Japan: Japanese Food & Cuisine
Japanese Food Beginner's Guide | Tokyo Restaurant Reviews | Izakaya | Kaiseki Ryori | Western Food in Japan | Soy Sauce | Okinawa Cuisine | Rice in Japan | Fugu (Blowfish) | Varieties of Japanese Food | Restaurants in Japan | Food Book Reviews | Sushi with Attitude | Eating Whale | Shirouo | Food Replicas | Chopsticks | Disposable Chopsticks | Seaweed | Kirin Beer | Japanese Tea | Takoyaki (Octopus Balls) | Sake | Daihanjo Ramen | Instant Noodles | Soba Dojo | Japanese Cooking Videos
A Food-lover's Guide to Japanese Cuisine
Find articles on all aspects of Japanese food and drink culture.
Japanese Food A Beginner's Guide To Japanese Food
While many people nowadays are familiar with sushi and tempura, there's a lot more to Japanese cuisine than these two delicacies alone. The country boasts a vast array of tempting and exotic foodstuffs, the best of which are exquisite works of art rather than mere stomach-fodder.
There's something to please all tastes and all budgets. It's also worth noting that many restaurants, even quite smart places, offer well-priced set lunch menus (teishoku).
If you fill up at lunchtime on one of these set lunches, you might get by with a hearty bowl of noodles or a simple rice dish for your evening meal.
by Jan Dodd
Tokyo Dining Reviews of Tokyo Restaurants
The Tokyo metropolis offers an overwhelming number of dining opportunities, representing nearly every cuisine on earth. Heading out to eat and drink in a city the size of Tokyo, you need guidance from someone who knows it well.
Lukas Kratochvil is a gourmet and restaurant critic living and working in Tokyo. He appraises the city's dining spots and the occasional upscale wine or sake bar.
Maximize your dining enjoyment by getting reliable advice and the very latest on Tokyo's dining establishments from a connoisseur of both food and drink. Includes information based on genre, area, price, and atmosphere.
reviews by Lukas Kratochvil
Izakaya Japan's Answer To The Pub
The izakaya is the Japanese answer to the pub and, just like anywhere, there's a bar for all tastes. Places to suck up to the section manager, to charm the ladies or to rest tired feet after a hard day's sightseeing. But in all of them, the first thing you'll hear is an enthusiastic " Irrashaimase!" (welcome) from the staff, some that you'll see and some you won't.
Straight away you'll feel like you're being taken care of but immediately the comparison with the pub falls down. Or rather, it takes a seat. It's the major difference between East and West. Not the group versus the individual or raw fish versus cooked but between the ethics of sitting or standing when you drink.
Try holding a beer in one hand, a basket of kara-age (fried chicken) in the other and your chopsticks in ... Something clearly doesn't add up.
by Will Yong
Japan's Traditional Food Styles kaiseki and shoujin ryori
A visitor to Japan can expect a wealth of enjoyment from her traditional food. The presentation and flavors alone are a delight, but understanding the origins of what is at the end of your chopsticks can give a deeper appreciation of the food and a greater understanding of the society that brought it there.
Looking back one thousand years you would see tribute flowing, from all parts of the nation, to Kyoto, the ancient capital; to the emperor, the ultimate power.
Fish, rice, salt, and firewood traveled over well established routes to the palace kitchens where they met with local ingredients to become the sustenance the imperial court.
by Alan Wiren
Western Provender in the Japanese Kitchen
Some of the food experiences in store for a visitor to Japan derive from her millenniums old history. Others were inspired by contact with the world outside, but are no less Japanese for that. It seems whatever passes in over Japan's borders becomes transformed.
Notions and goods from other lands are altered just enough to make them uniquely Japanese, and no less so with the basic ingredients of Western food. Perhaps the two that have been most thoroughly assimilated are wheat flour and beef.
by Alan Wiren
Soy Sauce Japan's Essential Ingredient
If you are looking for soy sauce to use in your home in Japan, or to take home as souvenirs you will find a wide range of choices. The same principles apply to choosing a soy sauce as to buying wine. First of all, price is an indicator of quality.
Fully fermented soy sauces will generally cost three to four times the amount you would pay for those on the supermarket shelf, but after sampling the artisanal products you may find them worth the price. The label will give you information about where the soy sauce was made.
The characters of soy sauce made in different regions and by different brewers varies widely.
by Alan Wiren
Okinawa Cuisine A Taste of Japan's Spicy Southwest
The people of Okinawa, Japan's southernmost chain of islands, pride themselves on being different from the mainland. The unique nature of their culture is especially obvious in their music, but it can also be seen and tasted - in their distinctive cuisine.
Just about every aspect of Okinawan life is the result of a mix of Chinese, Japanese, South East Asian, and American elements joined to the vibrant native culture, and it is appropriate that the Okinawans themselves use a culinary analogy to illustrate this: Okinawa is one big champuru - a mixed stir-fry of culture.
And it's healthy, too!
by Peter D. Evan
Rice in Japan 21st Century Farmers
It sounds obvious to say, but rice is important to the Japanese. While in Western countries rice is appreciated because it is an integral part of any Chinese or Indian takeaway, it is just another commodity, available in every supermarket.
In Japan, however, it's a different story. The language holds a few clues. The early indigenous name for Japan was mizu ho no kuni (the land of the water stalk plant or rice).
The Japanese word gohan means "cooked rice", but also, rather
tellingly, means "meal".
Nothing is more redolent of the Japanese countryside than its green paddy fields in summer.
by Sian Thatcher
Fugu Japan's Deadly Delicacy
We were off to eat fugu, to my mind the hardest to understand of all Japan's weird and wonderful culinary traditions. And one that appears to be in no danger of dying out - New York and Hong Kong now import this potentially deadly fish.
So at the same time as feeling a little concerned for my well-being, I was not a little bit curious to know what all the fuss was about.
by Will Yong
Varieties of Japanese Food What To Eat In Japan
Japan has a mouth-watering selection of different foods and dishes often matched with the season.
We introduce some of the many delicious possibilities: Bento, Curry
rice, Donburi, Gyudon, Kaiseki ryori, Kaiten Sushi, Kushikatsu, Nabe,
Oden, Okinawan food, Okonomiyaki, Ramen, Soba, Udon, Sushi, Sashimi,
Shabu-shabu, Sukiyaki, Tempura, Unagi, Yakinikku, Yakitori.
Restaurants in Japan Where To Eat In Japan
Choose from our selection of quality restaurants, cafes and bars on where to eat out in Japan's major towns and cities:
We have listings for Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Kobe, Sapporo, Sendai, Niigata.
Our growing entertainment and dining recommendations include Japanese, Italian, Indian, Nepali, Turkish, Thai, Moroccan, Irish and Asian cuisine as well as tradcitional izakaya, yakitoriya, okonomiyakiya, plus sports bars, British, Irish and Aussie-style pubs, clubs and coffee houses.
To list your business, whether it is a restaurant, cafe or bar, on JapanVisitor at reasonable rates - Contact JV
Books On Japanese Food Japanese Food Books Reviews
Read our reviews of the latest best-selling books on Japanese food and cuisine and eating out in Japan.
Interest in the low-fat, healthy Japanese diet has increased in recent years and our comprehensive review of food books includes titles on traditional Japanese recipes, sushi, fusion food, new trends in Japanese cuisine, vegetarian dishes, Okinawa diets, where to eat in Tokyo, dining-out & restaurant guides and Japanese green tea.
Authors include Hiroko Shimbo, Harumi Kurihara, Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, Yuko Fujita, Machiko Chiba, Mari Fujii, Eric Gower and Ming Tsai.
Reviews by Aidan O'Connor, Lee-Sean Huang, David White
Sushi With Attitude!
At the sight of the foreigner walking in, the sushi bar hums in curious amusement and echoes to cries of welcome. There are only three other customers here, outnumbered by twice that many sushi bar staff. One of them is a gargantuan young man with a sumo wrestler's silhouette who, red-faced and pouting, stirs a pot on a stove.
Another a gaunt middle-aged model of chefly probity, maintaining an imperious air of dutiful authority. Of the other four, another man-mountain, slightly taller and a lot less dour, motions me smilingly to a seat in front of where he is standing, only a long glass showcase of various freshly dead fishes between us.
There are adventurous people who like to sample all the special pleasures the countries they visit or temporarily live in have to offer - no matter what might be the politically correct opinion about those treats back home nor what the vegan aunt might think.
Reindeer meat in Finland, horse in France (or as sashimi in Kumamoto), dog in Korea - different nations, different delicacies. All of them are well worth trying - and so is whale. Now, if you are one of those intrepid gourmands, read on...
by Johannes Schonherr
Shirouo are small, transparent fish destined to be eaten alive.
by Johannes Schonherr
A real burger is a giant dish prepared by hand by an experienced cook and made after you order it. In Japan, the international chains dominate and then there are a number of Japanese chains offering variations geared specifically to local tastes with treats like Teriyaki Chicken Burger.
Here is some good news: delightful, handmade burgers are being served in Japan, they cost 500 yen each and they have a tradition going back more than 50 years.
by Johannes Schonherr
Sushi Replicas Authentic Food Samples From Japan
Over 80% of Japanese restaurants now display food replicas in their shop windows to help customers decide what to order and give information on prices.
The first food replicas in Japan date back over 80 years.
Food samples gained added popularity with restaurant owners after 1945, when the arrival of more westerners post-war, created the need for a simplified ordering system.
Chopsticks: Bridging The Gap
How the Japanese began to use chopsticks is a subject of debate. Some say chopsticks came from China, through Korea, to Japan around the sixth century AD. Others, that they were brought directly back to Japan by an imperial envoy at a somewhat later date. In any case, like many things that came from China to Japan, chopsticks were initially revered.
The Japanese word for "chopsticks" is hashi which is a homophone with the Japanese word meaning "bridge". The concept of chopsticks providing a bridge is a recurring motif in Japanese culture, reflected in distinctive shapes and materials that vary with the occasions of their use.
Disposable Chopsticks: The Waribashi Conundrum
I can't be the only person puzzled by the waribashi (disposable chopstick) conundrum. Every year, Japan gets through roughly 24 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks. That's 185 pairs for every person in Japan.
What began as thrifty way to use up wood scraps in the 1870s has spiraled out of control into a fiendish national habit. Japan is famous for its thrift, as much as the modern United States is notorious for its waste. Since ancient times, Japan has confronted its meager natural resources and island isolation head on, attacking its shortcomings with thrift and prudence.
Essence and Accents from the Sea: Seaweed in the Japanese Diet
From the dawn of civilization, Japanese women would gather seaweed in the morning and burn it in the evening. On the surface it seems like busy work or vengeance, but it was actually a life-giving practice.
It hardly sounds appealing, but one of the earliest uses for seaweed, in Japan, was to extract its salt by drying it in the sun, then burning it and using the ashes to season food.
When sipping on a Kirin, would you ever have thought that it was introduced to Japan by a Norwegian-American in the 1870s? There were many difficulties, but what he began remains...
When 30-year-old Johan Martinius Thoresen arrived in Japan in 1864, he found a country thirsting to catch up to the rest of the world technologically, and with a major appetite to learn from the West, including learning the secrets of brewing good beer.
In 1870 he discovered a spring and established The Spring Valley Brewery. Kirin Beer is now one of the top four breweries in Japan.
Vinh T. Phung
Capital tea: the story of tea in Japan
Tea likes to grow in misty mornings and afternoons. Tea likes rolling hills and a slightly acid soil.
When the High Priest Myoe was given some tea seeds brought from China to Japan in the late twelfth century, he looked for just such a place to raise the plants.
Myoe lived in Kyoto, so he did not have to go far. He found all these things in Uji.
He transplanted his tea seedlings there and began promoting the drinking of tea throughout Japan.
by Alan Wiren
Takoyaki and Osaka: how octopus balls came to symbolize a city
To the city of Osaka, takoyaki means more than the hot dog to Coney Island.
First, eating these piping hot little balls of fried batter, formed around chunks of boiled octopus, is an integral part of being there.
Osaka's streets are dotted with takoyaki shops that are often circled by students and dating couples poking toothpicks into golf ball sized confections covered in sauce and mayonnaise.
Virtually every home in and around the city owns the special grill, with hemispherical pockets, needed to make them.
by Alan Wiren
"You Only Drink Rice": the secret of good sake
"You Only Live Twice," the only James Bond movie set in Japan, has the following scene:
by Geoff Botting
"Noodling Around Osaka": the birth of daihanjo raamen
"On the first of October, 2006, Oukura Yoshikazu practically glowing with pride, stood over a unique piece of pottery holding the very latest contribution to Japanese cuisine and told me "We want to make history."
He was talking about the noodle dish, called Dai Hanjo Ramen. Noodles might seem an unlikely choice in a bid for immortality, unless you realize that noodles have been entwined with Japanese cultural identities since at least the seventeenth century.
by Alan Wiren
"Instant Fun": the story of instant ramen noodles
"Hungry?!" That and the name of the product were the only words in a clever series of advertisements by Nissin, the internationally (and extraterrestrially) known maker of instant noodles. The ads juxtaposed the ease and convenience of preparing Cup Noodles with the difficulties of other, more traditional means of finding sustenance -- hunting mammoth, for instance. If you have never been to the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum, you may not realize that these ads reflect the seminal origins of the company.
Just after World War II, before there ever was an instant noodle, the Japanese people were hungry. Recovering from a lost war left the nation with food shortages. Momofuku Ando, later to become founder of Nissin, was struck by something he saw at that time: long lines stretching out in front of ramen shops. It gave him the idea of making ramen available to people, in his words, "anytime, anywhere."
by Alan Wiren
"Soba Dojo": getting hands floury with soba noodles
"Sensei tells me I am doing well, but I am not so sure. When I first heard the words "soba dojo" they conjured up a vision of wiry young men dressed in white and shouting "YES, SENSEI!" in choral response to the question, "Do you want to make delicious soba!?" Instead, I found myself among the ranks of Japanese baby-boomers. Men who were born in the years shortly after World War II are now reaching retirement age and looking to fill their newfound leisure time. Many have turned to the craft of soba making, which counts them among the people who make soba schools a popular destination on package tours.
My sensei is a gentle, middle-aged woman, but strict in her own way. My first mistake was with the water. Sensei began the lesson by holding up two small packets. One, she explained, was a mixture of seventy percent soba flour and thirty percent wheat flour. The other was pure soba flour. Then she held up a transparent measuring cup containing a quantity of water with a line dividing it into halves.
by Alan Wiren
Learn how to create authentic Japanese dishes in your own kitchen
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