Nihon-ryori (Japanese cuisine) (日本料理)
日本料理 (nihonryori or nipponryori in Japanese pronunciation) (Japanese cuisine) indicates the traditional Japanese dishes, in particular, using foodstuffs familiar in Japan, which have been developed uniquely in the land and environment of Japan. Being also called nihon-shoku (Japanese dishes) or wa-shoku (Japanese dishes), their features are roughly three; eating food without cooking, placing importance on the basic taste of food itself with little flavor added, and the delicate artful arrangement of food on dishes. Although being dishes that have been developed uniquely in Japan, so-called 'yo-shoku' (Western-style dishes), such as rice omelet and hashed rice, are not ordinarily included as wa-shoku.
Narrowly, nihon-ryori indicates a category of dishes specific to Japan in which Japan-specific cooking methods are used. In this definition, even the dishes that have been eaten by Japanese over a long period of time cannot be called 'wa-shoku,' if they are not unique to Japan.
Nihon-ryori is not always equal to the dishes that 'Japanese have eaten for a long period of time.'
Nihon-ryori dishes depend on the era, social class or area, and many of the cooking methods originated in what was brought to Japan from East-Asian nations or from Europe.
Today, Japanese eat dishes strongly accentuated with foreign features as well, and it is often said that what Japanese eat, excluding these dishes, constitutes 'nihon-ryori.'
For example, gyudon (rice covered with beef and vegetables) and nikujaga (simmered meat and potatoes) are considered nihon-ryori, because seasoning specific to Japan, such as soy sauce, soup stock, and mirin (sweet cooking rice wine), is used to give them flavor. Nihon-ryori are also dishes offered in nihon-ryori restaurants, such as soba restaurants and kappo (Japanese-style cooking) restaurants. Beef was eaten even during the Edo period, when the practice was called 'eating as a drug,' but it was mostly after the Meiji Restoration that eating beef became popular. Although more than 130 years have passed since then, the judgment of whether eating beef is considered 'traditional' depends upon the person. However, such meat-based dishes as sukiyaki (thin slices of beef, cooked with various vegetables on a table-top cast-iron pan) and gyudon are considered being included in the category of nihon-ryori, because they are specific to Japan from a foreign point of view. In this way, if a dish is flavored and cooked in a way specific to Japan, the dish would be generally called 'nihon-ryori' regardless of the foodstuffs included in it.
Grated daikon radish and soy sauce are sometimes used as the sauce for steak/hamburgers or as salad dressing, mentaiko (salted cod roe spiced with red pepper), and salted cod roe, natto (fermented soybeans), shiso (Japanese basil) or umeboshi (pickled "ume" - Japanese apricot) is also sometimes used for the sauce for spaghetti. These dishes are usually called, for example, 'wafu steak' (Japanese-style steak).
Based on this definition, the term 'wafu' is attached as the affix of the name of a dish with features that is 'a dish generally eaten in Japan' + 'using a cooking method originated in a foreign country.'
Along with Korean, Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Thai cuisine, Japanese cuisine was also historically affected by Chinese food culture. However, during Sung and after that, Chinese cuisine changed drastically, and other Asian cuisine as well as Japanese cuisine have developed independently of each other. Therefore, it is comparatively easier to differentiate Japanese cuisine from traditional food in neighboring nations.
Partially taking in features of dishes in foreign culture (eclectic dishes), interaction with dishes in foreign culture, and exporting Japanese dish styles originated in other nations/importing Japanese dish styles modified/invented in other nations
In addition to 'wafu' defined above, there are also some dishes, described below, for which it is difficult to make a judgment as to whether they are nihon-ryori or not.
Some apparently eclectic dishes: For the nature, it is difficult to judge whether they are nihon-ryori or not (examples: salad udon noodles (chilled noodles and vegetables and wafu-spaghetti). Some dishes are considered to have been originated in a foreign country: They have become dishes specific to Japan, because their features have been altered in Japan (examples: yakisoba (fried soba) and shabushabu (eating beef after being dipped into hot water slightly and with a special sauce).
Japan-specific dishes in which foodstuffs or a cooking method originated in a foreign country is used (examples: rice omelet and Japanese-style chicken rice)
Some dishes originated in Japan: They were altered in a foreign country and have been imported to Japan again (an example: California roll)
It is difficult to classify dishes as being nihon-ryori based on their ingredients or the cooking method used, and some dishes seem to be regarded as both wa-shoku and yo-shoku (examples: ginger-fried pork and pork ginger).
On the whole, in modern times when the speed of traffic and cultural interaction increased, corresponding has advanced on the international level, the cultural interaction has increased as a result of the speed of information-exchange by means of telephone, the Internet, and electronic mail and the ease of travel with the increase of airplanes has increased tremendously, nihon-ryori in the broad sense, including Japanese-style of eating as well as nihon-ryori dishes, and dishes from foreign cultures have all strongly influenced each other.
For example, in Chinese cuisine, there was originally no such dish as 'ramen'; it is a dish that was developed uniquely in Japan. In recent years, ramen dish styles have been exported to China, and now ramen is listed on menus in high-class restaurants there as well. The rotating round tables, provided nowadays in high-class restaurants in China, were originally round tables for serving both Japanese dishes and Chinese dishes, invented by a Chinese cook having resided in Yokohama, to be used in restaurants serving both Japanese and Chinese dishes.
However, the table style was re-exported to China and has been established as 'a Chinese style table.'
Originally in Korean cuisine, boiled rice serves as a staple food, together with side dishes. In addition, many grilled foods, boiled, and seasoned foods, and stir-fried dishes, cooked in ways quite similar to cooking nihon-ryori dishes, are also eaten, and the udon (Japanese wheat noodles), oden (a Japanese dish containing all kinds of ingredients cooked in a special broth of soy sauce, sugar, sake, etc.), sushi-style rice balls (kimbap), miso soup and Takuanzuke (yellow pickled radish), all of which were brought into Korea in the era when Japan annexed Korea, are still eaten there. Korean dishes are provided with many features of Japanese dishes. Furthermore, of various kimchi pickles of vegetables, sea food, and livestock products, made using red peppers brought from Japan during the medieval period, a significant amount of kimchi pickles of Chinese cabbage are always sold in Japan as well, because they resemble pickles of napa cabbage in Japan. Concerning 'bibimbap,' a Korean dish in which various side dishes are put on top of boiled rice placed originally in a non-heated bowl and both side dishes and rice are eaten from the mixture, a Korean cook residing in Japan and a Japanese cook have recently devised jointly 'stone-roasted bibimbap,' in which a bowl, cut out of rock, is heated and boiled rice and side dishes are placed in it (in many of such dishes, side dishes not used in traditional Korean dishes are provided).
Having been favorable accepted, this dish style has been re-exported to Korea and has firmly been established there as a regular dish called 'dolsot bibimbap.'
Although this dish is nihon-ryori (Korean-style wa-shoku) in the broad sense, Japanese as well as Koreans recognize the dish as a Korean dish rather than a Japanese dish. However, as exemplified by 'the stone-roasted yuba (a soy bean-processed product), bonito bibimbap,' there have appeared many dishes that can not be identified clearly as Japanese dishes or Korean dishes.
Boiled rice dressed with fish meat is fermented to make sushi, and this method was invented in Southeastern Asia, in particular, in the Kingdom of Thailand and in the Mekong River basin during ancient times. From the Heian to the Edo period, the sushi-eating habit was developed and established as vinegared rice-eating culture specific to Japan. In recent years, 'sushi as nihon-ryori' has been recognized throughout the world. However, in the United State, People's Republic of China and Republic of Korea, avocado and caviar are used as toppings for sushi, which had not been used in Japan before, and this sushi style has been imported back into Japan.
Many other commercialized products exist in Japan that are difficult for Japanese to tell whether they are nihon-ryori dishes or foreign dishes for example; 'the essence of tom yam chazuke (boiled rice with tea poured over it' with the flavor of the 'tom yam' soup famous as a soup dish in the Kingdom of Thailand, 'the Morioka reimen' (cold noodles), the pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) Japanized by completely changing the udon nature using the leaf mustard that Vietnamese never ate originally, and 'rice burger' in which boiled rice is placed on the both sides of a teriyaki (grilled with soy sauce and sugar) beef paddy.
Anyhow, 'nihon-ryori dishes,' as well as other dishes, have the aspect of affecting and being affected by foreign dishes in addition to maintaining tradition from ancient times. At the same time, nihon-ryori dishes have greatly affected the cooking culture of other nations, spurred on by Japanese dish trends.
Generally speaking, although having undergone modernization, nihon-ryori dishes still maintain the reminiscence of eating before modern times when people collected food by themselves and prepared their own tableware.
Generally, farm products, such as grain, including rice, vegetables, beans, and fruits, marine products, such as fish and shellfish, seaweed, and meat, such as that of birds, are mostly used. Due to influence of Buddhism, use of animal food has not been developed well, almost no dairy products are used, and soybean-processed products are favored for taking in protein. In particular, it can be said a great feature of nihon-ryori, rarely seen in other nations, that marine products are eaten uncooked and eating seaweed is favored.
Seasoning is based on soup stock, and fermented soybean seasonings, such as soy sauce and miso (bean paste) that includes a lot of umami (giving good taste) ingredients, in addition to salt for salty flavor. Fermented rice seasonings, such as Japanese sake rice wine and rice vinegar, are also used for many dishes. For sweet tastes, starch syrup or mirin (sweet cooking rice wine) has been used, but nowadays, sugar is often used as well. A small amount of vegetable oil, such as canola oil and sesame oil, is used, but almost no animal oil, like lard, is used.
Generally, it is said that nihon-ryori dishes are low-fat and salty. Excluding the green onion that is used as vegetable as well, only a small amount of spice and herb is used but they are never used in a significant amount. The number of spices used is less than in foreign dishes.
Many of the foodstuffs are washed and/or boiled, and therefore, lots of water is used compared with those for other dishes.
The number of seasonings and spices are less than for Western or Chinese dishes. However, because the types of foodstuffs used are many, the period of training to become a chef is longer.
To make dishes look attractive and to enjoy the taste, time is used for pretreatment before seasoning. As known from the fact that the chief cook for nihon-ryori dishes is called "itamae" (literally, in front of a (cutting) board), there is a tendency for cooks to concentrate their efforts in cutting foodstuffs. This originates in the kitchen knife ceremony held during the Heian period, and also based on the idea that, due to the influence of Buddhism, it should not be discussed as to whether a dish is tasty or not, while showing off their authority by eating rare food, and the idea that anyone can create a meal by heating. This is quite a contrast to "cuisine" originating as a French word meaning "roasting" and now means kitchen or cooking method.
In most of the dishes where food is roasted, it is sprinkled with salt after being pre-treated and roasted over a charcoal fire
Taking soup stock
The flavor of nimono (boiled and seasoned foods) or mushimono (steamed foods) mostly provided by miso or soy sauce, based on soup stock. Spices are rarely used. Use of minced or grated potherbs is favored (called "yakumi" or "kayaku").
For nihon-ryori dishes, a simple cooking method that brings out the natural flavors of food, without too much processing, is respected. This feature is apparent when compared with French or Chinese dishes whereby food is cooked in a complicated procedure, using strong seasonings to the extent that their original texture and taste are lost.
Placing dishes on a table
An everyday meal consists of a bowl of boiled rice (or other boiled grain), a shiru-mono dish (soup dish) and three side dishes (one main side dish and two sub-side dishes), and is called "ichi-ju san-sai" (literally, one soup dish and three side dishes).
A person eats a small amount at a time from any of the dishes.
The tastes of these dishes are often mixed in the person's mouth. In this way, boiled rice is eaten mixed with a salty side dish, such as oshinko (Japanese pickles).
Then after this, miso soup is sipped, creating a taste within the mouth. It is said that, in this way, the meal can be made more tasty than when each of the dishes is consumed separately.
On the other hand, on formal eating occasions, such as when eating Kaiseki ryori (a simple meal served before a ceremonial tea: 懐石料理 in Japanese) and Kaiseki ryori (set of dishes served on an individual tray for entertaining guests: 会席料理 in Japanese), it is ordinary that a dish or a tray of dishes are served one after another.
For Western dishes, there is the concept of 'courses,' and a different type dish (hors 'doeuvres, a soup, and a main dish) is served at several stages. However, everyday Japanese meals usually do not have such a configuration (the situation is the same in restaurants serving everyday meals).
In addition, in many Japanese eating places, the cook provides a comprehensive environment to accentuate the eating experience, such as the atmosphere, rather than just the food, and care about the consistency of the tableware and the eating room.
This is also a conspicuous feature of nihon-ryori restaurants, compared with French restaurants where the jobs of the personnel are clearly divided, for example, into cooking, customer service, and management.
Manners for arranging dishes
The beautiful arrangement of nihon-ryori is one of its greatest features. It is said that, in addition to arranging cooked foodstuffs beautifully, cooking also includes offering the feel of the season and elegance through well considering the feel of the materials of tableware and picture patterns on the tableware.
The manners for arranging dishes are as follows:
The rice bowl should be placed on the left side, and the miso soup bowl on the right side. Because more importance is placed on the left side rather than on the right side in Japanese culture, it is right to place the main dish, a boiled rice bowl, on the left side.
Fish served with its head intact should be placed with its head on the left side and the belly nearer to the person who eats it. Only a flatfish is placed with its head on the right side.
A long foodstuff is placed on a rectangular plate.
On the plate, grated radish or minced green onion is placed in a place nearer to the person who eats it. Pieces of sliced fish are placed with their skins on the upper (far) side or fish meats on the nearer side.
There are many differences between the manners of eating nihon-ryori dishes and those in other cultures.
Refer to eating manners in Japan as well.
Tableware of many types, such as lacquer-ware, earthenware, and porcelain, are used. The dishes are painted in various ways and much effort is devoted to how food is place on them (to be described later). In particular, earthenware can be shaped in many forms relatively easily, and dishes of earthenware are considerably different from those for traditional Western cuisine and are provided, for example, as deep-colored plates, rectangular plates, or flower-shaped or fruit-shaped dishes. Even compared with the dishes in neighboring China and Korea each having a history of producing ceramic-ware, the dishes in Japan are quite conspicuous compared with those for Chinese dishes for which many round dishes with traditional paintings are used and with those for Korean dishes for which metal-ware and white porcelain with no paintings are used.
Wooden bowls had been popular until ceramic-ware became widely used (In Kyushu, the custom of using wooden bowls has almost been lost due to the wide use of ceramic-ware, but in the Tohoku region, the culture of using many wooden bowls remained until modern times.)
(The era when ceramic-ware became widely used was dependent upon social class). It can be said what remains of the past is that many pieces of lacquer-ware are still used.
It is customary for each household member to use his or her own rice bowl and chopsticks.
The first historical document concerned
The first historical document concerned with cooking is the "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan), in which the following description is included: Iwakamutsukari no Mikoto (the ancestor of the Takahashi clan) served a dish of bonito and hamaguri clams to Emperor Keiko when the emperor visited Ukimiya Shrine in Awa thinking of dead Yamato Takeru no Mikoto. It is said that Iwakamutsukari no Mikoto was appointed to the chief of Daizenshiki (Office of the Palace Table), and was enshrined later as the god of cooking.
Introduction of cooking methods from abroad
Eating rice started in the Jomon period. Nimono (boiled and seasoned foods), yakimono (broiled foods) and mushimono (steamed foods) were eaten from ancient times, but agemono (deep-fried food) was brought to Japan from China via Korea around the Asuka period. In addition, special dishes as well as tea were also brought to Japan through the introduction of Buddhism form China, and these dishes have been uniquely developed mostly in temples. These are shojin ryori dishes (vegetarian dishes), corresponding to the introduction of shojin ryori dishes, a ban on eating livestock and Japanese monkeys was issued several times.
In 'the Engishiki' (an ancient book for codes and procedures on national rites and prayers), sushi is listed as cho (tributes) in various areas in western Japan. Its origin was a dish in southeastern Asia in which fish were placed inside boiled rice.
Dishes in the Nara period
In the Nara period, influences of Chinese culture appeared even in dishes and eating habits, and corresponding to the introduction of seasonal festivals, dishes for celebrations became served widely. For each annual event, banquets fit for the occasion were held.
Cooking methods brought to Japan from China were connected with the environment and food in Japan, being modified later into dishes specific to Japan
Dishes in the Heian period and Kamakura period
In the Heian period, the cooking level advanced with the influence of China. Dishes of karaage (fried food coated with flour or potato starch), karani (Chinese-style nimono) and togashi (Chinese sweets) appeared, and Chinese-style Natto (fermented soybeans) appeared as well. It is supposed that tofu (bean curd) might have been brought to Japan during this era, but it is not certain.
Among kuge (court nobles), schools concerning eating etiquette and cooking methods developed. It is also during this era that the term of daikyo-ryori (dishes for grand banquets) appeared. However, all of the cooking methods used for nihon-ryori were not yet provided. The dishes placed on eating tables for nobles were not seasoned with soy sauce, and no soup stock was used for them either. In this way, cooking methods did not develop well and nobles seasoned their dishes with salt and/or vinegar by themselves. In addition, nobles despised vegetables as vulgar foodstuffs and did not eat them, and they showed off their authority by eating rare food. Affected by Buddhism, nobles considered it a taboo to say whether a dish was delicious or not. Therefore, their dishes were considerably poor from the viewpoint of nutrition. As a cooking-related person, FUJIWARA no Yamakage devised a new cooking method (Shijo style cooking) upon orders of Emperor Koko. Perhaps due to this fact, many well-established Japanese restaurants enshrine 'Iwakamutsukari no Mikoto' and 'FUJIWARA no Yamakage' in their Shinto altars.
During the Kamakura period, tea came to be drunk widely corresponding to the penetration of the Zen sect. Shojin ryori dishes (vegetarian dishes) eaten by Zen priests came to be eaten by the general public, and food-processing techniques, such as, producing ganmodoki (deep-fried tofu mixed with thinly sliced vegetables), were brought to Japan. Affected by shojin-ryori dishes, the technique to process soybeans and to cook vegetables developed greatly, determining the direction of later progress in nihon-ryori dishes. The light meal that Zen priest ate during their religious training was called 'kaiseki' (懐石), being the origin of the term of kaiseki (懐石) to be used later. Eisai brought back tea from China, and tea-related dishes were generated by combining tea with kaiseki. The custom of using a spoon for eating boiled rice went out of style, and when eating boiled rice in a rice bowl, the rice bowl was held in one hand.
Dishes in the Muromachi period
Entering the Muromachi period, dishes served in the Imperial court became eaten by samurai as well, developing eating etiquette. At that time, many schools of etiquette, including the Ogasawara school, thrived, and as a school for cooking, the Shijo school with YAMAKAGE no Masatomo as its founder was established. It is said that "Shijoryu Hochogaki" (cookbook of the Shijo school), a cook book, was written during this period. On the other hand, nobles who lost authority could not afford to serve dishes for grand banquets, and these dishes were altered into Yusoku ryori dishes (dishes prepared for the royal court). With the Ashikaga family based on the Ogusa school, it was required to observe eating manners more strictly during this period, and the so-called 'honzen style' (the style for formal dinners), in which dishes for a person were arranged on a tray placed in front of the person, was formed. On the other hand, for these ceremonious dishes, kaiseki (懐石)-ryori dishes were hobby-like based on tea ceremonies. Then dishes of these two types constituted major nihon-ryori dish styles.
The interpretation of the sentence of 'It should not be discussed whether the taste of a meal is good or not' was altered, and cooking and eating a meal at Zen temples became considered a religious practice, causing shojin-ryori dishes to develop. Cooking techniques to overcome taboos on meals at Zen temples developed, and the concept of soup stock was generated. Soybean-processing techniques developed from Zen temples as well. As a change from formal and restrictive meals served for entertaining him, Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA often took meals at Zen temples on the occasions of errands, and it is said that this constituted the base of today's nihon-ryori dishes.
Joao Rodriguez, who visited Japan in the Azuchi-Momoyama period, wrote in his 'Church history in Japan' that the 'abilities' (practical skills) persons in the ruling class should have were 'the art of Japanese archery, kemari (a game played by aristocrats in the Heian period) and the use of kitchen knives.'
In the era from towards the end of the Muromachi period to the Azuchi-Momoyama period, early European ships brought to Japan European dishes and European sweets (such as castella sponge cakes).
Dishes during the Edo period
During the Edo period, urban culture flourished, and it is known that the contents of dishes were rich, according to menus and cook books at that time. Yatai (street stall)-based dishes for townspeople, such as tenpura (Japanese deep-fried dishes) and mugicha (barley tea), developed. It is also around this time that restaurants specializing, for example, in sushi or soba, appeared. The dishes at restaurants developed centered on the urban areas, for example, "rusui-jaya" teahouses where the domain's diplomatic officials were regulars, were eaten while drinking sake in eating styles not restricted as honzen or kaiseki (懐石), and these dishes were called kaiseki (会席)-ryori dishes (the dishes served mostly today). In the Kanto region, strong soy sauce was invented and came to be used for seasoning or coloring many dishes. The technique to generate soup stock based upon dried bonito or konbu (a kind of kelp) progressed, and as sugar became used widely, sweet Japanese confectionery became available. Earthenware or porcelain-based tableware with complicated paintings became used widely. A small amount of animal meat, such as beef, was also eaten as a drug. In the middle of the Edo period, the technique of using kitchen knives, called 'mitate,' to make foodstuffs look like other things, as typically seen in daikon chains, developed. In this period, an unusual dish of the reverse egg (the boiled egg which is reversed yellow and white body) was generated.
Dishes in the Kanto region
Because Edo was placed at the center of politics, many products and cooking methods in areas throughout Japan were gathered there, in addition to the occasions of Sankinkotai (a system under which feudal lords in the Edo period were required to spend every other year in residence in Edo) of daimyo (Japanese feudal lords). Then the tradition of splendid Edo dishes started in the Kanto region where land-based foodstuffs and marine foodstuffs were abundantly available. The fish and shellfish plentifully available in Edo bay were of high quality and were specifically called "Edomae" (in front of Edo), and sashimi (fresh slices of raw fish) of tuna caught in coastal areas became essential as a menu item. Because the Japanese name of a sea bream is 'tai' and 'medetai' in Japanese means 'joyous,' a sea bream was broiled with the shape intact and displayed on an eating tray during many occasions. Then it became customary that such a broiled sea bream was taken home as a souvenir, together with kuchidori (a plate of assorted delicacies), for example, of kinton (mashed sweet potatoes) and kamaboko (boiled fish paste). It is said that Edo dishes, in which great importance was placed on the freshness and origin of the foodstuffs, were generated under these circumstances, thereby establishing the core and elements of today's high-class dishes together with honzen ryori (formally arranged dinners) that set the precedent for nihon-ryori being a course meal that starts with hassun (a relish) and kuchitori (a side dish).
Starting in the Genroku era, Edo dishes by townspeople began being developed. Various eating cultures, ranging from high-class restaurants for rich people to dishes for common people, such as soba and donburi-mono (rice bowl dishes), were generated. In Edo where many single persons, not living with their families, from outside Edo, lived in Edo, street stalls serving soba and tenpura flourished. From the Edo period, lots of soy sauce was being used for seasoning, and lot of strong soy sauce came to be produced in the suburbs of Edo. In the Kanto region, strong soy sauce was used as seasoning even for shiru-mono dishes (soup dishes) and nimono (boiled and seasoned foods) so that the tastes of these dishes could be enjoyed even when they became cold, and dishes using such seasoning developed as souvenir dishes, for example, in the form of box lunches.
Dishes in the Kansai region
Dishes in Kyoto and Osaka were called 'kamigata-ryori' (dishes in kamigata - Kyoto and Osaka) or 'Kansai-ryori' (dishes in the Kansai region). Marine products were brought to kamigata by kitamae-bune (cargo ships that sailed the Japan Sea during the Edo period), and use of konbu from Hokkaido developed there. For the flamboyant Edo culture, that of Kyoto featured traditional elegance and this feature was reflected in the dishes as well. Because dishes in Kyoto were affected by dishes at temples and marine products were unavailable, dishes using vegetables and dried foodstuffs developed. Cooking methods for lightly-flavored dishes developed to make the best use of delicate tastes of tofu and yuba. Its features also included skillfully cooking preserved foods, such as dried cod and dried herring fillets. On the other hand, because Osaka, having developed as a commercial city, was placed near to sea, fishes and seashells were available abundantly there and foodstuffs from other areas gathered there as well, being called the kitchen of Japan. Importance was placed on delicious dishes rather than on eating etiquette, and people there considered that dishes should be eaten at the places they were cooked, rather than being taken out as a souvenir in a cold state.
Inflow of Western dishes
Entering the Meiji period, due to movements of separating Buddhism from Shintoism and of abolishing Buddhism, it became permitted to eat meat, and sukiyaki (thin slices of beef, cooked with various vegetables in a table-top cast-iron pan) appeared. On the other hand, cooking schools except for "hochoshiki" declined. The honzen-ryori dishes, considered formal until then, faded away. It can be said that, at this time, the major business of nihon-ryori dishes shifted to restaurants and high-class inns where (会席)-ryori dishes were mainly served.
(Shojin-ryori dishes mostly targeting temples and kaiseki (懐石)-ryori dishes mostly targeting chajin (masters of the tea ceremonies) remained keeping their unique characters).)
The cultivation of Chinese cabbage and spinach started in full scale around in this era as well. As Western dishes were brought to Japan, these vegetables were eaten by the people in social classes that had the chance to be mingled with foreigners. In restaurants for western-style dishes in various areas, so-called "yo-shoku" (western-style dishes) with tastes tailored to Japanese were generated. Western-style dishes were rather considered eaten in restaurants until the Taisho period, but were gradually eaten at home as well. The custom of using potatoes and beef in dishes started with military forces and has spread. Chabudai (low dining tables) began being used in households in urban areas, and it came to be recognized that the eating place in households was for enjoying each other's company among family members, instead of observing patriarchal etiquette using meimeizen (small individual low eating tables).
For more information, refer to yo-shoku. Yo-shoku was generated, during the Meiji period and later, based on English and French cuisine, and the contents were altered in Japan so that they became specific to Japan. Some dishes, for example, katsudon (pork cutlet on rice), which have been Japanized significantly are sometimes classified as wa-shoku. Yo-shoku generated in Japan has been brought to China and Korea, and nowadays, are available throughout the world.
Food used in traditional nihon-ryori dishes
Grain, vegetables, beans (including soybeans), soba, fruit, and potatoes
Sansai (plants growing in the wild and in the mountains), mushrooms, seaweed, and marine plants.
Hen's eggs, and fish and seashells.
Seasonings used in many nihon-ryori dishes
Soy sauce: Japan-specific seasoning placed most importantly in nihon-ryori dishes, together with dashi (stock)
(Japanese soy sauce is different from that in China and Korea both in the taste and in the way it is produced.)
Miso: a basic seasoning used form ancient times
There is a play on words calling the above five seasonings as "sa-shi-su-se-so" (seasonings).
Starch syrup: Used as a sweetener from ancient times, this was the most important sweetener until the Edo period. Even today when sugar is available inexpensively, this sweetener is still used as a cooking ingredient.
Mirin: Was for drinking originally, but nowadays, is used as cooking alcohol to add a sweet taste to meals.
Katsuobushi (dried bonito)
Wasabi (Japanese horseradish): a spice specific to Japan
Used on sashimi and sushi to erase their odors, and used for soba, udon and chazuke (boiled rice with tea poured over it) as well.
Shoga (ginger): used for erasing odors like wasabi. Used as an ornament as well as seasoning, and eaten as pickles as well.
Sansho (Japanese pepper): A little amount of it is used for adding a pungent taste as well as providing flavor.
Negi (green onion): Raw negi minced when used as a seasoning. Lots of negi is consumed as vegetables as well, and ao-negi (long green onions) are favored in the Kansai region and nebuka-negi (literally, deep-rooted negi) in the Kanto region.
Shiso (Japanese basil): Used in the raw state for seasoning, and shiso tenpura is eaten as well. The minced aka-shiso (red perilla) used for making Umeboshi (pickled 'ume' - Japanese apricot) is called 'yukari' and is eaten with boiled rice.
Togarashi (red peppers): Discovered in the new continent and brought to Japan in the age of geographical discoveries. Used only for giving a slightly hot flavor, and a lot of it is not used at one time. Generally used in Japan-specific shichimi togarashi (a mixture of red cayenne pepper and other aromatic spices).
Dashi (soup stock): basic seasoning used in many dishes. Dried konbu (a kind of kelp), dried shiitake mushroom, katsuobushi and boiled-dried fishes are immersed in water and are boiled to produce stock.
Foodstuffs that have come to be used in the Meiji period and later
Meat: It is said that, before the Meiji period, Japanese except for discriminated people and the Ainu tribe, had no custom of eating meat, but meat of wild boars was eaten as a drug and people living in mountainous areas often ate the animals they hunted. Until the Edo period, rabbit meat was often eaten. During the latter half of the Edo period, momonjiya (meat shops or restaurants) appeared, and animal meat was eaten in big cities like Edo. However, it was during the Meiji period and later that meat came to be eaten throughout Japan.
Hakusai (Chinese cabbage)
Seasonings used for many dishes in Japan (except those for nihon-ryori dishes)
Pepper: Brought to Japan via China and ko (races lived in the places to the north and west of old China), and used as a seasoning for a pungent taste more often than today, but demand for pepper as seasoning for nihon-ryori dishes diminished after red pepper was brought to Japan. Nowadays, pepper is used in many dishes again, but is used for few nihon-ryori dished.
Worcester sauce: When the term of sauce (seasoning) is used generally, it mostly indicates Worcester sauce, and this sauce has become a seasoning essential to Japanese dishes as soy sauce. However, today's Worcester sauce used in Japan is a Japan-specific seasoning totally different from the original one in England.
Mayonnaise and margarine
Dairy products (milk, condensed milk, butter, and cheese)
Spices mixed in commercial curry powder
Classifications and list of nihon-ryori dishes
Major traditional dishes
Styles of the traditional dishes to be eaten with Japanese etiquette
Yusoku-ryori were dishes for entertaining nobles and honzen-ryori dishes for entertaining samurai, and the style of either of them was most formal in the past. Kaiseki (会席)-ryori dishes were generated in restaurants where guests were rich townspeople, and developed as rather informal dishes for enjoying sake and dishes themselves. Nowadays, Kaiseki (会席)-ryori dishes are served for entertaining guests as formal nihon-ryori dishes.
Yusoku-ryori dishes: Their style belonged to the line of the dishes for grand banquets that developed based on the codes of honor among nobles during the Heian period
Nowadays, having been offered only in exclusive restaurants in Kyoto.
Honzen-ryori dishes: Developed as dishes for entertaining samurai starting in the Muromachi period, and said to be formal nihon-ryori dishes during the Edo period. Provided with a strongly ceremonial atmosphere, these dishes declined during the Meiji period and later.
Shojin-ryori dishes: developed as dishes for entertaining guests at temples
They were not eaten by priests.
Kaiseki (懐石): dishes developed based upon the tea ceremony
The dishes are served in a course style. Originally for enjoying tea.
Local dishes are traditional ones that have been eaten in various areas in Japan from ancient times, and are different from gotochi-ryori dishes (locally special dishes) or gotochi-gurume (local gourmets) (for example, gotochi-ramen), used for revitalizing villages.
Specific examples of local dishes
Nigirizushi (sushi shaped by hand)
Hiyajiru (boiled rice over which cold miso soup is poured), etc.
Specific examples of gotochi-ryori dishes
Nagoya-meshi (dishes originated or specially developed in Nagoya)
Sara udon (Nagasaki dish of noodles with various toppings), etc.
Major taishu-ryori dishes
Dishes that are not eaten in traditional eating etiquette and were developed in relatively old times, or dishes cooked mostly in Japanese cooking styles. Dishes cooked mostly in Japanese cooking styles are called nihon-shoku dishes. Dishes that have been generated in the popular culture liked by the general public are sometimes called taishu-ryori dishes as well.
Gohan: Boiled rice dishes
In many of the rice-using dishes in other nations, rice is used as a foodstuff whose positioning is the same as that of vegetables that are to be fried or boiled, and these dishes are usually flavored. However, sticky and rather sweet Japonica rice is used in Japan, boiled rice is mostly eaten without being flavored, respecting the taste of each type of rice. During the Edo period and later, people in Edo city ate polished white rice, causing many people to suffer from beriberi. The habit of eating polished white rice has spread throughout Japan during the Meiji period and later, making beriberi a national disease in Japan.
Sekihan (glutinous rice steamed with red adzuki beans for eating on celebratory occasions), okowa (steamed glutinous rice)
Brown (unpolished) rice
Boiled barley rice
Onigiri (rice balls)
Sumeshi (vinegared boiled rice)
Sushi: nigiri-zushi (a small lump of boiled rice with sliced fish on top) (or Edo-mae-zushi - literally, sushi in front of Edo), or nama-zushi - literally, raw sushi), maki-zushi (rolled sushi), chirashi-zushi (vinegared boiled rice with thin strips of egg, pieces of sliced raw fish, vegetables and crab meat arranged on top), and inari-zushi (fried tofu stuffed with vinegared boiled rice)
Sushi: battera (mackerel sushi of Osaka), Saba-zushi (rod-shaped sushi topped with mackerel)
Narezushi (sushi fermented with fish and vegetables)
Okayu (rice porridge), zosui (a porridge of rice and vegetable), ojiya (rice gruel seasoned with miso or soy sauce)
Chazuke (boiled rice with tea poured on)
Takikomi gohan (seasoned rice boiled with other ingredients), kuri-meshi (rice boiled with chestnuts), Fukagawa-meshi (rice boiled with clams), tai-meshi (boiled rice with (minced) sea bream), gomoku-meshi (rice boiled with various kinds of ingredients in seasoned stock), matsutake-meshi (rice boiled with matsutake mushrooms), sansai-meshi (rice boiled with edible wild plants), imo-meshi (rice boiled with sweet potatoes)
Donburi-mono (a bowl of boiled rice with ingredients on top): gyudon (a bowl of boiled rice covered with cooked beef and vegetables), unagi-don (a bowl of boiled rice topped with broiled eel), ten-don (a bowl of boiled rice topped with tenpura), katsu-don (a bowl of boiled rice topped with pork cutlet), oyako-don (a bowl of rice with chicken meat and egg on top, literally, parent and child rice bowl), tekka-don (a bowl of vinegared boiled rice with slices of raw tuna meat on top), konoha-don (a bowl of boiled rice with cooked egg and kamaboko (steamed fish paste) on top)
Kake-gohan (boiled rice covered or poured over with liquid ingredients)
Mugitoro-gohan (a bowl of boiled rice and barley with grated yam on top), hiyajiru (boiled rice over which cold miso soup is poured), tamago-kake-gohan (boiled rice on which raw egg is placed on it optionally seasoned with soy sauce)
Others: mochi (rice cakes), dango (dumpling cakes made of rice or wheat flour)
Shiru-mono dishes (soup dishes)
Miso-shiru: the name for all hot shiru-mono dishes in which miso is dissolved into soup stock, with a variety of ingredients placed in it
Kasujiru (soup made with sake lees)
Sumashi-jiru (a sui-mono dish): transparent shiru-mono dish in which soup stock is seasoned
Often served in formal nihon-ryori dishes.
Kenchin-jiru soup (vegetable miso soup)
Ushio-jiru soup (thin soup made from boiling fish or shellfish in seawater)
Sashimi: the name for all dishes where raw fish or animal meat is served for eating
Zuke: sashimi soaked in soup stock and soy sauce
Tori-sashi: sashimi of chicken meat
Tsuke-mono (pickles): Takuan-zuke (yellow pickled radish), umeboshi (pickled "ume" - Japanese apricot), shibazuke (salted chopped pickled vegetables), miso-zuke (vegetables pickled in miso (fermented soybean paste)), kasu-zuke (vegetables or/and sliced fish meat pickled in sake lees), nuka-zuke (vegetables pickled in fermented rice bran), wasabi-zuke (wasabi pickled in sake lees)
Menrui (noodles): soba, udon, somen (Japanese vermicelli), wheat noodles cooled on ice
Nabe-ryori dishes (nabe (Japanese style pan)-based dishes): oden (Japanese dishes containing all kinds of ingredients cooked in a special broth of soy sauce, sugar, sake, etc.), mizutaki (chicken meat and vegetables stewed in a nabe on a dinning table), shabushabu (sliced beef slightly boiled slightly in a nabe on a dinning table), sukiyaki (thin slices of beef, cooked with various vegetables in a nabe on a dinning table), Nabeyaki-udon (noodles served hot in a nabe), motsu-nabe (entails of animals cooked in a nabe on a dinning table)
Agemono dishes (fried dishes): tenpura, kakiage (small shrimp and vegetables that are fried), karaage (fried food coated with flour or potato starch), satsuma-age (fried fish paste), su-age (what is fried with no coat)
Yakimono dishes (roasted, broiled or grilled fishes or animal meat): yaki-zakana (broiled fish), teri-yaki (meat or fish grilled with soy sauce and sugar), yaki-tori (roasted chicken meat), kaba-yaki (broiled eel or similar long slender fish), shio-yaki (broiled fish sprinkled with salt), yuan-yaki (sliced fish or chicken meat that is soaked in a specially seasoned soup for several days and is broiled or roasted), yahata-yaki, dengaku-miso (a type of miso made of miso, sugar, sake and mirin), tofu-dengaku (tofu with sweet miso sauce), hosho-yaki (fish broiled in washi), hoiru-yaki (broiled or roasted in a foil wrapper), shiogama (fish or meat that is coated wit lots of salt and is roasted in a pot), tamago-yaki (Japanese style omelets), dashimaki-tamago (rolled omelets made with soup stock), usuyaki-tamago (paper-thin omelettes)
Itame-mono (stir-fried dishes): kinpira (chopped burdock roots and carrots cooked in soy sauce and sugar)
Mushi-mono (steamed foods): chawan-mushi (savory steamed egg custards with assorted ingredients), tamago-dofu (tofu mixed with egg), chiri-mushi (steamed white fish fillet and vegetables served with ponzu sauce for dipping them), awayuki-mushi (dishes with awa-yuki mousse (literally, light snow) on cold green tea soba noodles), saka-mushi (sake-steamed dishes), gin-an (dishes using a specially prepared sauce called gin-an)
Fish paste products: kamaboko (boiled fish paste), chikuwa (fish paste shaped in a long tube), hanpen (a white, square-shaped fish paste mixed with rice and yam powder)
Dressed foods/boiled greens seasoned with soy sauce: namasu (thinly sliced fish meat or vegetables dressed with vinegar), sumiso-ae (or nuta) (seafood and vegetables dressed with vinegared miso), karashi-ae (dishes with mustard dressing), goma-ae (vegetables dressed a sesame sauce), ume-ae (dishes dressed with sliced umeboshi (with the hard core part removed), shiro-ae (vegetables dressed with ground tofu and sesame), su-dako (vinegared octopus)
(nihai-zu (vinegar and soy sauce mixed in roughly equal proportions), sanbai-zu (vinegar, soy sauce and mirin (or sugar) mixed in roughly equal proportions), ponzu (a seasoning made from citrus juice), ponzu-shoyu (soy source containing citrus juice), tosa-zu (vinegar flavored with bonito shavings, konbu kelp, sugar and soy sauce), kimi-zu (vinegar mixed with yolk, dashi, mirin, etc), shoga-zu (vinegar with ginger), Yoshino-zu (ginger with kuzu-starch mixed for giving thickening nature), goma-zu (vinegar mixed with grinded sesame, soy sauce, etc), mizore-zu (vinegar with grated radish), yuzuka-zu (vinegar with yuzu citrus juice: literally, yuzu-flavored vinegar), kinome-zu (vinegar with minced leaves of Japanese pepper trees), nanban-zu (Japanese sweetened vinegar with some red pepper flakes), wasabi-zu (vinegar with wasabi juice), karashi-zu (vinegar with mustard)
Major dishes eaten in Japan, excluding wa-shoku
Dishes, though eaten in Japan, that do not follow the cooking method of wa-shoku nor traditional cooking methods
Dishes that are cooked with Japan-specific methods
Of the dishes eaten in Japan today, these dishes were developed relatively recently.
Dishes grilled on an iron plate
Food grilled on an iron plate
Monja (wheat flour-based, mostly served in the Kanto region)
Okonomi-yaki: These wheat flour-based dishes of this category are considered having been developed rather recently. Some of these dishes are seasoned with soy sauce, but most of them are seasoned with a Worcester sauce-related sauce.
Yaki-soba (fried soba): Yaki udon (stir-fried udon noodles) and soba-meshi (a dish in which both soba and boiled rice are mixed and fried) derived from yaki-soba.
Yakiniku (roasted meat): Meat grilled directly over a fire is included.
Dishes grilled directly over a fire
Foodstuffs are grilled directly over a fire, and are eaten there. In cooking nihon-ryori dishes, charcoal is used for making a fire. In particular, when binchotan (high-grade charcoal produced from ubame oak - Quercus phillyraeoides) is used for making a fire, far-infrared rays are generated, enabling heat to penetrate deeply inside the meat.
They are dishes grilled directly over a fire
Yakiniku: The meat roasted on a hot plate is included.
Yogan-yaki dishes: A type of ishi-yaki dishes (dishes in which foodstuffs are roasted on a hot stone); When a natural lava plate is used for this purpose, the dishes are called yogan (lava)-yaki.
For more information, refer to the item for yo-shoku.
Dishes originated in Europe or the United State, especially, in Europe, but have been transformed into Japan-specific ones
Hayashi-raisu (hashed rice): Hashed beef or beef stroganoff and gohan were combined, and have been transformed further.
Menchi-katsu (a fried cake of minced meat)
Japanese dishes originated in dishes of other Asian nations
Ramen: A food that is similar to Chinese noodle dishes but has been transformed uniquely in Japan.
Tsuke-men: This food has further developed uniquely in Japan from ramen, so that its noodles and sauce are provided separately and pieces of the noodles are dipped into the sauce before being eaten.
Hiyashi-chuka (cold Chinese noodles): This Chinese-noodles-based food has further developed uniquely in Japan from ramen, so as to be cooled for eating.
Nagasaki chanpon noodles
Yaki-gyoza (a fried dumpling stuffed with minced pork): Gyoza dishes were eaten in Manchuria, but their ingredients and frying method have been transformed uniquely in Japan.
Yasai-itame (fried vegetables): Chinese fried dishes that have been transformed so as to be suited to the tastes of general Japanese households.
Dishes that cannot be identified as yo-shoku nor Asian dishes.
Tako-raisu: Dishes in which the ingredients usually wrapped in a taco are placed on gohan.
Nihon-ryori dishes favored in other nations
Japanese dishes have been favored and have spread as healthy foods in the United State and Europe.
Especially in the United States, Japanese dishes are quite popular and are highly evaluated. In 1983, 'Hatsuhana,' a sushi restaurant in New York became the first Japanese restaurant that was rated to the highest four-star level in the restaurant review on New York Times. Furthermore, forty-one Japanese restaurants were listed in the first New York version, published in 2005, of Le Guide Michelin (Michelin Guide), the famous French guidebook for rating restaurants, and of the numbers of restaurants specializing in dishes specific to each nation, this number was the third after that of French restaurants and that of Italian restaurants.
In the Tokyo version of 'Michelin,' a guide for high-class restaurants, published in 2007, 150 restaurants were listed, and approx. sixty percent of them were those serving nihon-ryori dishes, and all listed restaurants were rated for the one-star or higher level ('Michelin' usually included restaurants with no star as well, and this Tokyo version was the first in that all listed restaurants were given at least a star). In addition, more than 190 stars, so far the largest number, were given to these 150 listed restaurants.
Affected by media, such as TV, as well, many internationally active Japanese star chefs have appeared.
Jewish, who have taboos on food, voiced 'Are the foods free of the taboos?.'
Therefore, Judaistic rabbis have become to visit factories to manufacture haccho miso (bean paste) and farms growing tea and tea-processing factories, for inspection and checks. No substance related to Crustaceans is included in processes used to manufacture the foodstuffs approved by Judaistic rabbis (kashrut). Therefore, these foodstuffs are welcomed by the people allergic to Crustaceans as well.
Japanese dishes as macrobiotics
Many Japanese dishes have been introduced to other nations through the movement of macrobiotics that attempts to promote health through foods. Therefore, in some areas of Europe and the United States where Japanese dishes have been evaluated as macrobiotics, special dishes and foodstuffs unusual in Japan are sometimes used (for example, miso paste is sometimes spread over bread). Although generally mass-produced by companies, soy sauce, lots of miso and tofu are also manufactured in traditional styles. Therefore, some of them are superior to such general products in Japan and in the tastes and nutrition values. In the United Stated, tamari (thick soy source) is used generally as well.
Japanese-style dishes that are varied in other nations
Sushi: new types of sushi in which fruits, foodstuffs and cooking method not used in Japan are utilized
When you hear a name of such sushi, it is quite difficult to image the dish. In many sushi dishes of these types, vinegared boiled rice is not used either.
Teriyaki: Usually, this term does not indicate a type of roasting methods, but 'the dishes in which foodstuffs are immersed in teriyaki sauce, based on soy sauce, and then are grilled.'
California roll: This dish was invented, because sushi became popular in the United States as a healthy food. The inventor was a Japanese sushi chef working in the United States. With avocado as an ingredient, seaweed and boiled rice are rolled around the ingredient so that rice is placed outside. This sushi style has been imported to Japan. In addition, various sushi dishes with visual names, such as spider roll, dynamite roll, and rainbow roll, each specific to the sushi chef, have appeared.
Boiled fish-paste products: In Europe and the United States, the consumption of these products, named surimi, has been sharply increasing, centered on so-called kanikama (imitation crab meat).
Teppan-yaki: The type of teppan-yaki in which a chef's performances, such as the expertly handling of hot irons, and onion volcanoes, are abundantly included. This dish, named 'enHibachi,' is considered a typical nihon-ryori dish by Americans in general. The teppan-yaki dishes that Hiroaki AOKI, having developed the Benihana restaurant chain, cooked in a TV show emphasizing cooking performance is its origin.
Beverages in Japan
Mugicha (barley tea)
Shochu (distilled spirit)
Amacha (hydrangea tea)
Amazake (sweet mild sake)
Kuzuyu (kuzu - arrowroot, or starch gruel)
Sakurayu (tea with cherry-blossoms in it)
Shogayu (hot water in which grinded ginger and a small amount of sugar is dissolved)
Tonyu (soybean milk)
Returning to the basics of nihon-ryori dishes
Taking advantage of the Japanese dish boom, many Chinese restaurants and Korean restaurants have changed to Japanese restaurants. Therefore, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) has started 'The system of recommending Japanese restaurants,' a system to certify legitimate Japanese restaurants.
As Japanese dishes have been well known overseas, the number of restaurants that call themselves Japanese restaurants, but use foodstuffs and cooking methods totally different from genuine Japanese dishes has increased (many of them are operated by Chinese or Koreans). Therefore, JETRO (the Japan External Trade Organization) and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have established a system to certify the restaurants that offer genuine Japanese dishes, based on the criteria set not only for the cooking methods but sanitation. National systems of certifying restaurants exist also in other nations, for example, in Italy and Thailand.