The farther west you travel from Tokyo, the sweeter and blander everything tastes.

The verdict on this phenomenon is centuries old, as the Japanese agree on this fact: 関東は辛口 関西は薄口 (Kantō wa karakuchi, Kansai wa usukuchi). One theory behind this is that the 公家 (kuge, aristocracy) in Kyoto traditionally abhorred foods with strong flavors, while the rough 武家 (buke, warrior class) in the northeast had a more robust and insensitive palate. My relatives in the Kansai area say that the food in Kanto is unbearable, especially udon noodles that are inevitably steeped in Tokyo-style 真っ黒なつゆ(makkurona tsuyu, pitch black soup).

West of Nagoya (which is miso-and-sugar territory and a whole other food culture), most everything depends on the quality of the 白だし (shiro dashi, white stock) that offsets the beauty of broiled 根菜 (konsai, root vegetables), which are said to be the soul of 和食 (washoku, Japanese food). True, Tokyo- or Kanto-style dishes are less pleasing to the eye, and tend to be different shades of 醤油 (shōyu, soy sauce) brown. Older generations of Tokyoites are said to douse everything in shōyu, and will even pour it over the classic 卵焼き (tamagoyaki, Japanese omelet), which was certainly true of my grandfather. According to a 昔の言い伝え (mukashi no ii-tsutae, old wives' tale), the 京女 (Kyō-onna, women of Kyoto), with their delicate taste buds and usukuchi cooking techniques, make the best wives for 東男 (Azuma-otoko, men of the East) — reliable husbands whose big appetites fuel 14-hour workdays.