.......Thinking about Japan through its food, finding health and happiness
1) Our definition of Japanese cooking
Before we discuss Japanese cooking or "washoku," we need to define what we mean by washoku. This definition differs considerably with the time and the place, the people and the classes they belong to. For example, recently (autumn 2006), when the government of Japan was considering ways to promote a superior level of Japanese cooking, they were not able to come up with a consistent definition. But we in this era do not need this kind of government-made definition.
We would like you to understand Japanese cooking as a form of cooking that has developed since ancient times in Japan through a Japanese culinary style and the use of basic Japanese seasonings such as soy sauce, salt, vinegar and sake, a form which has taken root in Japanese manners, customs and culture, even when the original dish was from abroad, due to the characteristic Japanese seasoning and cooking styles.
Thus, we define the area of Japanese cooking more broadly including such foods as sukiyaki, which even has its own song, and ramen, which has now become a Japanese national dish. Naturally, those involved in the preparation of traditional dishes may voice a different opinion, but once you have read the historical overview of Japanese dietary culture in part 3) below, we believe you will clearly see that it is a mistake to view Japan as a country with a single, unified people, or as an island country isolated from the world. In particular, we believe that our 21st century society is borderless, that this is a world where nothing can be accomplished unless we accept the influence we have on each other. By taking what we have learned from foreign countries and digesting it, by making these things our own while constantly responding to the needs of the times, we have built the backbone of a rich tradition. And as we learn to use materials and techniques we had not thought of, we see new elements in our environment. For instance, by asking how the traditional Japanese dishes that they prepared would change and develop if those chefs we call the "old masters" were alive today, we feel that we would inherit the hearts and minds of these ancestors, that we would inherit their healthy traditions, and it is this that we work tirelessly towards each day.
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2) Special features of Japanese
Stretching 3000 km from north to south and surrounded by the ocean,Japan is a country rich in variation, from the subarctic zone in the north down to the subtropics in the south, but the majority of these regions enjoy a warm ocean climate with distinct seasons. The country is about 70% mountains, allowing residents to enjoy the natural scenic beauty of the changing seasons, and of course, blessing them with the bounty of the mountains and the seas. A Japanese meal consists mainly of rice, with the seasonal blessings of the mountain and the sea as side dishes. You might say that the main feature is a cooking full of ingenuity, which takes advantage of seasonal elements and simply draws out their essential natures and textures.
One typical meal is "sashimi." It is likely that some people are completely unacquainted with the dish and think that sashimi is just cut fish. But even with something so seemingly simple as sashimi, a number of ingenuities are at work. Of course, it goes without saying that, above all else, the life of sashimi (also called "o-tsukuri") is freshness, but texture and taste change a surprising amount with where and how the fish is cut. In line with the aim of tasting the essential nature of the raw materials, with the many ways to prepare sashimi?kaku-zukuri (cube cut), usu-zukuri (thin slices), hira-zukuri (rectangular slices), hiki-zukuri (similar to hira-zukuri), ito-zukuri (thread cut), kirikake-zukuri (cutting notches then slicing), sogi-zukuri (very thin slices), hoso-zukuri (finely sliced), segoshi-zukuri (small, fine slices of boned fish), tataki (pounded)?comes a number of different sauces?pure soy sauce, soy sauce with bonito stock, tamari soy sauce, ponzu soy and citrus sauce, irizake sauce and bainiku (plum) soy sauce, which naturally means a variety of garnishes. Rejecting unnecessary ornamentation and thoroughly unassuming, sashimi expresses the grandeur of the natural world we live in as a motif, as well as our feelings of gratitude on a plate. Added to the different types of cuts are the different methods of preparation?arai, exposing fish with white flesh such as flathead or perch to cold water; yakishimo, bonito and other fish seared on the surface and then chilled in cold water; kawashimo, savouring the delight of sea bream or flounder with its own skin (also called "matsukawazukuri"); washing in hot water; chiri-zukuri, extremely thin cuts; kobujime, prepared on a bed of kelp…this diversity and subtlety is the pride of Japan. These should be paired with junmaishu, a type of sake with no added sugar or alcohol, or ginjoushu, a low-temperature brew sake, which will allow diners to find perfect bliss in the subtle interplay of the flavours. It is clear that "cutting," the judicious use of the knife, plays an essential role in Japanese cooking. As proof of this, the variety of knives in Japan is significantly more diverse than in most other countries, with the many different types categorized by how they are used?the deba (pointed carver) and the yanagiba (special sashimi knife) are merely the beginning of a long list. Japanese cooking, or washoku, can be said to be about the heart and technique to take full advantage of these knives to create a meal that delights and satisfies both the eyes and appetite of the customer. The word "kappou," or cuisine, which gives real meaning to Japanese cooking, is made up of the character "katsu," which means "to cut," and "hou," which means "to boil."
Therefore, in addition
to reflecting on the meal itself, the customer doing the eating lets their mind
be drawn to the background for the meal?the heart and
traditional culture?and comes to a full understanding
of the fact that not just the utensils and the interior design of the room, but
even the landscape has been exhaustively considered. Drawing on all of this
knowledge and sensitivity, the sincere hope is that customers will relax and
enjoy the chef's spirit of hospitality and the blessings of Mother Nature.
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General overview of the history of Japanese dietary culture
As noted above, currently, even proposing a clear definition of Washoku that all Japanese people can agree on is a next to impossible task. For now, let's look at where things might head in the future by tracing the history of Japanese dietary culture and considering modern Japanese cooking.
From the start, history has been what is compiled and recorded at the will of the leaders of the time, ideas and stories which have taken root as authentic history and handed down to the present. But even this authentic history is built on emotional values, national identity and behaviours, a complex mixture of all elements of human activity, including the natural environment including the climate and native features of a region, the society and culture created by religion and government, and the level of technology.
Dietary culture in particular has been strongly regulated in each period, acting as a mirror reflecting that particular era. Food is a basic need for human beings, primarily easing hunger and maintaining life. For a long period, human beings were pressed to produce and ensure sufficient food to stave off hunger, but our modern era is one of so-called gluttony, with the customs of mass production and mass consumption firmly established. (Of course, 20% of the world's population still suffers from hunger, but this statement applies to most of us in the northern half of the globe.) Whether it be because consumption is a status symbol and display of power, or simply gourmets pursuing the sensation of taste, a dietary culture of three-dimensional (mental) implications now prospers. So let us examine the flow of each era leading to this point.
Stone Age (prior to 14000 BC)
The main eating habits of this period were gathering the various seasonal food products and eating them raw or after cooking over an open fire.
Jomon Period (14000 - 300 BC)
main ways of living were hunting, fishing and gathering, but with the first
appearance of earthenware (Jomon ware), cooking joined the ranks of the
According to a recent newspaper report (Oct. 17, 2007), a species of soybean was discovered in earthenware from the middle of the Jomon period (about 5000 years ago) unearthed in the city of Hokuto in Yamanashi prefecture. This type of discovery had been made previously in earthenware from the later part of the Jomon period (about 3500 years ago) excavated in regions of Kyushu but the new finding pushes the date back by about 1500 years. Specialists are taking this as suggesting that the dietary culture of the Jomon people was more diverse than previously thought and that these people also cultivated plants in addition to hunting and gathering.
Yayoi Period (300 BC - 200 AD)
In around 300 BC, ancestral rice crops appeared, taking advantage of an abundant water supply. Accompanying the spread of wet-land rice farming through the entire country, the use of metal tools such as copper blades and pikes and bronze bells started and ironware use was seen in the time of Queen Himiko of Yamataikoku.
People also began cultivating grains other than rice, such as foxtail and barnyard millet. The general trend was to use these grains as staple foods and supplement with foods obtained through hunting and gathering. Storehouses with raised floors to store grains also appeared. With the start of salt production using earthenware and people keeping livestock, the archetypal lifestyle of the Japanese people began to take shape.
Chopsticks were already in use, as seen in the line "Chopsticks flow down from that river" in the Kojiki (Japan's oldest historical record). At the end of the period, the story of Iwakamutsukari no Mikoto, the first-ever chef, is related in the Nihon-shoki, the oldest chronicles of Japan. When the 12th emperor, Emperor Keikou, visited Awanomiya to pay his respects to the late imperial prince Yamato Takeru no Mikoto, he was presented with "Umugi no Namasu" (clams, or in some versions, abalone), he gave the cook the surname Kashiwade no Omi and appointed him to Kashiwade no Otomobe to be his chef. This first chef was enshrined in posterity as the god of cooking.
Tumulus Period (200 - 600 AD)
Kowameshi, rice with red beans now eaten on
celebratory occasions, appeared thanks to the rice-steaming pot. In the fourth
century, accompanying the formation of an agricultural society, the Yamato
Imperial Court unified Japan, actively introduced cultural products from the
continent and solidified the foundations of the country. A method of producing
vinegar began to be handed down in the fourth century and that of an early soy
sauce in the sixth, but especially important was the arrival of Buddhism in
Asuka Period (600 - 710)
Cultural imports from the continent continued unabated, with the dispatch of Japanese envoys to Sui dynasty and Tang China. At the beginning of the seventh century, Buddhism made its way across the country, forming the backbone of the Japanese mentality, thanks to the regent Prince Shotoku. In 645, Prince Naka no Oe (later Emperor Tenji) set Japan on the path to a centralized government with the Taika Reforms, which brought down the Soga clan, a rival power to the throne.
In 672, the Japanese nation under the Ritsuryo Codes (system of government by law) was completed with the reforms of Temmu and Jito (emperor and empress after Tenji) which followed the Jinshin War. This, combined with the traditional belief of Shinto's "uncleaness," led Emperor Temmu in 675 to issue an imperial decree forbidding meat diets because of the Buddhist precept of abstaining from taking life. The eating of horses, cows, dogs, monkeys and birds was prohibited. Beasts such as wild boars, deer and wild birds including pheasant were outside the scope of this edict.
the Tempyo period, the Japanese envoy to Tang China returned with fried bean
curd treats called tougashi and the
dairy products raku (a refined milk
drink), so (condensed milk) and daigo (type of cheese or butter) began
to be enjoyed by the nobility.
Nara Period (710 - 794)
The culture of the most glorious period of Tang China was taken up on a national scale. Classical Japanese forms were created in every area?architecture, sculpture, art, industrial arts?using advanced technological practices, with continental and Buddhist features. This period is seen as a golden age in cultural history, in particular art history, and is also called the "Tempyo period," with the Kojiki (712) and Nihon-shoki (720) compiled at this time.
In the world of food, the celebrated Tang priest Kanjin first brought sugar (brown sugar) toJapan in 753. The Daikyo cooking style was brought over from the continent and developed as a banquet style for the nobility. Guests sat facing large trays, on which soy sauce, vinegar (mainly plum vinegar), salt and sake were arranged for the guest's personal use, in addition to the meal itself. Side dishes for sharing were placed in between pairs of guests, which allowed each guest to flavour their own meal to suit their tastes. Until the Heian period, a spoon was set out in addition to the traditional chopsticks, along with a diverse collection of utensils in such materials as silver, copper and glass.
The staple food of the nobility was kowameshi made with polished rice, while for the common people, the main dish was some other grain such as barnyard millet, foxtail millet or buckwheat. Hoshii was developed as a provision that kept well; this was boiled rice that had been dried out and could be eaten by adding water or saliva.
Heian Period (794 - 1192)
The scene was ancient Kyoto. Nobles enjoyed a life full of banquets, with
meals composed mainly of single items such as pheasant, sea bream, carp
and trout. It was during this period that chefs serving the Imperial Court
were establishing key techniques for these dishes. Tea arrived at the beginning
of the Heian period, bringing with it the clearest water and air from Tang.
It quickly became popular amongst the nobility and began to be cultivated
in the country and given as presents. The cooking styles of frying and
boiling also appeared.
Descriptions of the court
system and year-round ceremonies at the beginning of the Heian period were
written in our now-classical literature. Meanwhile, a set of by-laws of the Engi-Shiki statutes stated that taxes
could be paid with narezushi (sushi fermented with fish and vegetables) in western Japan as one tax
Kamakura Period (1192 - 1333)
The shogunate in Kamakura begun by Minamoto Yoritomo started a samurai society that lasted 675 years, until the end of the Edo period. The beginning of this era saw an unaffected and vigourous dietary life, with simple meals featuring brown rice as the main dish.
Eisai, a Japanese Buddhist priest, and others returning from Sung China promoted the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism in Japan. Accompanying the dissemination of the seven schools of Zen Buddhism, the Soudou school of Buddhism and the Buddhism of the Southern and Northern Sung Chinese, the popularity of shojinryori, vegetarian cuisine based on the dietary restrictions of Buddhist monks, increased throughout the country, leading to the development of soy bean products such as natto. Miso was added to the traditional flavours, and citizens also began to enjoy the early morning meal of the Zen monk. Additionally, the tea welcomed by the country during the Heian period spread to samurai society through the priest Eisai, resulting in tea parties being raised to the level of tea ceremonies in the Muromachi period. This in turn led to kaiseki-ryori, the traditional Japanese meal brought in courses.
Muromachi Period (1392 - 1573)
Arts such as cooking, place setting, and manners were secrets passed down orally from parent to child by those chefs embraced by the nobility and samurai. A variety of schools of cooking such as the Shijou style of the nobility, the Okusa style of the samurai and the Shinji style were established. Based on samurai etiquette, these schools took shape as Shikishou Ryori (a very formal cooking and manner for banquets), creating the foundation for the Honzen-Ryori, in which a high-grade meal is served on individual trays with legs, which serve as small tables.
In the style of the sake etiquette of Shikisankon (ceremony of exchanging cups) and followed by Kyo no Zen (banquet style), at every type of celebration such as Kakan and/or Genpuku both male coming-of-age ceremonies, and weddings among others after making a pledge over the cups in shikisankon, the celebrants took their seats and the honzen banquet began. This banquet was basically composed of a Honzen(the main tray or first course), followed by Ni no Kyou(second) and San no Kyou(third courses). At an especially polite gathering, a further fourth and fifth course might have been presented, and at the most magnificent banquets, it is said that guests enjoyed up to seven courses. However, most of these courses were meals to gaze upon, made to be seen, and were not actually all there to be eaten.
All types of meals were served, ranging from ichijusansai (simple course with one or two small dishes) to sanjujuissai (elaborate course with many large and small dishes). The basic form was a setting with a main course of seven small dishes, a second course of five small dishes and a third course of three small dishes. Individual trays with legs were used, with the main course in the center, the second course at the guest's right and the third course at the left. If there were still more trays, they were served from the right, in the order of the fourth tray to the inside right of the main tray and the fifth tray to the left of that. Black or vermillion lacquer ware eating utensils were used.
The main feature of the meal etiquette itself was the way it took on meaning as a ritual, but this declined from the Meiji period onwards, and of the many schools, only Houchou Shiki (the knife and cutting rituals) has survived. Now, just traces of this ritualized etiquette remain, such as the sansankudo (exchange of nuptial cups) of weddings, but the manners of the honzen-ryori, established as samurai etiquette, have been handed down over the generations to the present and are standard today in formal situations.
It was at this time that chefs began to be called Houchou Nin (knife people)"
(In contrast, chefs preparing shojin-ryori using grains and vegetables were called Chousai Nin (vegetable preparers)
With soy sauce taking the stage as flavouring, the art of cooking made remarkable advances, establishing the model for today's Japanese cooking. The custom of eating miso soup also began around this time. Even with the sake of the samurai, it was normal to simply drink unrefined sake with miso as a snack in kawarake (fired pottery).
Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1573 - 1598)
The period after Oda Nobunaga and Toyotom Hideyoshi had sat in the seat of power was short but critical as a transition period from medieval times. In particular, this was a period when magnificent castles, mansions, shrines and temples were built and the style of adorning the partitions on rooms inside these buildings was born. Fuzokuga, a style of painting depicting the lifestyles of the people, was developed, and the progress made in fine arts and crafts such as ceramics, lacquer work, dyeing and weaving cannot be overlooked.
In addition to the conventional influence from the continent, Western European
countries such as Portugal and Spain introduced their culture, guns and
early Japanese Christianity. From the viewpoint of dietary culture, this
influence brought potatoes, squash and chili peppers, as well as the Western
European style of cooking with onions and oil. Bread and the Western European
treat of sponge cake were also introduced. It was around this time that
the steamed kowameshi
was replaced by the himeii eaten
today, white rice cooked with water in a rice cooker, and the usual two meals a
day increased to three.
tea ceremony (the wabi-cha style) was
perfected during this period by Sen no Rikyu, and kaiseki-ryori took shape, the result of compressing the essence of
the formal tea parties to the extreme into between one and three simple
courses. (To distinguish between the kaiseki-ryori of the tea-house banquets of the Edo period, different characters(instead
of 懐 to 会) began to be used when writing the word.)
Edo Period (1598 - 1867)
In the unique environment of national isolation, the characteristic Japanese
culture came of age. At the beginning of the Edo period, the most delicious
treats for merchants were NaraChameshi (rice boiled in tea and
flavoured with sake and soy) and Takuan (pickled daikon radish), while for the peasants, meals were modest centering
around assorted grains.
Accompanying the development of a monetary economy and improved distribution
networks came a thriving urban culture with Edo (modern Tokyo) at its heart.
paintings depicting the everyday lives of merchants were everywhere a sign of
luxury, and dining out gained popularity with the appearance of soba (buckwheat noodles) and nigiri-zushi (sushi balls). Botefuri (sellers carrying their merchandise on poles over their shoulders), food
carts and quick lunches popped up and the true Ryori Chaya (highend restaurant)
was established, drawing on the traditions of such specialized restaurants
as the sushi restaurant, soba restaurant and unagi (eel) restaurant. The
banquet-style kaiseki-ryori so enjoyed by wealthy merchants blossomed, eating and drinking games became
popular and gourmets with a vast knowledge of cooking began to appear in
great numbers. The Edo of this time was an urban center with one of the
most advanced food service industries in the world.
At the same time, the strict etiquette of Honzen-ryori gave way to the simpler Fukusa-ryori, a meal which could be enjoyed in and of itself. Fukusa-ryori spread from the samurai class to the merchant class, slowly replacing the organized art of cooking of honzen-ryori. The basic menu consisted of ichiju-sansai (simple course with about three dishes), niju-gosai (more elaborate course with several small dishes), and sanju-nanasai (even more elaborate course with several small dishes). Samurai are said to have eaten this meal after changing from their formal samurai costumes into everyday clothing.
chefs too no longer served only the samurai and the nobility as in the past,
but rather worked as professionals at restaurants, the old system of passing
down expertise from parent to child shifted to an apprentice system. A true
richness was seen in the dietary culture, to the extent that cookbooks for the
common people to enjoy reading appeared, outside of the specialized cooking and
Meiji Period (1867 - 1912)
Ending the long feudal period, the country worked towards establishing the open nation of recent years. The theme of the period was catching up with and overtaking Western European countries.
With the opening up of the country, styles of living gradually became Westernized
and Western schools of cooking began to take root. These so-called Japanized
Western-style meals spread quickly throughout the nation. An saying of
the time goes, "The sound of drumming on bald heads cuting off Chonmage
is the drumbeat of the Westernization movement," most likely originating
in the many people who cut off their traditional topknots and began to
wear Western clothing, eat sukiyaki and cutlets, brew beer and wine, and
produce butter, ham and chocolate. Meanwhile, the common people began eating
anpan (bread roll filled with anko beans) in one hand while drinking a
glass of milk in the other, and the first school lunches began appearing
in some schools.
Taisho Period (1912 - 1926)
The country was enveloped in the dark shadow of the rise of radical nationalism with World War I and the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. The Taisho democracy worked towards democratizing society and, putting their new educations to use, the general public was reading Western books and enjoying literature, theatre, music and art.
Newspapers, magazines and radio featured many stories on cooking, contributing to the richness of cultural life. The Westernization of cooking continued, leading to such foods as katsudon (rice with pork cutlet and egg), curried rice, hashed meat with rice and ramen (noodles) gaining a strong foothold in the Japanese diet. Nutrition education was started, and Japanese people began the tradition of the family dinner at the table. It was during this period that the domestic production of whiskey and mayonnaise began.
Showa Period (1926 - 1989)
Encompassing the worldwide depression and the occupation by foreign troops after Japan's defeat in World War II, this was a period of upheaval, rebuilding the scorched earth of the country and struggling for prosperity. From the depression at the beginning of the period until after the war, the lives of the people only grew worse as food insecurity increased. Starting with rice, key staples were rationed, but these rations did not reflect the amounts people actually needed, meaning that most had to turn to the black market if they were to stay alive just after the war.
The special procurements for the Korean War in 1950 opened the path to
economic recovery, and food regulation was gradually abolished. School
lunches began to be served in schools throughout the nation. Taking advantage
of the increased popularity of electrical appliances such as rice cookers,
refrigerators and washing machines and the launch of instant ramen, all
types of packaged and frozen foods were developed. This led to decreasing
the burden of household chores on women and promoting social progress.
course of events, further strengthened by the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, resulted
in the Izanagi economic boom and until the first oil shocks in 1973, Japan enjoyed a period of rapid economic
growth. The food service industry continued to grow with the appearance
of fast food and family restaurants. Later, the growth of temperature-controlled
supply chains and other new logistics infrastructure and the progress afforded
by other new technologies allowed food to be produced and distributed in
abundance. It was now possible to get food and raw materials from around
the world almost without effort, which naturally led to the beginning of
an era of mass production and mass consumption.
the end of the Showa period, a bubble economy even larger than the earlier
Izanagi economic boom was in place. In the food service industry too, the
higher the prices, the more the entertainment industry boomed. Meanwhile,
credit slowly but surely undermined the society at large, a number of critical
problems erupted simultaneously, and environmental pollution became a serious
Heisei Period (1989 - present)
The bubble economy continued with the change in the era name. Demand for rare items knew no bounds and spicy and ethnic foods, including Italian food, saw a sudden surge in popularity. With the arrival of pizza delivery and foods for easy microwaving, eating ready-made dinners at home came into fashion.
But the bubble burst in 1991, leaving financial institutions saddled with massive amounts of bad debts. The economy stagnated, and the final blow came in 1995 with the sudden high value of the yen, which had pushed itself up to 90 yen for one dollar, dealing a bitter blow to the world of Japanese industry. Many companies saw unprecedented layoffs and were forced to move production sites overseas, raising concern about the resilience of the economy. "Restructuring" and "re-engineering" entered the cultural lexicon and people were insecure and fearful in their new uncertain situations, unable to see what lay ahead. With the population looking to be in good health at the very least, the so-called "red wine boom" was born, and lower middle class people began to buy wine in droves so that they could spend a quiet, frugal Friday at home.
While a number of food safety issues were exploding into the national consciousness,
the E-coli O157 food poisoning incident in Osaka, the issue of residual
pesticides on vegetables, the use of additives without authorization, BSE..
the "slow food" movement gained momentum, attempting to return
to the natural foods of the old days, leading more and more people to re-think
the conventional ideology of "more, cheaper, easier."
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4) The future of Japanese cooking
Food is one of our most primitive desires, something absolutely essential in supporting life and the individual. Human desire comes in stages and changes with social and economic progress. At first, the most urgent is for the necessities of life, next is the desire for sex, third is power, fourth play and finally emotional needs. Industries arise corresponding to the targets of each of these desires. In the current Heisei period, our primary desire of food is satisfied and sex, the basic desire to preserve the species, has been transformed into the desire to play. In other words, our desires are becoming distanced from our needs.
Thinking about this kind of thing, if we really take a hard look at the food situation where we live, in Canada and Japan, we see that the internationalization of food has been spurred on by foreign cultural exchange, making this an era of dramatic changes to our eating habits. This internationalization and sharing of dietary culture naturally also has the aspect of stripping away national identity and tradition, but this is simply a case of a surface copying of the form. A step further back, with its abstracted thought and culture, fusion-like hodgepodge cooking could easily degenerate into a muddled style. As we look at these initial developments, we can conceive of simple imitation cooking running amok and ask ourselves if there has not already been enough sharing. History and tradition are things that are not so easily created. In particular, people involved in food service industries must resolutely fight against the overripeness of this type of fraudulent culture.
With true internationalization and in complex, diverse societies, we
need to acknowledge the existence of the other and that world, and humbly accept
what they have to offer us. Therefore, for Japanese people as well, this is an
era in which we need to stop with the still and mysterious air of the Mona Lisa
and honestly and actively communicate our own selves. Through this kind of
action, Japanese people should be contributing to creating an active
international and multinational culture. The wars and environmental destruction
of human society and our myriad of other problems are the result of principles
and values believed until now as absolute truth, which have already begun to
lose appeal. We are living in an era in which we are pressed by the need to
establish new values and principles as replacements as soon as possible.
Now, with this in mind, as a proposal towards putting new principles in place, I believe we have a duty to broadly and truthfully communicate the Japanese spirit and way of thinking that forms the underpinnings of Japanese cooking. The question of exactly what the Japanese spirit is will be examined in the future on this page, but in the meantime, the question of why Japanese cooking places such importance on seasonal elements and drawing out their natural flavours is sufficient to make us see why we must communicate this spirit.
The Buddhist Nirvana sutra states that "all living things bear within themselves the essence of Buddha," meaning that every living creatures living its short life is entirely endowed with the nature of Buddha. The problem is the way human beings perceive the universe. All of nature houses life, and people are one part of the structure of this universe. Our lives are built on the intimate relationships with each other and with the life around us. The Japanese style of cooking is in harmony with Mother Nature, avoiding the destruction of nature in the name of culture, progress and development, and the overfishing of an abudance of living creatures. Expressing this thinking more concretely, Japanese cooking is, in short, a style that takes advantage of the surrounding raw materials and gives thanks for the blessings of Mother Nature. This of course makes it the most delicious and healthy kind of cooking. In this way, the splendid and simple Washoku, friendly to people and to the environment, just may be the key to saving the earth.
While adapting to an environment in which food is shared, it is the
aspiration and responsibility of those of us actually working overseas to help Washoku grow even sturdier, as the
backbone of a long and deep tradition.
Man cannot live on bread alone—these were the words of Jesus Christ and managing restaurants with our way of thinking, we eagerly await the arrival of a truly mature society bringing tomorrow's provision of bread. The level of a food culture is of course the level of those preparing the food, but is more heavily dictated by the level of those eating the food.
(Translated from the Japanese by Jocelyne Allen 1-416-624-3876, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.kaikatsu.ca)