Japanese Cuisine encompasses the regional and traditional foods of Japan, which have developed through centuries of social changes. It is also called “Wa shoku 和食,” while it is called “Yo shoku 洋食” meaning Western food.
When we hear the word “Japanese cuisine,” usually come up with a certain image such as “Sushi” and “Tempura,” however “Japanese cuisine” does not refer to a certain and concrete menu.
In December of 2013, “Japanese cuisine” was designated as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Let’s see and learn about the world-renowned “Japanese cuisine” in detail today!
The origin of Japanese Cuisine
Many people may think, after all, the main food of “Japanese Cuisine” is “rice,” don’t you?
Rice has been the main food of Japanese people from the Jomon period, thus it can be said that Japanese cuisine originates in ancient Jomon period.
However, the significant factor which directly influenced to the development of Japanese cuisine is “Broth (Dashi) ” Therefore, precisely speaking, the culture of authentic Japanese cuisine has started in the Heian period.
With the dawn of Zen Buddhism during the Heian period, the Buddhist’s doctrine-related recipe such as “Broth (Dashi)” has been gradually introduced into Japanese cuisine.
This is because Buddhism priest were forbidden to eat “meat” by the Buddhist doctrine, therefore they started to eat “soybean” instead. This ritual change has brought about the change of entire food culture, and people started to use “Broth (Dashi),” make this broth as delicious as possible, and has gradually developed the cooking method of “Broth (Dashi).” In short, the development of “Broth (Dashi)” almost equals the evolution of Japanese cuisine. “Broth (Dashi)” is the inevitable essence of Japanese cuisine, and it mainly seasons its taste.
Japanese cuisine’s characteristics？
The nutrition balance
It is said that Japanese cuisine is a balanced diet, results from its eating style of 「一汁三菜」, a meal consisting of a bowl of rice, a cup of miso soup and other three kinds of simple dishes.
More precisely, 「一汁三菜」’s three kinds of dishes are such as “煮物, a food cooked in seasoned broth” and “焼き物, grilled.” (the example shown below)
When Japanese people cook the meal, using seasonings such as miso or Broth(Dashi) to enhance the materials’ and ingredient’s original tastes, and thus it came to be the low-calorie meal on the table. This the reason that Japanese cuisine is highly evaluated as the well-balanced, nutritious meal by the gourmets all over the world.
In addition, as the example of “Broth (Dashi)” which is made from kelp, the basic materials and ingredients of Japanese cuisine itself originally has the good flavor, and therefore there is no need to add extra food additives, and contains less fat at the same time.
And that is why eating Japanese cuisine helps us keep healthy condition, and contribute to achieve longevity and prevent obesity.
Use abundant and fresh materials!
Japan is an island country, and has received the benefits of mother nature of mountains and sea, from north to south. Each region has its original materials as well as abundant and fresh crops in season. And, people in here can enjoy both marine products (seafood, seaweed) and mountain products (edible wild plants, mushrooms, vegetables) throughout the year.
Japanese cuisine values the beauty of the nature and expresses the changes of the seasons
Japanese cuisine uses “the materials in season,” which means each material deliberately is cooked, put into the beautiful pots or dishes elaborately, and successfully served to the table with the sense of the season. And this effect gives the big impression to the guests, to feast their eyes on its beauty of the dishes and the decoration of the meal, in addition to its taste. This is surely “a piece of art,” that the guests can enjoy it visually. There is no wonder why Japanese cuisine impresses the first-visit-foreign tourists so much.
The characteristics of Japanese cuisine when it is served, values the respect and the affection of mother nature, and elaborately decorated with the sense of the four seasons. For example, vegetable’s tempura, using vegetables of the season, and served on the table as if it still grows lively in nature. (the example shown below)
As another remarks, it is a choice of dishes, which may express the beauty of nature. The dishes should match the food and the season of the very moment when it is served, and the dishes are perfect displays. For example, mainly use the cool-looking glass dishes in the summer, or the warmed-colored pottery pot in the winter, chefs of Japanese cuisine select these dishes carefully after a consideration of its designs, colors, and textiles of the dishes.
Hospitality of the Japanese cuisine
Usually, the first served item that you may enter restaurants in Japan is “oshibori, wet towel.”
At the restaurants, they make the wet towel cool or warm depending on the temperature outside. Also, with the consideration of hygiene, usually the towel is put into a small plastic bag or served on the “wet towel” tray, expressing small piece of hospitality to the guests.
What do you think about Japanese cuisine?
If you have a chance to eat Japanese cuisine next time, please remember these things in this blog, and feel and fully enjoy the beauty of Japanese cuisine and its history.