Food Culture and Tradition

Food, People and Culture Resources

Foods Commonly Used in Japan


The staples of the traditional Japanese diet are rice, fish and seafood, vegetables and tea. Although some meats were taken occasionally as medicine, and records show that the people often hunted and ate wild animals, it was not until the American diplomat Townsend Harris’s visit to Japan in 1856 that beef was considered a food. After Emperor Meiji’s enjoyment of beef became widely known, its popularity, together with that of pork and chicken, rose steadily. Today most main dishes are combinations of vegetables with meat or seafood. Fruits in season are the usual desserts.

While the Japanese have borrowed from the foods and cookery techniques of Korea and China, there is no other cuisine in the world that can match the delicate artistry of the Japanese table. The Japanese cook is the artist, food the medium, and the table its frame. The subtle influence of both Buddhism and Shintoism are felt and expressed in the simplicity and oneness with nature so evident not only in the food and its arrangement, but also in the garnishes, eye-appealing combinations, and unmasked natural flavors all served in small appealing portions.

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