Eating & Drinking
“While typical Japanese food is often reduced to a few dishes such as sushi and ramen, a fresh onlooker to Japan’s food scene is awe-struck by the subtle nuances and tasteful nodes it harbors.”
Traditional Japanese cuisine, or as locals call it, Washoku, resembles a layered cake with the local culinary heritage at the base and a variety of foreign influences on the top. Chinese cuisine is the strongest, having introduced iconic dishes like gyoza and ramen. But at heart, the traditional food of Japan revolves around seasonal ingredients like rice, fish, and regional vegetables. Dashi, the Japanese broth, is the basis of most dishes, while soy sauce is a popular flavoring. Recognized as an intangible heritage by UNESCO, Japanese cuisine is highly versatile and unimaginably satisfying.
The display and eating of food in Japanese culture are very important. Food is often presented in a petty style, in divided trays with different compartments for each dish. A typical dish consists of one soup and three sides, and rice comes in a small bowl. If you wish to eat like a local, use chopsticks for the chunks of food in your soup and drink the rest of it right from the bowl. Bear in mind that most dishes look very similar, and most look like ramen. But each is unique in flavor, so never hesitate to try. Famous Japanese foods to try are Champon, a seasonal variety of ramen, the delicious pufferfish dish Fugu, and some steamy Miso soup. There are a variety of stuffed dumplings that are also Japanese to the bone, which make great quick bites as you wander around the cities.
Inseparable from a Japanese culinary experience, the traditional drinks of the country are too good to pass up. Matcha is a cultural ritual on its own, a ceremony that you should live, observe and learn about as much as possible. And there is the iconic sake, the strong rice wine liquor that tantalizes with its balance of flavors.