Nowadays, when people think of sushi, nigiri comes to mind. The most famous representation of this beloved Japanese dish, it’s a bundle of rice topped with a piece of raw fish.
But those looking to experience the original styles of sushi, which date back to the 10th century, should head for the Kumano region of Wakayama, southwest of Osaka.
One of the area’s most beloved local cuisines, narezushi is a hand-pressed rice ball topped with fermented fish. (Just don’t let the scent put you off.)
You can find it in local food halls, ramen shops and also a restaurant called Yatsufusa, which serves narezushi with local sake.
Another type of traditional sushi is mehari-zushi. These oversized rice balls wrapped in pickled mustard leaves were once a traditional bento (lunch box) inclusion for workers and farmers.
They’re still a popular food for hikers visiting the mountainous Kumano region thus can be found in many shops in the area.