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If you’ve spent time in a kitchen (or watched a lot of cooking shows on TV like me), then chances are you’ve heard the adage “You eat first with your eyes.” While many a fine dining restaurant around the world features beautiful plating, it's hard to deny that the true masters of the art of food beautifully arranged are the Japanese.
Made popular outside of Japan in 2005 in a speech to the United Nations by Wangari Maathai,mottainai has the meaning of not letting things go to waste. Translated literally, it can mean “wasteful” or even “such a waste,”yet like many words in Japanese has a deeper meaning and reflects the importance of treasuring an object and using it to its fullness.
As time passes, Japan is seeing many of its smaller countryside villages become depopulated as younger generations move to larger cities for work. For those who remain, farming lacks the appeal it once did because the yields required to make a living have increased. As a result, those that do look to farming find themselves turning away from sustainable traditional techniques toward a reliance on technology and scientific farming.
One traditional technique at danger of being lost is the practice of “yakihata” (焼き畑) - careful and controlled burning of fields which helps to remove pests and reinvigorate the land, fertilizing it with ash. This practice is currently used primarily in only one part of Yamagata Prefecture, and has largely disappeared from the rest of Japan. Traditions and skills like these are now at risk of disappearing from Japan altogether if change is not made to preserve this agricultural heritage.
The different types of green tea vary based on how much sunlight the leaves receive and how they are dried, ground and rolled. How you brew them will also will also effect the taste and experience of enjoying a cup of green tea.
Springtime in Japan is associated with both the beginning and ending of stages in life as graduation ceremonies are held at the end of March while new school and corporate fiscal years begin in April. Along with these life events bloom sakura (cherry blossoms), a symbolic flower or farewell and celebration. In the early warmth of spring, people gather under sakura trees for “flower viewing", known as hanami or more formally ohanami, as they enjoy a picnic with family, friends, and colleagues.
Michi-no-eki (lit. “roadside station”) are government-designated facilities found throughout Japan with a rest stop, community space, and information center. Unlike typical rest stops, michi-no-eki serve as landmarks for the community attracting both locals and visitors. Over the years, michi-no-eki have transformed, with many now offering services such as farmers markets with local produce and regional foods, food courts, libraries, event spaces, amusement parks, and souvenir shops, all showcasing regional specialties.
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.
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.
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.
From expressing one’s mood to describing the way something sounds, there exists a seemingly never-ending list of onomatopoeias (words that phonetically resemble the word that it describes) in the Japanese language. They act as adjectives, verbs, and adverbs, filling a void we have in English in an almost intuitive and natural way.
For those who don’t consume fish or meat, finding Japanese vegetarian or vegan options can be challenging. Fortunately, the Buddhist plant-based cuisine known asShōjin Ryōrihas been around for more than seven centuries and is a healthy yet simple ritual that nourishes the body and soul through food.
Momoe Nishimura, founder of Zen Eating share her meditative eating practices through food inspired by Japanese Zen Buddhism. She helps us ease our tension and to make our lives more enjoyable through eating.
Okinawa, a tropical island far away from mainland Japan, is often a go-to domestic travel destination to an exotic place. Surrounded by endless aqua blue water, Okinawa has 160 islands, of which only 40 are inhabited. Its year-round warm climate provides a home to indigenous subtropical plants and all living things from the sea to the forests. It is these surroundings that helped create Okinawa’s traditional food culture.
In Japan there are two types of dates commonly seen of food products: best before and expiration. Products often only have one of the two so it is best if you learn how to read the kanji for each type (賞味期限 = best before and 消費期限 = expiration).
The foundation of modern-day cuisine in Japan was heavily influenced by the customs developed during the Edo Era. A period of economic and social growth, people began eating three meals a day instead of two, while incorporating the holy trinity of Japanese flavor (soy sauce, mirin, and sake). Food stalls were also introduced to feed busy commoners on the go. While some practices diminished over time, many continue to thrive today.