Traditional Japan Food History


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The Traditional Japan Food, is not just made by Sushi, as many think but is composed of an infinity dishes, styles and flavors. I know that everyone talks about Japanese cuisine, because now it is “fashionable”, but in our case it’s a bit different. The love for this cuisine was born before this Japanese wave, which has as its sole protagonist the sushi (which we love).

Leaving aside completely the all you can eat, a questionable way of eating that does not respect the quality of food and service, nothing further from what is the cuisine and the philosophy that accompanies the true Japan cuisine. Recently it is expanding, introducing the Ramen, Udon and Soba, but I assure you that there is much more to talk about and savor.

Table Of Contents

History of Japanese Cuisine

A kitchen is among the oldest, very tied to the tradition, culture and raw materials of the territory, which are an infinite, rice, legumes, fish, vegetables and more! Japanese cuisine is also a cuisine that has been able to welcome and incorporate ingredients from other cultures, adapting them perfectly to its characteristic style. Another important aspect of this kitchen is the ceremony that characterizes it. The respect for the seasons and the ingredients that identify them, and also a lot of attention to diners. It is a harmonious kitchen, cared for in the visual aspect of the setting.

We call it “Japanese cuisine” in their own language Nihon-Ryōri (日本料理), but its original name still normally in use is Washoku-Ryōri (食) that is “harmony of flavors”. With Washoku-Ryōri today we mean not only the typical Japanese cuisine, but also the other culinary trends that have developed over time. Before starting to talk about the story, however, I make a bit of clarity, but without going into details, because the Japanese historical subdivision is rather complex.


Washoku-Ryōri is based on the principle Ichiju Sansai, literally a soup and 3 side dishes. The structure of the meal is rice, a soup and usually two side dishes that on some occasions reached up to four. The side dishes can be traditional like the Nimono-wan (stew) or they can come from the more recent Yoshoku-Ryōri cuisine like the Tonkatsu (thick pork cutlet). It was served on a single tray for diner, in cases of holidays and / or guests the trays could be two since the dishes served increased (two soups and six / seven side dishes). The exact birth of this way of dining is unknown, but the first writings that depict it date back to the Heian era (794-1185). Ichiju Sansai is the basis of all the culinary trends that have developed from Washoku-Ryōri.

The Types of Traditional Japan Food

Yūsoku-Ryōri (有職料理) dates back to the 9th century in the Heian period, between the 8th and 12th centuries (794-1185), was the imperial court kitchen;

Yūsoku-Ryōri (有職料理) dates back to the 9th century in the Heian period, between the 8th and 12th centuries (794-1185), was the imperial court kitchen;

Daikio-Ryori developed in the Heian period, between the 8th and 12th centuries (794-1185), a feast for the aristocrats;

Osechi-Ryōri (御節料理) New Year’s cuisine also originated in the Heian period between the 8th and 12th centuries (794-1185);

Shojin-Ryōri(精進料理) Zen Buddhist, vegetarian cuisine. Introduced from China by Buddhist monks in the Kamakura period, period between the 12th and 14th centuries (1185-1333);

Honzen-Ryōri (本膳料理) born in the Muromachi period, period between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries (1336–1573). This kitchen was developed by the samurai class, based on the Daikio-Ryori. Formed by various courses, now called Sawachi-Ryōri (皿 鉢 料理) can be found in the prefecture of Kochi, on the island of Shikoku;

Cha-Kaiseki (茶懐石) cuisine served during the tea ceremony of the Atsuki-Momoyama period, between the 16th and 17th centuries (1573-1603);

Kaiseki-Ryōri (懐石 kaiseki ryori) represents the traditional Japanese meal meal, which includes many small dishes inspired by Honzen-ryōri. He was born during the Edo period, a period between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries (1603-1868);

Kyo-Ryōri: The set of various cuisines, some less present on the return of Japanese territory but still present in Kyoto, capital of ancient Japan;

Yoshoku- Ryōri refers to a style of cuisine influenced by the West that originated during the Meiji Renewal 1866;

Obanzai (おばんざい): Typical Kyoto cuisine, consumed by the people, home cooking;

Street Food and Typical Specialties

There are also many local cuisines, influenced by the territory with their typical dishes, each of them has dishes or delicacies called Chinmi, typical of the area of origin. Not to forget the Japanese fast food, not to be confused with the American one. For them it is a real pride. So much so that in 2006 an event called B-1 Gran Prix was created. A race that lasts two days, including lots of fast food restaurants from all over Japan, to declare the best regional fast food every year. It is a very large event, where patrons try to attract customers by promoting their dish. The people participating in the event eat their specialties from various restaurants. Eventually each diner puts his chopsticks in the urn dedicated to his favorite restaurant.

Once the wands are counted, the winner of the competition is decreed. The dishes served are obviously quick dishes of traditional japan food, freshly prepared like the Fujinomija Yakisoba, typical of the Shizuoka prefecture, the Hiruzen Yakisoba typical of the Yokohama area, or dishes that must be prepared previously and then served hot at the moment, like the Hachinohe Sembei-Jiru. Soup created about 200 years ago, in Aomori prefecture. Prepared with mushrooms, vegetables, meat and / or fish, with wheat flour crackers (completely different from the crackers we know). Each dish is always strongly linked to the raw materials of the region of origin.

Traditional Japan Food the Home Cooking

Obviously not to forget the home cooking. As already mentioned, the Japanese meal does not include the appetizer, the first, and all the various courses that follow one another in our meals. All preparations are served on the table and can also be enjoyed at home. The dishes are varied, there are noodles in broth, various dishes based on rice, soups, many fried foods and as many dishes of vegetables, fish and meat. There are also dishes that are cooked at the table like Sukiyaki, or Oden, which is prepared first on the kitchen stove and then put on the table on a stove (type field stove). In these cases, it is served directly from the pot. Obviously there are other small dishes and rice key element of their diet. There are also unique dishes often accompanied by a soup.

As you can see the history of traditional japan food is very old and is constantly evolving driven by a constant desire to create new dishes or improve existing ones.

This concludes the general story, but I will deepen various topics, such as the history of the various cuisines, the history of the ingredients and also the dishes of this special cuisine, particularly healthy and balanced, so that in 2013 UNESCO declared the Washoku-Ryōri “Intangible Heritage of Humanity”.

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