11 March 2014
Japanese Food Culture
Japanese cuisine is an edible art form brought to us by an ancient and vastly eclectic food culture. As in many cultures, Japan’s cuisine reflects it’s historically-shaped and evolutionary food customs. There are many significant facets to the many customs and traditions behind intimate and social situations involving food and drink. Even more so complex are the five attitudes toward sustenance, which allocate the very important and emphasized attitude throughout the nation, being the spirit of gratitude (Power). These three areas overlapping each other in Japanese food, give rise to the more important aspects of understanding the food culture: the history shaping the nation’s food, the manners and etiquette exercised during intimate and social food events, and the modern Japanese food culture.
The staple of short-grain rice was added to the Japanese diet just after the transition of eras from the Neolithic or Jonom period, to the Yayoi era, by Korean and Chinese immigrants (Cambridge). The second paramount event in Japan’s history, that influenced cuisine, was the introduction of Buddhism. The Tenzo Kyokun was written and introduced by Dogen, which gave people one of the first manuscripts of the correlation between food and spiritual customs (Essence 16). This is merely one example of the heavy impact that spirituality and religion had on Japanese food customs and traditions. “During the sixth century, Buddhism became the official religion of the country and the eating of meat and fish were prohibited” (History). In this time period, poor people and people in the mountainous regions had poor quality rice in small portions (Cambridge). These people were probably the most impacted by the meat and dietary restrictions imposed by Buddhism. During the eleventh century soybean curd or natto−, more commonly known as tofu, was introduced in Japan and today is still a cornerstone of the...