Teriyaki style fish has always been a staple in Japan, but teriyaki chicken rose to popularity in the US before coming to Japan. This teriyaki chicken boom was instigated by Kikkoman, a world-famous soy sauce maker.
In the 1950s, Kikkoman was struggling to develop a soy sauce market for general households in the United States. At that time, no one in the US ate sushi yet. Cooking Japanese food at home was very difficult, as the ingredients were not readily available, therefore, most household didn’t need soy sauce. So, how to get them to buy soy sauce?
While the Kikkoman staff were scratching their heads over this, one of them noticed that Americans loved to hold BBQ parties in their backyards. So, the sweet teriyaki sauce was developed as a sauce for grilling chicken outdoors, and it was a big hit with Americans. At first it was used on the barbeque, but soon teriyaki sauce became a staple on the table.