From the boxes of sushi found in the supermarkets to the expertly crafted maki and nigiri found in the world’s very best sushi restaurants, one thing’s for sure – you’re bound to see some pink, translucent slices of salmon somewhere. It’s the raw fish everyone associates with Japanese food – along with tuna – and it’s very hard to imagine a world in which salmon and sushi had nothing to do with one another. But as little as thirty years ago, this was exactly the case. Strangely, it was thanks to a Norwegian fisheries minister that the Japanese developed an appetite for raw salmon.
1970s Japan was a very different place than it is today. Back then, the country was entirely self-sufficient in terms of seafood, producing enough to feed its entire population without the need for imports. This was a particularly impressive feat seeing as the average Japanese person ate sixty kilograms of fish and seafood annually, compared to the global average of fifteen. Tuna and sea bream were the fish of choice for sushi, thanks to their fatty texture and clean flavour. Salmon was part of the diet, but was regarded as an inferior fish that had to be fully cooked and was used to bulk out cheap meals. To serve it raw was perceived as dangerous, as Pacific salmon landed by Japanese fishermen are prone to parasites, meaning the fish had to be cooked through before eating. So how did Norway, a country on the other side of the world, change this?