most famous type of sushi outside Japan, can be made in different ways
Tim Reckmann from Hamm, Deutschland, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Japanese Name: Makizushi or Maki
Kanji: 巻き寿司
Pronunciation: Mah-key-zoo-she

Sushi rolls are probably the first image that comes to mind when someone outside Japan thinks about sushi!

Maki means “to roll.” A Makizushi, or norizushi, is a long tube of vinegared rice wrapped in a thin seaweed sheet, the nori, with fillings. It is generally sliced to be served in small pieces.


Depending on the fillings in it, Makizushi can also be presented as:

  • Hosomaki: Simple maki with only one filling. Hosoi means thin or slim.
  • Futomaki: A larger maki that contains several fillings. Futo means fat.

Plus, there are two notable variations to the traditional sushi roll:

  • Uramaki: Uramaki is an inside-out sushi roll. While the traditional Maki has a sheet of nori wrapping the rice and the filling, the uramaki has the rice outside and the nori in the middle.
  • Temaki: “Te” in Temaki means hand, which is why it’s called a hand roll. Temakis are sushi rolled into a cone shape. But instead of sliced, they are made to be eaten with your hands as an individual serving.

2. Nigiri Sushi

Nigiri is a common sushi type with various toppings
Pickled ginger (Gari) and three nigirizushi with different toppings

Japanese Name: Nigirizushi or Nigiri
Kanji: 握り寿司
Pronunciation: knee-gee-ree-zoo-she

Nigiri is a sushi formed by a rectangular base of vinegared rice with a topping (often seafood).

Sometimes, it has a narrow nori strip to bind the rice and the topping together. Its name is related to the Japanese verb nigiru, which means “to grasp.” The way the rice base is shaped by hand is the core reason behind this sushi’s name.

Further, despite having similar names and ingredients, nigiri and onigiri refer to different dishes. The latter is a bigger triangular snack, also known as rice balls.

Does nigiri look like a sleeping rice block with a seafood blanket? Or sleeping seafood on a rice bed? Let me know what you think!

3. Chirashi

Chirashi is a type of sushi consisting of a bed of rice with various ingredients scattered over it
Shrimp Chirashi

Japanese Name: Chirashizushi or Chirashi
Kanji: ちらし寿司
Pronunciation: chi-raa-shee-zoo-she

Chirashi may be less known than its siblings, but it’s still one delicious sushi!

It is a small bowl of rice covered with vegetables, eggs, and seafood. Chirashi means scattered, and the name comes from how the toppings are placed on the rice, which is made in a precise and decorative way.

This type of sushi also has different names and variations. The two most popular are the Edomae from Tokyo and the Gomoku from Osaka.

4. Inarizushi

Inarizushi differs from other types of sushi for its sweet taste and having only vinegared rice as its filling
Inarizushi and Maki

Japanese Name: Inarizushi
Kanji: いなり寿司
Pronunciation: ee-nah-ri-zoo-she

Unlike the other kinds of sushi shared above, Inarizushi usually doesn’t have nori or seafood filling. Instead, it’s made of thin deep-fried tofu (aburaage), shaped in pouches with sushi rice inside.

Another difference is its sweet taste. Inarizushi (the name) originates from the belief that foxes, messengers of the Inari god, love aburaage.

What About Sashimi?

Sashimi is usually sliced fish. It is not considered a type of sushi
Sashimi served with a small portion of wasabi

Sashimi is another essential and well-known word to add to your vocabulary. However, it isn’t another type of sushi! Sashimi is simply a thin slice of fish or meat, usually raw.

My video below shows other useful words and restaurant etiquette tips. It should help when you get to a Japanese sushi restaurant for the first time!

Ready to Order?

There are many other types of sushi and traditional dishes. I advise you to try as many as possible — but don’t forget to take photos and tag The Otaku Box on Facebook or Instagram so I can see it too!

What other Japanese dishes or aspects of the culture would you like me to explain next?

Stick around to be the first to read the next lessons. You can also learn more about Japan and anime in the related posts below!

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