Yoshoku (western food) (洋食)

The term "Yoshoku" refers to western food served in Japan. It sometimes includes western food in China and Korea, which has been spread through Japan's influence.


Although there are orthodox western restaurants including French and Italian which follow recipes from their origins in Western countries, many restaurants have added their own changes in order to fit Japanese people's taste. For example, Yoshoku such as escalope (Nemuro City, Hokkaido Prefecture) and Turkey rice (Nagasaki Prefecture) could be said to be local to Japan. Therefore, these could be included in the realm of food which is considered Japanese. In this article, the term 'Yoshoku' refers to western style dishes which were developed in Japan.

Yoshoku was established in Japan during the Meiji period, and was not so older than Japanese food. Fried dishes called 'furai' such as fried meat, croquettes, fried prawns, and dishes such as curry and rice, hamburger, gratin, hashed rice and spaghetti Neapolitan are representative of Yoshoku. Since such dishes have a relatively short history when compared to Japanese food, there are few regional differences, and similar menus can be found all over Japan, which makes it easier for family restaurants to spread those menus throughout all of Japan.


Many cooks, who learned western cuisine after the Meiji period, established 'creative cuisine' such as chicken rice and rice omelets without following the traditional western recipes, matching the tastes to Japanese consumers' preference, which can not be found in Western countries.

Yoshoku has been popular among Japanese for a long time, and various ingredients, seasonings and sauces have been tried in order to create dishes in a semi-Western style. As a result, part of Yoshoku has come to be categorized as Japanese food. For example, pork cutlets are served with a cup of miso soup, pickles and chopsticks as a Japanese set meal in many restaurants.

The sauces (seasoning), which are a character of western food, are also used in Yoshoku, but it does not use the complicated sauces used in French cuisine, and only specific ones are used. Tomato ketchup and demiglace sauce are common seasoning. Yoshoku is much influenced by French cuisine such that it uses Bechamel sauce. This trend influenced and established the use of Worcester sauce on fried dishes, which led to a dish named issen yoshoku, which used Worcester sauce and was later developed into okonomiyaki (savory pancake with various ingredients).

In addition, a cooking method known as teriyaki (grilling with soy sauce and sugar), is often used for hamburger and chicken, which has spread not only in Japan but also in various countries around the world such as the United States of America.

The custom to serve rice on a dish instead of bread, and to eat rice and the western food as side dishes one after the other was also created. This is a style following the conventional Japanese eating habits, but in this case the rice is often called 'raisu' and treated as different from that served in a bowl in Japanese food. At the same time, a unique table manner which involves placing rice on the back of the fork was created. However, in recent years this has come to be recognized incorrect and is no longer widely seen.

The restaurants which serve these Yoshoku are called Yoshokuya. Department store restaurants were major place which served Yoshoku during the high-growth period of the Showa period, and has been taken up in part by family restaurants in recent times.

From the process of modernization, which began in the civilization and enlightenment age in the Meiji period, until after the war, Yoshoku was considered rakish and expensive for common people due to the fact that the industries which supplied food materials for Yoshoku had not been developed yet. The postwar period saw Yoshoku become more popular among common people, which was partly due to the fact that they received western food from the allied forces based on a lack of food.

Western eating habits began to spread in Japanese households gradually in accordance with an increase in national income and a change in food culture following a period of high economic growth, and Yoshoku is now a daily dish in Japanese households. Yoshoku has become popular in Japanese households and has been considered to be a part of Japanese food culture as well as Japanese food.

On the other hand, a large amount of imported feed is needed in order to produce livestock products which are often used for Yoshoku, which is one of the reasons for the decrease in the food self-sufficiency ratio. In addition, since Yoshoku tends to have a high caloric content due to its heavier usage of dairy products and oil when compared to Japanese food, some people, including the middle-aged and the elderly tend to avoid Yoshoku. Japanese food is gradually being favored again, due to rising health concerns, and Yoshoku is often treated lightly by the government when it comes to "dietary education." Whether or not to catch upon the change occurring in eating habits will most likely to decide the fate of Yoshoku.

Types of Yoshoku

Curry and rice originates from Indian curry, which was introduced to Japan through England. It was adopted as a food to sustain the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and became popular because it matched Japan's food culture which was based on rice.
It is also called 'rice and curry.'
Additionally, the efforts by food manufacturers such as House Foods Corp. cannot be ignored in terms of explaining its sustained popularity.

Stew was originally a high-class meal cooked by simmering meats for a long time, but after a period of high economic growth, an easier method involving the use of roux became popular. At present, stew is a standard item in autumn and winter.

Korokke originates from the 'croquette' in Western countries.

Fried chicken in Japanese sweet and peppery vegetable sauce was originally a local food in Miyazaki Prefecture, but is now eaten all over Japan.

Stuffed cabbage is sometimes used as an ingredient in oden (a Japanese dish containing all kinds of ingredients cooked in a special broth of soy sauce, sugar, sake, etc.), which is original in Japan.

Fried dishes are often treated as Japanese food such that fried prawns and oysters, mentioned below, which are often served with a cup of miso soup, pickles and chopsticks in a set meal.

Fried oysters is a creative cuisine developed in Japan and is not a general method of cooking in Western countries where people usually eat raw oysters.

Fried prawns are a standard item found in Yoshoku, which is not a general method of cooking used in Western countries, either. Frying is the most prevailing cooking method of prawns at present, and it should be noted that Japan became the largest importer of prawns in the world due to the spread of the fried prawns.


Hashed rice originates from a combination of hashed beef or beef stroganoff with rice.

Unique spaghetti in Japan such as spaghetti Neapolitan and other spaghetti dishes which include salted cod roe or fermented soybeans are popular.

Fried meat

Pork cutlet

Pork cutlet on rice

Chicken cutlet

Beef cutlet is not generally eaten in East Japan, but popular in the Kinki region.

Ham cutlet

Minced meat cutlet

Turkey rice


Rice omelet
Steak is a standard item in Yoshoku, and is often served as Japanese food with Japanese style sauce and chopsticks in some steak restaurants. Diced steak' is served at relatively low price and a standard item in family restaurants.

Hamburger spread early as a home cuisine because it uses ground meat which is cheaper than other meats. It is also cooked with a hybrid cooking method that combines both Japanese and Western styles using teriyaki and the like.