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His Majesty Akihito’s Diet

Written by Sarah Kante

Japan has the last Emperor in the world. No other head of state has a right to
the title, which makes Akihito, the current Emperor of Japan, a very special

man.

Food being a very important part of the culture in Japan, and with so many
traditional dishes to choose from, what does Emperor Akihito eat? Exquisitely
prepared delicacies, rare dishes served in an opulent setting, a luxurious
banquet of sweet and savoury traditional food all topped with a copious
amount of sake is what we imagine each meal of the Japanese head of state

to be like. And yet, all of these predictions could not be farthest from the truth.

His Majesty, according to Japan Today and Flash, seems to favour somewhat
“bland food.” Former education minister Yoshinobu Shimamura, a close friend
of the emperor, is quoted as saying, "I've been invited to meals any number of
times at Togu Palace. They were more frugal than I anticipated they would be,

and a bit on the bland side when it came to taste."

No luxury, no opulence, no extraordinary meals. If anything, this sounds a bit
like Emperor Akihito could be part of the “commoners,” at least when it comes

to his meals.

But before imagining his Majesty hitting a supermarket for rice cakes, it is
important to note that, “meat, vegetables, dairy products and others are
produced by the imperial farm in Tochigi Prefecture.” All this foodstuff is also
as natural as it can be, with a spokesperson for the Imperial Household
Agency saying that the "use of chemical fertilizer and agricultural pesticides is

held to the lowest level possible.”

The Emperor of Japan is therefore served organic, locally sourced food, and
no, he does not prepare it himself. There is a Daizen department, which
employs 43 staff who takes care of it all. A sample midday meal is reported to
look like this: “rice/barley mixture; miso soup; grilled "sawara" (a type of

mackerel); glazed ginger and chestnuts.”

It’s not all simple fare though, as there is also mention of meals of “full
courses French cuisine” when foreign guests are entertained. Maybe that’s

when the banquet-style opulence comes out.

Whilst we might think His Majesty and his family eat only what they are
allowed to, they have, in fact, almost no restrictions. The only forbidden food
is Fugu (blowfish). For personal safety, and even though some Fugu is now

“poison-free,” Akihito is forbidden by law to consume the delicacy.

Frugal and bland might be what is being reported coming out of the Palace’s
kitchens, but Emperor Akihito still enjoys some interesting dishes. One
eccentricity is Tsukudani (seaweed condiment) on buttered toast. As a youth,
he and his brother snacked on “steamed buns with pork and sweet bean
fillings,” which could become our own go-to snack too, if it tastes as good as it
sounds.

Whatever we might think we understand about the Imperial diet, we will never
know for certain what Emperor Akihito really eats on a daily basis, as the
Imperial Household Agency is rather tight-lipped when it comes to sharing

private information.

However, we can still satisfy some of our curiosity, thanks to journalist Akira
Hashimoto, a close confident of the Emperor who told Flash that the head of
state has a sweet tooth and “has long favored Colombin brand apple pie.”
Making western-style desserts, Colombin is a manufacturer of all things sweet

and yummy, established in 1924.

Apple pie might not have been in our predictions of what Emperor Akihito
liked eating, but it does make us feel better about the “rice/ barley mixture”
that was reported. Everything we could find out about the diet of the Emperor
of Japan seems incredibly simple, which means eating like this special man

might not be as difficult as we anticipated.

To recap, an Imperial diet requires: local, organic food, simple meals except
on special occasions, when French cuisine is “de rigueur,” and some apple

pie. Eating like an Emperor has never been easier.

About the author: Sarah Kante is a culture and entertainment writer with over a decade of experience. Her passion for travel has led her to explore the world extensively, from Europe to the Pacific, Asia to the USA. When she isn’t on the road, checking out cultural events or writing, you can find her in the kitchen, trying to master recipes from all over the world. When she has the time, she also writes a travel blog, Sarah Does Travel Writing.

Cover photo credit: State Department photo by William Ng

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