Rice: The Essence Of Japanese Food Culture

Posted: Dec 03, 2017

The story of Japan and its history can be told using only their food. Japanese food culture is extremely rich and ingrained in society because of its prevalence in Japan’s religious beliefs and the nation’s meticulous and precise nature. Specifically, rice is the essence of all Japanese food culture, and its importance in Japan’s daily life is perennial.

In history, rice has played an important defining role in Japanese culture. Shintoism, for example, revolves around rice growing and rice products such as mochi and sake. Rice was also used as currency in trading and as payment for samurais. The wealth of a lord or family could also be represented by how much rice they had.

Japan’s culture is closely linked to nature, which is also how rice fits into defining the morals and structure of Japan through society, family, and community. In Japanese food culture, everything has a specific meaning, feeling, and symbolism. Like the changing seasons, Japan’s food culture relies heavily on shun, or the seasonality of ingredients.

Gohan in Japanese means cooked rice or meal. No traditional Japanese meal is complete without a bowl of rice, pickles, and soup. Just as bread is a staple of Western cuisine, Japanese cuisine requires rice to round out the other flavors and provide a blank but fragrant canvas for other accompanying dishes. Local Japanese rice is usually short grained and fatter, making it easier to stick together.

Although Japan also imports a lot of their rice, there are many different regions in Japan that produce top quality rice, which is also used to brew sake. Planting rice and harvesting season are celebrated events in Japan. During New Years, pounding mochigome, a special kind of rice for making sake, is widely popular.

Japan’s current food culture is more globalized with the prevalence and convenience of fast food and Western cuisine, but rice remains constant. In addition to the popularity of rice snacks in Japan, rice is still a large part of everyday life from obento to kaiseki. And with Japan’s emphasis on heritage and tradition, it will remain a staple in Japanese identity.

By Sundays Grocery  December 02, 2017 Source: Daily Digest

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