Japan is a great country, with great people and great culture. When it comes to Japanese culture, it's Japanese food. When it comes to Japanese food, Sushi is the most iconic. And when it comes to Sushi, we'll have to talk about the fish, the soy sauce and on top of that, the wasabi.
Love it or hate it, wasabi is what made Sushi stand out from other Asian cuisine. While the intense heat of wasabi may scare away some people, it is also very addictive to other people too.
The bad news is, most of the time you put that nasty green paste in your mouth and enjoy, you're actually eating fake wasabi. Yes, I mean it. It can be considered one of the most used fake things in the world, even to the point most people just don't even know what the real wasabi is like.
For your information, wasabi actually comes from the root of the Japanese horseradish plant. And like the Japanese culture, the plant itself is very dedicated. It only grows within a very specific range of temperature and elevation. On top of that, it needs a constant flow of extra clean spring water through it roots just to stay alive. Cultivating the plant is extremely hard and costly, harvesting and using them are even more labor intensive.
The root needs to be consumed fresh, grated by hand with some skill and consumed within 15 mins. After the time has past, it loses its heat and flavor quite quickly. Because of that, real wasabi is very expensive and extremely hard to come by. While you could buy a tube of artificial wasabi paste for just a few dollars, authentic fresh wasabi root is really hard to find. In Japan, it can be bought in some of the markets but if you're outside of Japan, well, you're going to have to spend some big cash in high-end Japanese restaurants just to get a taste of it.
That's the reason why people invented the green paste you often eat in Sushi restaurants. It's much cheaper and has a better availability, so more and more restaurants starting to use it to replace the real thing to the point that out of ten people I asked, none of them even know wasabi comes from a plant.
In case you wonder what the real wasabi tastes like, it is packed with the same intense heat of the fake paste, but more smooth without the harsh feeling of the artificial counterpart. For some people, the differences are minor but for me, it's like comparing a piece of glass to diamond. In short, the real wasabi is dedicated, just like Japanese culture.