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Shiga Prefecture's Local Specialty - Funazushi

"Before Sushi, There Was Funazushi" is a video produced by Great Big Story to promote Funazushi, a local specialty of Shiga Prefecture.

This is the video for “Kitashina-roho,” a long established Funazushi shop founded 400 years ago in the Edo Period.
Kitashina-roho has closed down once before, but 18th generation craftswoman Mariko Kitamura and her husband Atsushi aimed for a fresh start through the production of high quality Funazushi.
The video shows a craftsman explaining what Funazushi is and how it's made.
We don't recommend watching this on an empty stomach!

What Is Funazushi?

Image of Funazushi

Funazushi is a local food made around Lake Biwa (琵琶湖:Biwa-ko), the largest lake in Japan.

Japan has a history of fermenting fish using lactic acids such as salt, rice, or rice malt, in order to make sushi.
Funazushi was an especially popular preserved food around Lake Biwa, an area far from the sea.

How Funazushi Is Made

Funazushi is known as one of the roots of Japanese sushi culture.
Sushi in Japan is characterized by the craftsmanship of the chefs.
Sushi is prepared by the chefs in seconds and eaten immediately.
This became a popular part of culture in the edo period and was known as "Hayazushi" (lit. Fast Sushi).

However, Funazushi, being a fermented food, takes a long time to prepare. In fact, it can take as long as three years from the time of production to the time it is eaten.
According to the explanation by Atsushi Kitamura in the video (1:41), "There are three important things in making Funazushi: gutting, blood letting, and desalination."

Funazushi is made from Nigorobuna living in lake Biwa.
To make Funazushi, the sushi chef starts by prepping the fish. From here, the fish is stuffed with salt and then transferred to a barrel with more salt.

Mariko Kitamura says in the video "I want everyone to understand the time and effort to make Funazushi, and to understand that Funazushi is one of the roots of the sushi we eat today" (2:10).

There are two types of Funazushi: Honnarezushi which is fermented using only salt, and Hayanare that is fermented using vinegar.

Eating Shiga's Local Specialty

Image of Funazushi Chazuke
Photo:Funazushi Chazuke

Shiga's local specialty, Funazushi, is available in stores on Nishikikoji-dori in Kyoto or by mail order service.
We recommend buying this as souvenir and enjoying the distinct flavors of this traditional snack.
If this distinct smell bothers you, we recommend eating the Funazushi with chazuke.
In Japanese style restaurants in Shiga or Kyoto, it's often paired with locally made sake.
Although Funazushi is not grilled, it tastes similar to roasted foods, such as ham.

Summary of Funazushi

Funazushi used to be a common food in Japanese homes. As you can see from the video, it takes time and effort to make this delicious food.

You can see the time and effort that chefs put into making these Funazushi by watching the video.
The smell of fermented food can be off putting to many people, but the flavor can be quite addictive.
Eating such a rare treat is akin to dining on caviar.
If you're planning on dropping by Shiga, be sure to visit the famous Japanese restaurants in Shiga to try some delicious Funazushi!

【Address】1287 Katsuno Takashima-shi Shiga
【Hours】10:00 to 17:00


Written By
Last Updated : Jul. 25, 2021
坂崎 なお(Nao Sakazaki)
Interested in Japanese culture and traditions! I'll be introducing lovely scenery to you!
Funazushi - Discover the Origins of Sushi at Kitashina and Meet the Artisans Behind This Fermented Delicacy in Shiga, Japan!
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