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We are all generally familiar with the five sense: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. While it might seem simple however, the idea behindgokan is rather profound.

Eating is an experience of all five of senses, not just taste. Even so, one might argue that taste is the most important of the five. For without it, even the ripest fruit and most artfully presented array of dishes would be little more than pretty objects, albeit ones we can eat.

When thinking of food, it’s quite possible to overlook the importance of color in how we experience a meal. However, color is a strong consideration inwashoku, Japanese cuisine, for color enhances the appearance of a dish, stimulating the sense of sight, and in turn helping to excite one’s appetite.

Without knowledge of the five basic methods of cooking, it would be much more difficult to prepare a meal that invokes the five senses and inspires the five tastes. The five basic cooking methods can be broken down intonama(cutting),niru (simmering),yaku (grilling),musu (steaming), andageru (frying).

Essential to the foundation of Japanese cooking are the five ingredients that serve as the building blocks ofwashoku,or Japanese cuisine. They’re easily remembered by the five sylablles:sa,shi,su,se,so. These translate to sugar(satō), salt(shio), vinegar(su), soy sauce(shōyu/seuyu), and miso(well… miso.)

Kansai is considered to be the cultural and spiritual center of Japan. It’s home to many historical sites, ancient temples, and two of Japan’s ancient capitals: Kyoto and Nara.  Another distinctive characteristic about the Kansai region is its love for food. In fact, it is home to what many call “the nation’s kitchen” - Osaka. However, Osaka isn’t the only place to find uniquely Kansai food.

With a culinary history as deep and established as washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine), certain herbs and spices have been used in Japan for thousands of years. And although there might be a larger variety available today, their uses and applications have remained rather constant. 

With Japan’s proximity to the sea and lush greenery, the concepts of umi no sachi (bounty of the sea) and yama no sachi (bounty of the land or mountains) have had a great impact on the way Japanese people view food and cooking. Herbs and spices are often used as a complement to the main flavors of dishes, accentuating the characteristics of the other ingredients rather than changing their innate flavors.

Succulent and juicy shiitake mushrooms are the base for this earthy, savory dashi that is made from rehydrating dried shiitake mushrooms (which can then be used for cooking) in water. This thin, dark brown vegetarian/vegan dashi is rarely used on its own and is typically combined with konbu or katsuo dashi to produce a more robust flavor.

In its basic form, dashi (だし, 出汁) is a broth made by extracting flavors from ingredients by boiling them. Yet unlike typical soup stocks made from a variety of mixed ingredients, dashi relies on only one or two simple ingredients. The beauty of this simplicity, however, is in its ability to enhance and harmonize the flavors of the other ingredients it’s paired with, creating a dish that is more than the sum of its parts. 

Awase dashi is the most commonly used dashi in Japan. In fact, when one says dashi this is usually what they’re referring to. Awase means “to combine'' and is typically a combination of konbu and katsuobushi. It includes both glutamic acid and inosinic acid, creating a single dashi that is more than the sum of its parts. 

This aromatic and flavorful seafood based dashi is made from katsuobushi (dried skipjack tuna that is shaved into thin flakes) and is mostly used in the Kanto region of Japan.

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 as Shōjin Ryōrihas been around for more than seven centuries and is a healthy yet simple ritual that nourishes the body and soul through food. 

We often get asked the best way to cook rice at home. It may surprise you to know that excellent, sweet and satisfying rice can be cooked on a stove top, without the use of a rice cooker!

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. 

For anyone with allergies shopping for food (especially food with foreign packaging) can be difficult. We provide English translations for all the items we include in our Care Packages, but want to make sure that you are informed as possible as you continue to explore the vast world of Japanese cuisine. 

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. 

Mushrooms are a well known part of many cuisines. In Japanese cuisine, mushrooms - known as kinoko (キノコ) - play an essential role, adding umami and texture to many dishes. Many varieties of mushrooms can be found growing throughout Japan’s mountainous landscape. Here's a quick overview of some popular Japanese mushrooms:

As one can see, the image of tofu being a white block of gelatinous blandness is a result of a lack of exposure to what can be made from it and with it. Even the simplest tofu dish, hiyayakko, a dish consisting of fresh chilled tofu garnished with grated ginger, katsuobushi flakes, scallions, and soy sauce, can be incredible in its subtlety and depth of flavor.

The general process of making tofu is rather simple, probably deceptively so. And it is this simplicity that has led to innovation and experimentation over time, the result of which is an astounding amount of variation in the ways that tofu can be made.

There’s a lot to love about Japanese sake. It’s much more than a drink. It’s a story of Japanese craftsmanship, of human terroir, of a connection to nature, of understanding the past and looking towards the future. Sake is all of these things and more, constantly evolving, finding new ways to bring people together. 

Another great aspect of sake, or nihonshu as its referred to in Japan, is how it harmonises with just about any type of food you pair it with. Although it would be easy to assume that it goes best with Japanese food, I’d ask that you resist the temptation and think about unconventional food pairings.

So, join me ask I take you through five sake and food pairings that are unique to my own experiences. 

In this article, we’ll be looking at how Japan and the US differ in terms of organic farming and what Japan is doing to try and improve their position in the global initiatives towards larger scale sustainable, environmentally friendly agricultural methods. 

While urban migration and falling fertility rates are contributing to the declining agricultural industry in Japan, there are other complicated reasons that make revitalization difficult. These mainly include issues of landownership and the restrictions on farming organizations. Luckily, there seems to be some hope for the industry’s recovery with recent surges in investing and ideas about rural revitalization.

In Japan, the recovery meal of choice following the holiday indulgences is nanakusa gayu(七草粥).

Our ideas about food (the foundation of life) truly shape the ways in which we live. And while there are many diets that take a philosophical or mindful approach to eating, there are few cuisines that embrace this concept as much as shōjin ryōri (精進料理.)

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