Traditional Japanese, Gourmet Guide

Traditional Japanese cuisine can have different names depending on the formalities. "Shojin-ryori" is a vegetarian cuisine that was served to entertain guests, at Zen temples. Since Buddhist clergy were not allowed to eat meat or fish, the dishes of this cuisine are cooked without any.

It is said that shojin-ryori started to truly develop since the Kamakura period (1185-1333), when Zen Buddhism was brought to Japan. This cuisine uses tofu, vegetables, konnyaku, and beans, to create a variety of dishes. Today, the dishes are eaten for their health benefits, regardless of the religious aspect. Originally, "kaiseki-ryori" were dishes served before a tea ceremony. Nowadays, kaiseki-ryori have no relation to the tea ceremony, but refer to a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. "Mukozuke" (side dishes), such as sashimi, "nimono" (simmered food), such as vegetables or yuba (tofu skin), "yakimono" (flame-broiled food), such as fish, or "hachisun" (food served in a certain dish) as snacks are brought out one after another. Afterwards, there is dessert. Although there are rules for how to properly eat them, you do not have to worry too much when eating at a restaurant. Eat them in the order they are served and you will be fine. Although it is pronounced the same way as "kaiseki," the following is a different kind of "kaiseki-ryori." This kaiseki-ryori is also served as a course menu, but it is a set of dishes for entertaining guests at a banquet while having alcoholic beverages. "Kyodo-ryori" is local cuisine that has been eaten since ancient times in all regions of Japan, each region having its own local dish. There are a large number of different dishes, but one that is known all over Japan is the "ishikari nabe" from Hokkaido. Ishikari nabe is a nabe made with chunks of salmon and vegetables. Another famous dish from Hokkaido is "Genghis Khan." Genghis Khan is a kind of yakiniku using mutton, and is cooked on a special hot plate. Aomori Prefecture is famous for its "senbei-jiru". A special kind of senbei (rice cracker) for soup is cooked together with green onion and chicken. Iwate's "wanko soba" is eaten in an unusual way. You have a second helping after every bite, and until you put the lid on your bowl the server will keep serving you more. Akita is the origin of one of Japan's three great udons - the "Inaniwa udon". It also is famous for "kiritanpo." For kiritanpo, rice is pounded, then put around Japanese cedar skewers, and toasted over an open hearth. The Tohoku region is packed with local cuisine such as "imoni," which is simmered in a pot of miso and other ingredients, such as taro (purple potato) in Yamagata. Masu-zushi is a specialty of Toyama. For masu-zushi, sliced masu salmon is placed on vinegar-marinated rice. It is also sold in the form of boxed lunches at train stations. There are countless other local cuisines, including "saba-zushi" (mackerel sushi) of Fukui, "Hoto (udon)" of Yamanashi, "Oyaki" of Nagano (stuffed dumplings), "unagi ryori" (eel) of Shizuoka, "kishimen (udon)" and "hitsumabushi (eel rice)" of Aichi, "funa-zushi (carp sushi made with carp in Lake Biwa) of Shiga, "battera (mackerel box sushi)" of Osaka, "Sanuki udon" of Kagawa, "Sahachi ryori" (big plate cooking) from Kochi, "chanpon" (a kind of noodle soup) and "sara udon" of Nagasaki, "basashi" (horse sashimi) of Kumamoto, or "satsuma-age" (fried fish cake) and "keihan" (chicken soup) of Kagoshima. The cuisine of Okinawa is unlike any other in Japan.

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