The History and Culture of Japanese Food


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Expat dad eats his way around Tokyo

Lifting a ban on eating meats, Japan incorporated western vegetable, cooking and eating style to its food culture. After opening the country to the west in s and overcoming the food shortage during and after the World War II, Japan has evolved its food culture by incorporating various foreign influences. Tracing back the history of Japanese food, we realize Japanese people had been flexibly adapting to the changes.

Despite all these changes, having rice as the center of meal is something we have been passed down till today. Such tradition and solid framework makes us being flexible in food and Teishoku is what the tradition has evolved into. In Japan, we associated with "rice" now from the close in the Jomon period, about 3, years ago. When rice was transmitted from China, the meal of Japan changed from hunting collection to farming.

And then, rice crop generalized after the Yayoi period, approximately 2, years ago, and food culture begins to develop mainly on rice. From those days, rice was precious food and was money. We have worked hard to raise amount of production of rice. In Japan, we admired nature which brought the blessing of the meal with God and came since ancient times, and we have the mind to respect. We made various annual functions and festivals, traditions; means of the thanks of prayer and the crop of the good harvest and big catch.

We gave "Shinsen" as a votive offering to God. The mind and tradition are inherited at the present, and make the origin of the Japanese meal-style. Chopsticks and a spoon were put on the low dining table, and there were various meal manners. After s, under the influence of "the Zen" came from China, "Shojin cooking" which removed animal raw food spread out.

Noodles - Ramen

A new recipe was made, for example; add various seasonings and boil it, toss it, fry it in oil, backed by thought of quit carnivorous. It provides the highest yield per unit area of all crops cultivated in the region. It grows in summer in the high-temperature, high-precipitation monsoon belt.

Rice cultivation in paddies is a highly rational farming system in various respects. The paddy soil is covered with water during the growing period, with the result that soil disperses slowly with little loss of fertility, and fertilizers are not required because nutrients are supplied with the flow of irrigation water.

Furthermore, in contrast to most dry land farming, soil erosion is not a problem, and the same field can be used year after year with no ill effects from continuous cultivation. From the nutritional standpoint, rice is an outstanding crop not only as a source of calories, but also as a protein supply. When ric e is compared to wheat for aggregate amount of vegetable.

Yet rice outp erforms wheat in a comparison of the balance of essential amino acids , that is, in protein value. If the protein required to maintain the human body is ingested solely from rice, a person weighing 70 kilograms must eat about 0. Eating such a large quantity of rice burdens the stomach and may cause it to enlarge, yet it is possible, and it was not unusual for Japanese farmers to eat 1.

On the other hand, if bread made from wheat were to b e used a s the sole source o f protein, about three kilograms would have to be eaten in a day, and such a large amount would be so bulky as to be impossible in actual practice. Accordingly, a bread diet must be supplemented with foods such as meat and dairy products which contain large amounts of lysine and tryptophan, the essential amino acids in which wheat is deficient.

Eaten together with such rich sources of animal protein, b read becomes necessary only fo r its calorie-providing carbohydrate content, and since meat and dairy products contain high-calorie fats , it is not necessary to eat large amounts of bread. The damp climate of monsoon Asia is ill-suited to the breeding of cattle or sheep , and hence a pastoral lifestyle was not adopted.

Nor was it customary to consume milk from domestic animals. The main domestic animal raised for food was the pig. To a remarkable degree, protein was ingested from rice rather than from meat or milk. Large quantities of rice were eaten as the major source of both carbohydrates and protein, for rice alone can give the body everything it requires apart from c ertain vitamins and minerals.

Thus, if an adequate supply of rice can be guaranteed, the problem of sustenance is largely solved. That is why rice was regarded as an extraordinary foodstuff. Calculations based on national statistics for Japan in 1 - when there had as yet been virtually none of the Western influence on dietary patterns that accompanied modernization - show that ric e was the dominant source of both calories and p rotein.

Specifically, on a per capita daily basis, ric e p rovided 1 , 1 48 kilocalories, or Goto 1 1 -2]. Such thorough reliance on rice was the chief feature of the Japanese diet from the introduction of rice cultivation some two millennia ago up to the 1 s, a time of great change in eating patterns, when large amounts of meat, dairy products and fats and oils began to be eaten, and both the amount of rice consumed and its importance as a protein source began to decline.

There are two species of cultivated rice , Oryza glaberrima which originated in Africa around the Niger River and is still grown in some parts of the region, and 0. Along the east coast of China, traces of rice from about BCE were found in recent excavations at Hemudu on the southern shore of Hangzhou Bay, and this has led some Chinese scholars to assert that rice originated in China [Chen and Watabe 1 ]. In any case, there is no doubt that rice was brought from China into Japan and Korea, where wild rice sp ecies have not been found and rice farming began relatively lat e.

Many neolithic settlements that developed on the basis of rice cultivation, dating from the fourth millennium BCE onward, have been found along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River. The same sites have also yielded the bones of livestock including cattle and water buffalo , which could have been used for farm work, and also pigs. The technique of w et ric e cultivation is thought to have been perfected in the Yangtze delta area during the several centuries prior to 1 BCE , a time when stone and bronze tools were in simultaneous use.

Although rice cultivation is spreading across northern China today, thanks to the development of strains that grow in cold climates, the historical rice-growing region of China lies south of the Yellow River basin. In ancient times , the main. Stone tools of the same typ es used in the Yangtze delta area before 1 BCE have been found at southern Korean sites dating from between and 0 BCE, and at Japanese sites from the early part of the Y ayoi p eriod beginning about BCE.

They include several typ es of stone adzes, as well as stone knives that are thought to have been used to harvest rice [Ishige 1 1 50]. This leads to the supposition that rice cultivation was transmitted from the Yangtze delta to southern Korea and Japan.

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There are two theories of how this might have occurred. One is that immigrants navigated the East China Sea and settled on b o th the southern Korean Peninsula and northern Kyushu, and began growing rice in their new locations. The second theory is that ric e growing was first introduced to southern Korea, either from the Yangtze delta area or from the lower reaches of the Huai River basin somewhat further north, and was later brought to northern Kyushu as people living in Korea crossed the Korea Strait.

The tools used fo r fabrication in the early rice-growing culture of Japan were mainly stone, although bronze and iron were used for contemporary weapons, ritual implements, and handicraft tools. It has been proved that bronze and iron culture originated in northern China. The idea has been put forth that in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula there was a blending of the metal-tool culture that was spreading southward and the rice-growing culture that was spreading northward.

That would support the theory that key cultural influences reached Japan from Korea. H owever, storehouses for harvested rice that have been found at early rice growing settlements in Japan are architecturally distinctive in that they stand atop high posts. Examples of that takakura form are still in use today on islands south of Kyushu and in the Okinawa group. The same architectural form existed in the Yangtze delta in ancient times , and is found today throughout Southeast Asia, but is unknown on the Korean Peninsula.

These facts offer support for the idea that rice cultivation was introduced directly from the Yangtze delta to Japan. The arrival of rice growing in Japan doubtless was not a singular event, for rice must have been carried along with many of. There was immigration from southern Korea as well as from the Yangtze delta region, and the culture of Japan during its early rice-growing p eriod is very likely to have taken shape through the overlap and fusion of the cultures of those two regions.

Early agriculture in Japan was not limited to rice. Other crops that have been found in excavations include millet kibi , foxtail millet awa , barley, wheat, and D eccan grass ; soybeans and adzuki b eans Vigna angularis ; melons of both fruit and vegetable types; and peaches. Some of those, such as peaches and melons, are thought to have been introduced from China, whereas others such as barley, adzuki beans and buckwheat are thought to have come by way of the Korean Peninsula.

In sum, it seems that at the time of the arrival of rice growing, crops from those two regions came together in Japan to make up a discrete agricultural complex. The early agricultural era of Japan was named the Y ayoi p eriod after the Tokyo neighbourhood where archaeologists first discovered the distinctive earthenware of the period. Early Yayoi sites are concentrated in northern Kyushu , and consist of hamlets with paddies located close by. Wet ric e cultivation was soon transmitted as far as the Kansai district around present-day Osaka and Kyoto , but thereafter Y ayoi culture was static in terms of territorial expansion.

For a time , western Japan expressed the Y ayoi age while eastern Japan remained at the level of Jomon culture. It may be that Y ayoi culture, with its economic basis in rice growing, could not spread to eastern Japan until new rice varieties suited to the colder eastern climate were developed. The Jomon-period population lived mainly in the east and north, as far west as the mountainous Chubu region of central Honshu north and east of p resent-day Nagoya where the forests contained many acorn b earing trees. The western part of the archip elago , where the population was comparatively quite sparse, was on the fringes of Jomon culture.

There , where the warm climate was suitable for growing rice and there were few indigenous people who might tend to rej ect an outside culture, it was easy for a new culture to propagate. In the east, where a stable culture centred on acorn gathering was flourishing, there was very little incentive to hazard a switch to an unknown lifestyle of agriculturalism.

These dynamics. Use o f wild plants a s important foodstuffs did not cease with the beginning of Yayoi culture. Acorns have been unearthed from 1 68 Yayoi sites, while rice has been found at only 1 28 [Terasawa and Terasawa 1 98 1 : 69].


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Yet the fact that rice has not been found at a site does not necessarily mean that its inhabitants did not grow it, for grains of rice are harder to find than acorns. Moreover, Jomon style acorn gathering would have continued during the Yayoi period in order to make up for bad harvests or shortfalls in rice production. In the initial phase of rice growing, considerable risk would have been involved in relying completely on it for survival. The range of wet rice cultivation expanded as far as the northern tip of Honshu by CE 0.

A Brief History of Japanese Food – No Ramen, No Life

Yet it penetrated neither the northern island of Hokkaido nor the Ryukyu Okinawa island chain south of Kyushu, areas that retained gathering economies well b eyond the Jomon p eriod. Thus it was in the heartland of the Japanese archipelago - the islands of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu - that the Y ayoi period brought the formation of an agricultural society based on wet ric e cultivation. Meanwhile , the outlying islands inhabited by different ethnic groups - the Ainu of Hokkaido and the Okinawans of the Ryukyus - maintained lifestyles that did not rely on rice growing, and persevered along their own cultural tracks which differed from that of the Japanese mainstream.

Farm implements used in the earliest wet rice cultivation included wooden hoes and shovels. These were fabricated with stone tools, and stone knives were used to reap the ears of rice. At first, natural wetlands were utilized as paddies, but the area of natural landfo rms that could b e used fo r cultivation would have been limited, and no doubt would have sustained damage from droughts and floods with some frequency. The breakthrough from that stage of unstable agriculture, and the accomp anying rapid increase in productivity , seems to have come as iron farming tools began to spread at about the beginning of the Common Era.

With iron tools it became possible to build the storage reservoirs and canals necessary for large-scale artificial irrigation, and hence to open up fields in areas other than low-lying wetlands , leading to stable rice. Developments in agriculture were reflected in the population trend.

The p opulation of all Japan in the middle Yayoi period about CE 0 has been estimated at ,, about twice as high as the peak of the Jamon period. Such rapid increase is unparallelled throughout Japanese history, with the exception of the fivefold growth seen during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Thus the Japanese exp erience matches the pop ulation pattern observed in societies throughout the world, in which the p eaks of growth occur during the agricultural and industrial revolutions. The Yayoi p erio d was indeed the time of the agricultural revolution in Japan.

There was especially remarkable growth in western Japan, where the Yayoi population reached some twenty times the level of the Jamon p erio d. Favoured by geographical conditions that promoted the rapid adoption of rice and metal culture and the introduction of Chinese and Korean civilization, western Japan achieved a level of development surpassing that of the east. An economy based on surplus agricultural production brought the emergence of groups of specialized artisans who worked full-time at making stone and metal tools. As divisions of labour appeared, social stratification developed.

Small villages combined into larger politico religious units , and a number of chiefdoms were organized in western Japan. Acc ording to the Han Chinese chronicle that provides the earliest written mention of Japan, it comprised 1 00 small independent states during the first century BCE. The Wei zhi chronicle of the Chinese Wei kingdom records that in CE an envoy of the queen who ruled the most powerful of the chiefdoms in Japan visited the Wei court, and that a Wei envoy had visited Japan. S cholars have debated for more than a century, without resolution, the question of whether her queendom lay in northern Kyushu or around Nara, where the capitals of Yamato were situated during the later era of unification.

The Wei chronicle also notes that she acted as a shamaness and reigned with religiously styled authority over a society which was stratified into a governing clas s , the general citizenry, and slaves. The same. From it we know that among the Japanese of the third century: 'there are people who are specialized in diving into the water for fish and shellfish'; 'rice and millet are cultivated' ; 'as the climate is warm, raw vegetables are eaten in both summer and winter' ; 'they have ginger, citrus fruits, sansho p epper and myoga ginger, but do not know how to use them in cooking' ; 'at meals they eat with their fingers from a small dish with attached base'; and 'they are fond of drinking wine'.

A giant tomb was constructed on the death of that queen, according to the Chinese sourc e. By the fourth century, massive earthen tumuli were commonly constructed for the burial of the central government royalty and local chieftains , together with weap onry and personal ornaments. The Japanese term for these tumuli has become the name of the Ko fun p eriod of history, spanning the years from to The Kofun p eriod was also marked by a unified state.

A government in Yamato near present-day Nara came to hold sway in both military and civil matters over the many small local states, and the expansion of its authority furthered the process of national unification on the main islands of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. The modern Japanese imperial line is officially claimed to descend directly from the Yamato royalty.

Yamato mounted an invasion of Korea in the latter part of the fourth century and established a colony in the southern part of the p eninsula. During the fifth century the Yamato court sent several emissaries to the Chinese capital. It also intervened politically on the continent during this p eriod, a time when C hina was unstable and three Korean kingdoms were fighting for supremacy.

Meanwhile , Japan received successive waves of immigrants who were fleeing the turmoil in southern China and Korea. They brought with them the written language of China and various types of technology. By the sixth century, Japan had absorbed in large measure the mainstream civilization of East Asia. The main types of rice produced in Asia are japonica and indica. The japonica plants are shorter and flourish in cool climates.

Their grain is short and somewhat rounded and has a rather sticky texture when cooked. The indica plants , which are suited to tropical climates and do poorly in cool weather, yield a long, narrow grain that is not sticky when cooked. Indica is grown in southern China, India and much of Southeast Asia. A third typ e, javanica, with characteristics between those of the other two , predominates in Indonesia. Although excavations near the Yangtze River delta have established that both japonica and indica rice were grown there in neolithic times, only the former was transmitted to Japan.

There is no evidence that the indica type was cultivated in prehistoric Japan. It was introduced many times from the eleventh century onward, but never cultivated on a large scale. Including extinct strains, some 2 , varieties of ric e have been cultivated in Japan up to the present, and the great maj ority are the japonica typ e.

Varieties are differentiated mainly to match the environments and technical requirements of different growing areas , with taste as another important factor. The Japanese tend to think that cooked indica rice 'falls apart, lacks flavour and has a disagreeable smell', and hence rate it as inferior to japonica. When the Japanese population grew rapidly in the late nineteenth century, in the absence of efforts to increase domestic rice production, indica rice was imported from China and Southeast Asia, but it was considered food for the poor. Conversely, in areas where indica p redominates, japonica rice is considered inferior.

When Japanese businessmen stationed in Southeast Asia ask their servants to buy japonica rice at the market, the response is, 'You are rich, why should you eat tasteless rice? It is boiled in water alone and served without flavouring. In India and regions further west, rice may be eaten plain but often, after it is washed, it is sauteed in oil or flavoured with salt before boiling.

Spices, meat and vegetables may also be added for a pilaf or paella. Those styles of rice cooking are generally found in areas where dairy products are. In non-pastoral East Asia rice is usually eaten plain and, as the main protein source, it is traditionally consumed in large quantities at every meal. The customary lack of flavouring allows large quantities to be eaten more easily.

Likewise, where wheat is the main protein source, bread that is only lightly salted can be eaten in large quantities much more easily than cake. Plain ric e cooking can b e broadly classified into three methods. One method is to cook the washed rice in a large amount of water and pour some water off after it has begun to boil. If it is left to cook completely in the large amount of water, the starch will be entirely gelatinized and it will turn into a gruel.

Instead, some of the boiling water is discarded and the remainder is set over a low flame, so that part of the water is absorb ed by the rice and part evaporates as steam. Cooked rice with a non-sticky te x ture can be quickly and easily prepared by this method, although some nutrients are lost by throwing away part of the viscous water which contains dissolved elements of the rice. This method is used notably in places where indica rice predominates, including most areas of Southeast Asia and the southern and northern regions of China. Although the north of China traditionally was not a rice growing region, since ancient times it has consumed large quantities of rice brought from the Yangtze basin via the Grand Canal.

Indica rice is not very sticky, and this technique makes it still less so. A second method is to boil the rice completely without pouring some water off midway as above. When a large amount of water is used, the result is not solid grains of rice, but a runny gruel. As its water content is high, rice gruel offers prop ortionally less nutrition by volume , and since it can be swallowed without chewing, it is popularly served at breakfast when the appetite is not so strong.

Rice gruel was the customary breakfast of city dwellers in the rice-growing regions of China and of the Korean upper class. Chinese farmers normally eat granular cooked rice fo r breakfast because rice gruel is thought to provide insufficient energy for heavy labour. Until recently in parts of western Japan the customary breakfast, even for farm workers, was tea gruel chagayu made by boiling rice in water with salt and a cloth bag of low-grade green tea. Tea gruel was a means for economizing on rice, by using the.

In general, the Japanese view rice gruel as food for the ill, because it is easily digestible. Alternatively, the quantity of water may be precisely adjusted to match the amount of rice, so that the rice absorbs it all and is cooked into soft solid grains. For that purpose, it is necessary not only to set the proportions of rice and water, but also to regulate the heat properly.

For japonica rice the standard measure is 1. C e rtain varieties have slightly different requirements. The rice should cook over high heat during the first stage when water is circulating in the pot and gelatinizing the starch content, and the heat should be reduced to avoid scorching during the latter stage when most of the water has been absorbed by the rice.

This complex technique is considered the best way to cook japonica rice to the sticky texture that is preferred in Japan. It is also used in the Philippines, Korea, and the Yangtze River basin. The third way to cook ric e is by steaming, in order to prepare glutinous ric e. Both the indica and japonica types of rice include glutinous varieties which contain a different sort of starch than non-glutinous rice. When glutinous rice is heated after absorbing water, the starch quickly becomes pasty.

If it is cooked in a pot, the bottom portion of the rice that receives the heat first turns pasty and sticks fast together. That hinders convection, preventing the rice grains from circulating with the water and limiting the amount of heat they receive, and the result is a layer of scorched rice on the bottom of the pot with half-cooked rice above. Therefore glutinous rice is always cooked in a rice steamer, after first being soaked in water until an appropriate amount is absorbed. In Japan and other places, glutinous rice is generally eaten not as a daily food but on sp ecial occasions , after being processed into a cake form.

Glutinous rice cooked in a steamer serves as the daily staple in the northern-Indochina region that spans the Shan State in Burma, north and northeast Thailand, Laos, and tribal areas of Yunnan in China. Archaeologists think the second method of rice cooking was used in Japan during the Y ayoi p eriod.

Various examples of Yayoi. From the Kofun period, however, the remains of home sites from the fifth century onward include many steamers made of hard earthenware.

An eighth century poet described an impoverished life with lines to this effect: 'Cobwebs fill the steamer I Cooking rice has been forgotten. Yet from the thirteenth century to the present, the Japanese have customarily boiled their rice by the second method. What are we to make of this? A simple explanation could be that glutinous rice was introduced around the fifth c entury and as it became the standard, steamer cooking became the rule ; then in the thirteenth century non-glutinous rice once again became the common staple.

O r it may be that both normal and glutinous rice were eaten in Japan from the start, and until the technique fo r making hard earthenware was brought in from Korea, glutinous rice was cooked in wooden steamers like those used today in Indochina, which were placed over earthen pots filled with water, but the wooden material rotted away and left no trace for archaeologists.

Prehistoric rice has been found in charcoal state, but since it is difficult to analyze the starch scientifically, it has not been convincingly identified as glutinous or non-glutinous rice. Significantly, it is glutinous rice that is prepared for traditional festivals and annual events. Considering that ancient customs which have disappeared from modern daily life are temporarily revived at festival times, as ceremonies in general have the character of reduplicating and reproducing times past, it seems reasonable to interpret the ritual meals as vestiges of a former diet of glutinous rice.

When ric e is steamed together with adzuki b eans it takes on a reddish tint, and crimson glutinous rice is eaten during ceremonies and on festive occasions. As in China and Korea, the colour that symbolizes festivity is red. B rown ric e is popular nowadays among those who follow the natural foods movement, in Japan as well as in Europe and America. Brown rice is ric e from which only the hull has been removed, with little or no further p olishing.

Polishing the rice removes the outer, darkish bran layer which i s rich in vitamin B 1 , and makes the ric e pure white. I n former times the supplementary. Well-polished rice was considered tastier, and thus tended to be eaten by wealthy p eople from the higher classes, and in the city as opposed to the countryside. Recorded cases of beriberi became numerous from the latter part of the seventeenth century, when population concentrations built up in large cities. For a time beriberi was known as 'the Edo sickness' Edo is the old name for Tokyo , and was said to be cured by leaving the city for the countryside.

Various historical documents provide evidence that unpolished rice had been popularly consumed up to the seventeenth century, and that white rice then became the common staple. Proponents of brown rice make much of the idea that the Japanese of the ancient and medieval ages did not suffer from beriberi because they regularly ate unpolished rice , and many food historians agree. Yet there is no Asian nation where genuinely unpolished rice is traditionally eaten at daily meals. The genuine brown rice that is currently sold in health food stores, with only the hull removed and the seedcase intact, must be soaked for about 20 hours before it is cooked, and must cook for a long time at a higher energy cost, and hence the issue of economic efficiency would suggest that unpolished rice was not eaten on a daily basis before the time of modern pressure cookers.

In addition, the results of exp eriments show that the body's rate of digestion for unpolished ric e is remarkably poor. With the diffusion of new hulling tools in the latter part of the seventeenth century, it became possible to remove only the hull and leave the bran on the rice, producing what is known today as brown rice. Previously the hull had been removed from the rice grains by placing them in a wooden mortar and pounding them with a long-handled wooden mallet, in much the same way as can be seen today in rural Southeast Asia.

That method took off not only the hull but also a portion of the rice bran, and the product was not true unpolished rice. In other words, the same process served both to hull and to polish the rice.

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White rice from which the bran has been completely removed amounts to about 90 per cent of the original rice quantity, while removing the hull with a mallet yields. Such was the actual nature of unpolished rice up to the late seventeenth c entury. Compared to white ric e , it was darker coloured and slightly inferior in taste , it prevented b eriberi because some of the vitamin B 1 remained, and its water absorption rate was high enough to allow it to cook in a short time.

I t is incorrect to think that the Japanese of old ate the sort of unpolished rice that is sold in health food stores today. Fermenting agents such as yeast convert sugar into alcohol. Many kinds of fermenting agents are found in nature, and alcoholic drink can be primitively brewed from any material with high sugar content. The simplest brewing methods use liquids with high sugar concentration as the basic ingredients, such as honey for mead, sap for palm wine, and sweet juicy fruits like the grape for fruit wine.

K e t t l e - s hap e d e a r t h e nware v e s s el s w i t h i n t r i c a t e ornamentation which have b e e n discovered a t late Jamon-period sites are believed by many archaeologists to have been used as containers for alcoholic drinks made from fruit. Whether or not there were alcoholic drinks in Jamon times is very difficult to prove. Among the wild plants found at Jamon sites , the candidates fo r ingredients of fruit wine would be wild grape Vi tis coignetiae , pap er mulberry Bro ussonetia papyrifeta , and dockmackie Viburnum dilatatum , yet it is impossible to establish whether they were indeed processed into wine.

In European climates where the temperature falls rapidly in the autumn, the sugar that is stored up in the fruit during the summer does not significantly deteriorate before harvest time , but in Japan where the temp erature drops slowly in the autumn, the sugar changes into various types of acid and becomes unsuitable for producing fruit win e. Thus the environmental conditions in Japan are unfavourable for making fruit wine.

All of the documentary sources for Japanese history point to the conclusion that Japan had no tradition of b rewing with fermented fruit before the latter part of the nineteenth century when winemaking techniques were imported from Europe. Mulberry, persimmon, myrica and apricot wines are all mentioned in various.

In China and Korea as well as Japan, there are no historical documents that refer to the making of authentic frui t wine, sap wine, or mead. This would suggest that in Jamon times alcoholic drinks either did not exist, or at best were of low alcohol and high acidity. The general pattern throughout the world is that brewing techniques develop in agricultural societies but are lacking in hunter-gatherer societies, and this too casts doubt on the existence of alcohol in Jomon society.

To make liquor from grain or other starchy foods , the enzyme action of a substance such as malt or saliva must be used to change starch to sugar. When a very starchy food is chewed, either raw or after heating, diastatic enzymes in the saliva break down the starch into sugar.

In this most primitive style of making alcohol from starch, the chewed mash is then spit out together with saliva, put in a container and fermented through the action of wild yeast. Liquor was made from chewed mash in Central and South America, including chicha beer made from maize or manioc, and in East and Southeast Asia.

According to Chinese historical chronicles, liquor was made from chewed rice during the seventh century by the p eople of Primorsky Krai the Siberian coastal region nearest to Korea and Japan , during the tenth century by minority groups of southern C hina, and during the Ming era 1 3 6 8 - 1 in Cambodia.

Chewed-mash liquor survived up to the early twentieth century in Taiwan, where it was made by aboriginal peoples from their staple millet as well as from rice , and in the nearby mainland Chinese province of Fuj ian [Kato 1 : 1 7]. One of the oldest cultural geographies fadoki of Japan, compiled in the early part of the eighth century, tells us that at the southern end of Kyushu : 'Water and rice are prepared at one house in the village, the entire village is notified, and men and women gather there to chew the rice and spit it into a container for making liquor, and then return home.

When it starts to smell like alcohol, they gather there again to drink it. I n Japan, the custom of producing chewed-mash liquor survived until relatively recently in southern Kyushu and also existed in the Okinawa islands and among the Ainu of Hokkaido. The Ainu and Okinawans p repared chewed-mash liquor for special festival ceremonies, and only women chewed the rice.

Malt is the agent that is typically used in Europe and Africa to convert starch to sugar in making alcohol, as in beer brewing. What is generally used in East Asia is a fermentation starter that is made by placing spores of koji mould on a grain base. The mould propagates throughout the mash in the same way that leavening yeast p ermeates bread dough , working best when kept at certain temp erature and humidity levels as it saccharifies the starc h. Techniques of koji fermentation evolved in t h e damp climate o f monsoon Asia where moulds grow easily, and are found from Assam eastward.

They are particularly well developed in China, Korea and Japan, where koji is used to brew not only alcohol but also the ubiquitous soy sauce and miso fermented soy paste , the essential flavourings ofJapanese cuisine. There is a record of a fifth-century immigrant from southern Korea named Susukori who knew how to brew alcohol and presented drink to the Japanese emp eror. It has been said that the Japanese made only chewed-mash alcohol until Susukori introduced koji fermentation, but this is an erroneous interpretation.

Alcohol was being b rewed with koji in China around the time that rice cultivation was brought t o Japan. It is only natural to conclude that brewed sake, which stands with the staple of boiled rice as one of the main forms of processed rice, was introduced to our country along with wet rice cultivation, and that koji was used to brew alcohol during the Y ayoi p eriod. There are many methods of brewing alcohol with koji, and some 1 5 types of sake were made at the Japanese court in the tenth century [Kato 1 98 7 : 03].

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What Susukori brought from Korea was one variation of the technique of koji brewing. When koji is grown on a starchy substance, the type of molded mash that is created varies according to the type and form of the base substance, the p resence or absenc e of heat, and the environmental conditions.

For the next years, meat was officially forbidden to the Japanese people,. Then in the sixteenth century the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch, came looking to corner the trade market with Japan. The westerners introduced fried foods, which is why the breaded, fried tempura seem so very un-Japanese; while the Japanese enjoyed this type of cooking, it was not something that evolved naturally.

Tobacco, sugar and corn were also brought by the traders. The main religions of Buddhism and Shinto emphasize the seasons and this came to be reflected in the foods served. In fact, it is because of Buddhism that meals feature five flavors and colors, respectively being: sweet, spicy, salty, bitter and sour; and yellow, black, white, green, and red. US Commodore Perry forced the Japanese to renew trade with the West in , and soon a new Japanese ruling order took power.

I f we asked you to think of one Japanese food, what comes to your mind? A nyway, like all other cuisines, Japanese food is a product of the culture that produced it. F rom the snow-capped mountains of northern Hokkaido to the sandy shores of Okinawa, there lies some distinctive differences in diet and cooking styles between the regions of Japan. On top of all the high mountains and oceans which divided up the country, the difference of abundant product within each region helped to devolop the contrast as well. Despite the differences, though, there lies a common ground.

As you may already know, Japan is an island country. With the climate perfect for growing good crops of rice, the Japanese diet consists of rice as the staple food, with fish and veggies forming the nucleus of the side dishes. The meals are carried out 3 times a day, with the basic style including rice, a bowl ofsoup sui-mono and two or three side dishes, and the sipping of green tea at the end of the meal. Whatever dish you make, never kill the natural flavor of the ingredients.

The ingredients must be in harmony together to make one dish; the dish in harmony with other dishes to make a meal.

The History and Culture of Japanese Food The History and Culture of Japanese Food
The History and Culture of Japanese Food The History and Culture of Japanese Food
The History and Culture of Japanese Food The History and Culture of Japanese Food
The History and Culture of Japanese Food The History and Culture of Japanese Food
The History and Culture of Japanese Food The History and Culture of Japanese Food
The History and Culture of Japanese Food The History and Culture of Japanese Food
The History and Culture of Japanese Food The History and Culture of Japanese Food
The History and Culture of Japanese Food The History and Culture of Japanese Food
The History and Culture of Japanese Food

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