Japanese Food

One of the great food nations

There is no doubt that Japan is now one of the great food nations. Tokyo‘s Michelin stars can only add to the previous conviction held by many that Japan is indeed the best place on earth to eat. Going far beyond the familiar favourites of sushi and tempura, Japanese food focuses intently on fresh, seasonal ingredients. The emphasis on presentation means that Japanese food is always a pleasure for both the eyes and the palate.

Eating and drinking are integral to Japanese culture. Each area of Japan fosters regional specialties which range from the ridiculous (horse sashimi, bee larvae) to the sublime (grilled eel, fresh snow crab, succulent sashimi, perfectly marbled beef). Tokyo alone is home to more than a quarter of a million restaurants. These range from the pinnacles of luxury to tiny street stalls. Eating in Japan at any part of the spectrum can be a culinary adventure, but the overwhelming variety of eateries means that there is something to please everyone.

Fresh, seasonal produce

Japanese food emphasises fresh seasonal produce and delicate preparation. Locally sourced food is much prized, and old traditions of picking wild vegetables are very much alive. There are now also many imported culinary traditions, from excellent French restaurants to cheap American chains. The traditional recipes however, remain a staple of the daily diet.

For quick, casual Japanese dining, udon, soba or ramen noodles are a treat. The hustle and bustle of the busy shop, the welcoming call of Irasshai! coming out of the billowing steam, the blend of wonderful aromas of the food and the percussion of slurping salary-men all create a unique atmosphere.

At the other end of the spectrum, ryokan serve up sophisticated Kaiseki menus comprised of set courses. A meal must at the very least include a fried dish, a simmered dish, and a steamed dish. Yet all kaiseki restaurants will go far beyond this, sometimes serving as many as twenty courses. Kaiseki was originally served at the tea ceremony. It is a wonderful way to sample small dishes of meat, fish, vegetables, pickles, rice, and soup – with so much variety there is something to everyone’s taste.