The bittersweet taste of Japanese words

| Aug 27, 2012

The bittersweet taste of Japanese words

A little while ago a friend of mine who’s been living in Japan for few weeks texted me in a bit of a dither, saying, “This guy I barely know said I was sweet! Is he coming on to me?” It turns out the ...

<em>Umeboshi</em>: perfect in any culinary pickle

May 25, 2012

Umeboshi: perfect in any culinary pickle

Japanese cuisine has more than its share of acquired tastes, and umeboshi are near the top of the list. Intensely sour and salty, these traditional tsukemono (pickles) are prepared over several weeks, starting in June when the fruits of the ume tree are ripe, ...

What to eat when you can't stand the heat

Apr 27, 2012

What to eat when you can't stand the heat

As the weather gets warmer, foods that are served cold and require little to no cooking become more appealing. In Japan the choice of such dishes goes way beyond a plain green salad. One of these is sashimi, a food that defines Japanese cuisine. ...

Cherry blossom captures the flavor of spring

Mar 23, 2012

Cherry blossom captures the flavor of spring

The Japanese love affair with the cherry tree and its pink, fragile sakura blossoms is world renowned. Every spring, the nation eagerly awaits for the first pink buds to appear on bare branches. The sakura zensen, or cherry-blossom opening front tracked by Japan’s meteorological ...

<em>Kōji</em> — Japan's vital hidden ingredient

Feb 24, 2012

Kōji — Japan's vital hidden ingredient

The development of Japanese cuisine owes much to the humble kōji or kōji-kin. A type of fungus or mold, it is used in all kinds of foods and beverages. It’s as important in Japan as the fungi, bacteria and yeast that give character to ...

Rice takes prized, symbolic yearend form

Dec 30, 2011

Rice takes prized, symbolic yearend form

Shōgatsu (New Year’s) is the most important holiday on the Japanese calendar, and the dishes associated with it are laden with symbolic meaning. While the colorful foods of osechi, packed attractively in jūbako (stacking bento boxes), are the flamboyant attention-catchers of the New Year’s ...

Sweet dreams of a childhood winter warmer

| Nov 25, 2011

Sweet dreams of a childhood winter warmer

The mournful chant of the ishi-yakiimo-ya or stone-roasted sweet-potato seller advertising his wares is a cherished part of the late fall and winter landscape in Japan. The sing-song chant is often accompanied by the thin, penetrating tone of a whistle, which seems to echo ...

Pig in Japan: the nation's most popular meat

| Oct 28, 2011

Pig in Japan: the nation's most popular meat

The most popular type of meat by far in Japan is pork. Nearly as much pork is consumed as chicken and beef combined. It is particularly popular in Okinawa, Kyushu, and the Kanto area. My mother was born in Saitama Prefecture in the 1940s, ...

Forage your way into mushroom season

| Sep 23, 2011

Forage your way into mushroom season

Edible mushrooms are a feature of the fall season in temperate climates worldwide, and Japan is no exception. The humid climate lends itself to the growth of all kinds of fungi, so it’s easy to assume that mushrooms (or kinoko in Japanese) of all ...