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Japanese Cuisine, and Culinary Influences

Updated on June 28, 2011

Japanese Cuisine

Japanese cuisine has historically been influenced by the Chinese culture, and often filtered through Korea. It has a strong connection to the sea and fishing cultures as well, yet maintains its own cultural and aesthetic identity. Japan as a nation was virtually closed off to the rest of the world until the mid nineteenth century.

There are many culinary influences that helped to create the Japanese cuisine we see today. It has been transformed for centuries.

Sushi and Sashimi

We see a very strong preference for seafood, especially raw seafood known as sushi and sashimi. Fish that is considered sushi quality has been frozen solid to kill off any worms or bacteria.  This takes me back to when I first had the chance to try sushi, and my initial concern was the safety, and it being free of bacteria.  So I was happy to learn that it was taken care of, and not an issue.  Anyway, after freezing, and then thawing it is very precisely sliced. There are sea vegetables often used, such as wakame or konbu and processed agar agar. You will find these used in salads or added to soups and stir fries.

Sashimi from Japan
Sashimi from Japan

Some of the influences on Japan's cuisine

Vegetarian Buddhist monks had significant influence on the Japanese cuisine, as did Imperial court cooking that centered around Kyoto's old capital.  Kaiseki cuisine  developed from ritualized tea ceremonies which showcases elaborate bite sized items. 

Sixteenth century Portuguese brought techniques like tempura, which is wheat flour dredged and deep fried items.  

Europeans may have had some of the influence of the beef we see in Japanese cuisine, which is relatively new to them.  Japanese noodles have been influenced by the Chinese as a general rule. 

Aesthetics in Japanese Cuisine

When we speak of aesthetics in Japanese cuisine, we aren't meaning just the artful presentation of food. It is an expression of an aesthetic system that is called wabi sabi. It is kind of difficult to understand when you don't have a set Japanese value system in place. It is rooted in Zen Buddhism which has been a steady world view despite outside influences.

Wabi Sabi permeates Japanese life, and expresses itself in rock gardens, to poetry, to tea ceremonies, to food preparation. In other words, no Japanese items would be presented without consideration on its appearance and its effect on the whole meal.

There are many examples, for instance seasonal times of the year, you will see leaves for plates or platters, that are in line with the current season.  It would be like me serving a dish on a maple leaf, during the fall season in the United States. 

Some top herbs and vegetable used in Japanese Cuisine

There are a lot of flavors and ingredients that go into Japanese Cuisine, but here are a few top ones that stand out.  This list is not exhaustive, but a place to start. 

Shiso or Perila

Japanese Cucumbers

Mitsuba

Gobu or Burdock Root

Daikon or Radish Sprouts

Kabocha or Japanese Squash

Green Onions

Shishito Chile Peppers

Japanese Eggplants, or Aubergines

Japanese Greens

Small Japanese Turnips

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    • profile image

      ANNA 

      5 years ago

      COOL

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Oh me too. Experiencing Japan would be great, and to taste the food while there would be tops.

    • PhoenixV profile image

      PhoenixV 

      7 years ago from USA

      I would love to go to Japan and try the food.

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      8 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hi Judy, thank you very much. I am probably the same, in that I love the seafood and shellfish the most as well.

    • judydianne profile image

      judydianne 

      8 years ago from Palm Harbor, FL

      I enjoy the seafood and shellfish the most of Japanese cuisine. Good research on this topic.

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      8 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hi Steph, I think those are considered more Americanized Sushi Rolls, than Japanese cuisine. That is their influence though, and they are yummy! Thank you for your comment, and coming by.

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      8 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hi Dkrainwater, thanks for your comment, and stopping by! I think its very healthy, and tastes good.

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      8 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hey there 21, thanks a lot for your comment and reading my hub

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Question - are "California rolls" considered Japanese cuisine, or an Americanized version of sushi?

    • dkrainwater profile image

      dkrainwater 

      8 years ago from Sheridan, Wyoming

      Had a great trip to Hawaii and found that Japanese cusine is great and healthy for you to. Great hub.

    • profile image

      Twenty One Days 

      8 years ago

      Kaiseki -this was the origin of the use of the two techniques or sushi (maki w/ vinegar rice) and sashimi (plain rice). Good stuff O.S. Kanji! (peace & happiness) -James

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