Reddish orange lanterns glow softly in the dark while the sound of laughter is exchanged amongst office workers, college students and friends. Some describe an izakaya as a Japanese bar, pub or casual restaurant, but these words hardly grasp the nuance. Izakaya means “a place to settle and drink”' and is where one can find affordable drinks and delicious food. It’s a place to forget time and enjoy the present while connecting with colleagues and friends.
Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island, is blessed with spacious land, abundant nature and a cooler climate that distinguishes it from the rest of Japan. Akin to Japan's “northern Europe”, Hokkaido’s thriving agriculture and fishing industry has resulted in its treasure trove of regional food.
Katakana is generally used for foreign names and loan words (known as gairaigo), that have been integrated into Japanese from other languages. While many of these words can be technological, medical or related to business, there are plenty of food related Japanese words written in katakana.
While many of us might believe that the original package that we buy our rice in is good enough to store it in, that’s actually not true. Rice is a perishable food that can lose its flavor when stored improperly.
High fructose corn syrup is one of the most pervasive food additives both in the West and in Japan.While avoiding highly processed foods is a good way to keep the pesky additive out of your diet, it can pop up in some seemingly unlikely places (rest assured that none of our products at Kokoro Care Packages include it!). Some staple pantry ingredients for Japanese cuisine regularly include it, which are typically the mass-produced varieties, as well as some sauces and seasonings.
Wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets, combine fresh, seasonal ingredients with intricate, artful designs, to create delectable desserts that are often as beautiful as they are to taste.
With a deep historical and cultural significance, Japanese sweets, broadly known as okashi, originally referred to fruits and nuts. Given its scarcity, sugar had been reserved only for the imperial family and nobility. It wasn’t until the Portuguese and Chinese introduced large sugar imports to Japan did it appear as an ingredient in Japanese confectionery. As the popularity of the Japanese traditional tea ceremony grew during the Edo Period (1603-1868), so did the demand for the accompanying Japanese sweets, which had a subtle sweetness that balanced the bitter notes of the matcha.
As Japan opened its borders to the world during the Meiji period (1868-1912), the term wagashi, which is derived from the words wa (Japanese) and kashi (sweets), was introduced to differentiate Japanese confections from Western ones. Wagashi tend to be less sweet and have historically been plant-based, not using milk or eggs and relying on agar (made from seaweed) rather than gelatin.
Nowadays wagashi are renowned around the world. They can be found in an infinite array of shapes and designs and are made from ingredients, many of which are featured in this Baking: “Amai” Care Package, that change with the seasons and by region.
One reason the traditional Japanese diet is thought to be so healthy is because it includes many highly nutritious, seasonal ingredients, beneficial for anyone looking to eat more healthfully and mindfully. It focuses on plant-based ingredients and less on high-fat foods and meat-centric dishes. Additionally, the traditional palette makes use of moreumami rich seasonings, like soy sauce andmiso, and uses preparations that focus on the natural flavors of ingredients and less on added sugars, fats, and sodium.
Although baked goods aren’t the first product you may think of when it comes to Japanese cuisine, Japan has a plethora of flours. Though the popularity of non-wheat flours has been rising in the West, Japanese cuisine has always included many varieties of rice flour. When shopping for cooking flours at a Japanese grocery store look for the character for powder (粉/kona) on packaging.
From sushi rice to stews, sauces, pickles, and marinades, sugar is a fundamental ingredient in Japanese cooking. Many Japanese recipes call for some amount of sugar, may it be a pinch or even a few teaspoons. This isn’t because Japanese diners prefer their food sweet, but because Japanese cooks have long known the power that sugar has in bringing balance to a dish and making it more filling and satisfying.
Food etiquette is an essential part of Japanese culture which means that the Japanese language has many terms that are essential to use when enjoying a Japanese meal. Fromkanpaitogochisousama deshita, here are some key words and phrases (plus a couple bonus words) that you can use at a Japanese table from beginning to end.
As you start to learn about Japanese cuisine you will most likely begin to hear about how special Japanese mayonnaise (マヨネーズ) is. From famous cooks to Japanese individuals living abroad, many flock to Asian supermarkets in search of Japanese mayonnaise.
Traditional Japanese food, orwashoku, is known for its seasonal ingredients, gentle flavor and balanced taste. The recipes and cooking methods date back a few centuries and millennia, shaping today's Japanese diet and cultural beliefs. In fact, in 2013,washokuwas registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, based on the four philosophies ofwashoku.
Soft serve ice cream is big in Japan and the flavors go well beyond vanilla, chocolate, andmatcha.Some soft serve shops have extensive menus with flavors that range from the enticing to the interesting to the downright bizarre. Here are 10 of those unique flavors you might want to give a try.
We first introducedToyokuniyawhen we featured their delicious and unique natto koji paste in our 2020 Kanagawa November Nourishing Essentials Care Package. The company, located in Sagamihara City in Kanagawa Prefecture, produces, processes, and sellstsukuisoybeans - a native soybean that has been cultivated and protected in the region since ancient times.
Unfortunately, there are very few domestic producers left in Japan as 90% of soybeans are imported. Toyokuniya is one of the remaining Japanese soy farmers who continue to harvest soybeans, particularly this rare tsukui variety.
Mr. Okamoto, the owner of Toyokuniya, worked in various industries, including selling apparel for surfers in Enoshima, before taking over his wife's family's liquor store, Toyokuniya. He now grows his own native tsukui soybeans while also organizing other local contract farmers. He also creates and sells various unique tsukui soybean products.
Each of the fields comes in various sizes and is managed by a different farmer using their own growing methods, including those with no or reduced pesticides. Local elementary school students come every year to experience the soybean harvest, which helps to create an opportunity for the children to get involved in agriculture and develop a close relationship with the community.
In addition to these harvesting experiences for local children, Toyokuniya sponsors local sports teams, plans to research and commercialize the nutritional value of localkikuimo(Jerusalem artichokes)in collaboration with a local women's university, and to continue growing indigenous soybeans that can propagate future generations. Although Mr Okamoto doesn't speak much about his missions or passions, he is proactive in doing whatever he can to contribute to the community. His smiling and happy demeanor is infectious, naturally drawing people in.
Kutsuma Seihun was established in Odawara City in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1903. Specializing in soba (buckwheat) flour milling, Kutsuma Seihun has been in business for over a century. Using their expertise in soba flour production, they offer various services for soba noodle shops, such as milling soba flour for commercial and retail use, consulting restaurants on the production of soba noodles and dipping sauces, developing products using soba flour, and sourcing other ingredients required by soba restaurants, such as oil and wheat flour. In this interview, we had a chance to speak with Mr. Kutsuma, CEO of Kutsuma Seihun.
Mr. Kutsuma spent an hour talking about the history of the company, his own career, and the appeal of soba. His passion overflows when talking about soba, making us fall in love with it even more.
The regional ramen of Japan, known asgotōchi ramen, are a shining example of how one can travel through food. Across the 47 prefectures of Japan you’ll find local styles that transform the dish into something unique.
The iconicnigirshi sushi, with its simple slice of fish nestled atop a ball of rice, andmakizushi,rolls of ingredients wrapped up in rice andnoriseaweed, are fairly common nowadays, but those two styles of sushi don’t capture the full range of preparations and styles of sushi in Japan.
In the heart of the Tanazawa and Hakodate mountain ranges there grows a special, full-bodied variety of tea. This tea is as good for quenching your thirst as it is for warming your soul, and is cultivated by the skilled hands of local farmers and artisans. Synonymous across Japan with taste and aroma, this tea is Ashigara-cha.
With 150 years of history and an origin story directly connected to Odawara castle in Kanagawa, Chinriu Honten is in its fifth generation of the Komine family and specializes in producing condiments, pickles, and sweets usingume(Japanese plums),akajiso(red perilla), andsakura(cherry blossoms). By maintaining traditional artisanal techniques that forgo the use of unnecessary enhancers and additives, Chinriu is dedicated to crafting natural products that introduce the tastes of traditional Japan to the world.