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Uniting family and region

Gathering to connect ties among people; role of foods for events and festivals.  

People strengthen ties among them by eating together.
Family get-togethers, celebrations, festivals of the region, annual events...
Food plays a central role in uniting people within the traditional culture of Japan.

Daily occasions of family members and relatives sitting around the table is an important situation for communication. By all the members showing up at the table and talking about what they felt or what happened each day while having meals, the bond of the family is strengthened. It is an important opportunity to teach children the manner of WASHOKU such as how to use chopsticks or how to hold bowls, or taste sensation and nutritional balance can be educated through dishes.

Aside from daily occasions, special dishes are enjoyed at annual events such as New Year, setsubun (the day before the calendric beginning of spring) and New Year’s Eve. Such custom is also useful for strengthening ties among family members and relatives. It also results in handing down the taste and tradition of the family to the next generation.

(Table for family)

The occasion for family members and relatives to enjoy osechi-ryori at New Year’s at the same table is an ideal situation for handing down food tradition of the region or family to the next generation. The photo below is a scene in Fukaura Town, located on the coast of the Sea of Japan in the western part of Aomori Prefecture. The “Fukaura Committee for Local Production and Local Consumption” is acting for several families to gather and teach local dishes inherited in the region to one another. The generation of grandparents tries to hand down the local tradition to the next generation by presenting dishes that only they know how to prepare.

Table for family

Table for family

 

Being connected with people and region through foods
Other than family events, there are also annual events that unite the local community.

Food is also an important factor for festivals of local community. After rites at shrines, there is an eating and drinking ceremony called naorai. It is expected that the deities and people unite and people are blessed, by eating and drinking the food and wine offered to the deities. Nowadays, the ceremony also has the meaning of a party after the rite, and people drink together after the rite is carried out. This works to develop familiar feelings and reinforce the awareness as the same community.

Such parties can also be said to be a part of Japanese culture in terms of food.

There are also situations where the local community is united through the intermediary of foods, other than festivals. For example, imoni-kai (taro cooking gathering) held frequently in Yamagata and Miyagi Prefectures in autumn is a seasonal event where friends, colleagues or members of the local community are invited and gather at riverside. The pot-dish served on the occasion generally contains ingredients such as taro and beef and is seasoned with soy sauce in the inland parts of Yamagata Prefecture. On the other hand, in Miyagi Prefecture, taro and pork are cooked and seasoned with miso. Although there are such regional differences, there are common factors that people gather around a dish cooking regional foodstuff of the season in a large pot. It is suggested that exchange and the feeling of unity are strengthened not only by eating together but also by preparing the dish together.

The bonds of family, relatives, region and community are strengthened through foods. This is one of the characteristics of WSHOKU, its social nature.

 

(Foods for regional community and festivals)

Sharing the table as a part of rite is an important occasion for people who implement the festival to reinforce the ties among them. The photo below shows the table at a festival in Osaka Prefecture. Dishes served here included a pot dish of hamo (conger pike) and matsutake mushroom, and local eggplant pickles. On the other hand, imoni-kai (photos right) held frequently in Miyagi and Yamagata Prefectures in the Tohoku region in autumn is usually held not only by the regional community but also among colleagues, relatives and friends. By all participants bringing foodstuff and preparing the dish together, the feeling of togetherness is reinforced.

Foods for regional community and festivals

Foods for regional community and festivals

 

 

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.