Reverend Sun Myung Moon was notorious for tax fraud, “sacramental sex rituals” in his Unification Church and marrying off thousands of identically dressed “Moonies” in huge ceremonies. But the Korean also got America to love sushi, says Daniel Fromson in The New York Times. In 1980, the 60-year-old outlined The Way of Tuna to followers at his New York headquarters, a 2,000-room former hotel. It was a plan to feed the world with fish. (His father was a spiritually minded fisherman.) Already rich from selling expensive “cures” for ailments in Japan, Moon moved to the US with suitcases full of cash and ploughed tens of millions of dollars into buying boats and processing plants for his church’s fish distribution business, True World Foods.
He gave followers a $100 bill each as “seed money”, and told them: “Go forward, pioneer the way and bring back prosperity.” Luckily for them, 1980s America was gripped by all things Japanese – Toyota cars, Casio watches, the TV miniseries Shogun. But Americans needed encouragement to eat raw fish. “Nobody knew what sushi was,” says In Jin Moon, one of Moon’s daughters. If a state had no sushi restaurant, his followers opened one. The church’s mass arranged marriages to Americans enabled his “Japanese fish pioneers” to remain in the country.