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Respect for nature

WASHOKU started from respecting nature and has continued to the present.

WASHOKU, supported by plentiful nature, especially clear water, blessed with rich foodstuff, and methods of cooking, utensils, and arrangement were developed.
That is why WASHOKU allows us to feel the seasons and reminds us of respecting nature.

Somei No Ido in Nashi No Ki Jinja Shrine in Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto City

 

Somei No Ido in Nashi No Ki Jinja Shrine in Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto City, is a spring that is familiarly known to local residents for its good-quality water. In every region in Japan, people were blessed not only with river water but also water from springs and wells, and lived thanks to such water.

 

 

In Japan, where people are blessed with rich products of nature, a mentality to worship and respect nature has been developed from ancient days. Festivals to wish for good harvests and large hauls for each season held throughout Japan express such mentality.

Spring, summer, autumn and winter – the four seasons in Japan are so uniquely distinguished in a way that is almost unseen in other places in the world. WASHOKU takes in various foodstuff that can only be enjoyed for the season.

The plates and bowls to serve the dishes are also quite unique. Lacquerware, using natural lacquer resin, is tableware invented with the knowledge of nature held by our ancestors, realizing beauty and a high mothproof effect and durability.

It is also characteristic that the season can also be felt with the eyes, such as expressing the season with plates and bowls or with garnishes, or decorating flowers of the season in an alcove.

In addition, one of the important blessings of nature is water.

 

Tofu, Fukiyose, Wanmono, Wasabi

(Tofu = Utilizing good-quality water)

Tofu, a food solidifying soy bean curd with a coagulating agent, has been widely eaten from ancient times. Tofu made in Japan is unique with its high content of water and softness. Because it is a bland-tasting food, the taste depends largely on the good quality of water used in the preparation process.

 

(Fukiyose = Expressing seasonal feelings)

WASHOKU takes in the feelings of the season in various styles. The dish called fukiyose expresses a scene in autumn where seasonal vegetables, ginkgo nuts and mushrooms all drift with wind inside a basket works.

 

(Wanmono = Using wood materials)

Soups are usually served in wooden bowls. Lacquerware made by wrapping cloths over a thinly-carved wooden core and finished with lacquer has been used throughout Japan. Because it is made of wood, it can be held in the hand without feeling the heat even if it contains boiling-hot soup inside.

 

(Wasabi = Functionality of nature)

Wasabi is a familiar relish for sashimi. Its stinging spiciness is caused by a volatile chemical substance called allyl isothiocyanate, which has strong antibacterial and sterilizing activities. Therefore, it is effectively used when eating raw fish. It is wisdom peculiar to WASHOKU, fully utilizing the efficacy of natural products.

 

Mellow soft water has large influence

Water is also an object to be religiously worshipped, and has played an important role in formulating food culture in Japan.

The average annual precipitation in Japan is as high as 1800mm. Water suitable for drinking is abundant, and also the water contains less minerals because it stays only for a short period underground. Thus, in contrast to hard water found in continents such as Europe, the water in Japan is soft water (WHO standards: the content of calcium and magnesium is 120mg/L or less), which has a large impact on WASHOKU.

Cooking methods using mild-tasting and mellow soft water abundantly, and dishes accentuating the natural taste of the foodstuff itself, were developed.

One example is Tofu. Because momen or kinu tofu generally eaten in Japan is made by using a lot of water, the taste of the product depends largely on the quality of water.

It is the same with cooking rice. By rinsing rice several times with water, and by cooking with an adequate amount of water, the rice can be finished softly and without any hard core inside.

Other cooking methods using water abundantly, such as boiling vegetables and rinsing with water thereafter, removing scum with water, or firming the surface of soba noodles with cold water after boiling, are all quite unique and different from methods seen in other regions of the world. The good quality of water in Japan supports WASHOKU.

Also, soft water brings out the taste of kombu and katsuobushi effectively, which resulted in a cooking method that uses dashi stock. With the use of dashi stock, the unique taste of ingredients themselves, which are the blessings of nature, can be enjoyed.

Sensitivity to the changes of seasons lies within the spirit of WASHOKU. In other words, WASHOKU, or food for Japanese people, developing emotions towards the four seasons from childhood, is precisely the expression of respect for nature.

 

 

* On this page, the traditional dietary culture of Japan is expressed as WASHOKU, and dishes with such tradition are expressed as washoku.

Pictures and articles are cited from WASHOKU guidebook.

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