Ceramics a wonder that connects us to miracle of nature and life itself

“Watch the wheel spin and the earth together in my hands will manifest a vessel that serves and nurtures me as well give me poetic senses of being in the now.  Bring wonder and joy to those who can see and feel with gratitude  wonder and appreciation”

Pottery can evoke a most zen like experiences and the silence and presence is deeply meditatieve. I often sit in the presence of such miraculous fine vessels and feel a sense of Sen-no Riyku.

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“this wonderful Shino tea bowl from around 1600 is known as Furisode”

“Though many people drink tea, if you do not know the Way of Tea, tea will drink you up.”Ceramics hold much poetic presence and beauty and no wonder the Japanese culture holds such a high regard for this unique art form. Not only have we got such long historic relations with pottery. 


A great part of the history of pottery is prehistoric, part of past pre-literate cultures. Therefore, much of this history can only be found among the artefacts of archaeology. Because pottery is so durable, pottery and sherds from pottery survive from millennia at archaeological sites.

  • The oldest known pottery is from China and dates to 20,000 BC, at the height of the ice age, long before the beginnings of agriculture.

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The Japanese ceramic tradition is arguably the finest in the world. With influences from China, Korea and the West, a talented lineage of artists and artisans, an adoring collecting public, and a food tradition that places utmost importance on tableware, it’s only natural.

In the late 16th century, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of the most famous military leaders in Japan’s history, coveted ceramics so fiercely that he kidnapped Korean potters and brought them to Japan during what are now referred to as “The Pottery Wars?” These Korean potters were sent to the many fiefdoms to train Japanese potters, where their influence can be seen to this day. Korean pottery, especially humble ware made for daily use, was valued because it exemplified the Japanese aesthetic of “wabi sabi”.

Hideyoshi might have been a brave and brilliant military man, but in the world of tea, he was but a student. His tea master, Sen-no Riyku, who originated wabi tea, commissioned wabi sabi tea bowls, mostly in the raku (unglazed, low fired) technique. These bowls, made by the Korean master potterChojiro, are so brilliant – capturing the essence of “the way of tea” so perfectly – that potters through the centuries strive to come even close to their spirit.

Sen-no Riyku believed that the way of tea should be spread to the masses. Because of his influence over Hideyoshi, he had substantial power over the aesthetic lives of the powerful elite, and his ideas helped shaped the vision we know today as Japanese art – and by extension – its very culture.

In this atmosphere of enlightened creativity, innovation flourished. Tea master and potter Furuta Oribe created boldly misshapen forms freely painted with brown motifs and dipped in green glaze, founding the Oribe style that continues to be popular to this day. This period marked a turning point in Japanese ceramics, where local Japanese pottery was increasingly preferred over imported ware.

By the late 17th century, as the Japanese aesthetic renaissance was in full bloom, Ogata Kenzan, the most revered potter in Japan’s history, started his ceramic studio in Narutaki, outside of Kyoto. He soon moved his studio to central Kyoto, where he prospered. The brother of the famous Rimpa artistOgata Korin, he created Japanese versions of classic imported ceramics by adding freely painted decorative motifs and patterns from paintings, fans and lacquerware. Inspired by his brother’s paintings (in fact, Korin often designed his brother’s tea bowls) each piece is complete in itself, yet comes alive when food is placed artfully on it.

With the opening of Japan to the West and the ensuing Meiji era (1868-1915), Japanese ceramics, being handmade and imperfect, fell out of favor in a world that was rapidly modernizing. Some Japanese households a Western style, favoring tables and chairs to traditional dining. This led to a rise in Western ceramics such as china, which at first had to be imported.

In the meantime, potters throughout Japan who were producing everyday dishes had a hard time making a living, and many gave up and turned to farming and other careers. Japan’s rich ceramic tradition was in danger of vanishing.

In the 1920s, influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement in England and by the writings of William Morris, Yanagi Soetsu, a collector of folk pottery and art, strove to reverse this trend. He and potters Kawai Kanjiro and Hamada Shoji formed the Mingei movement (a term that Soetsu invented-) which means “art of the people”. His book The Unknown Craftsman, which celebrates humble, anonymous folk pottery, is considered a classic to this day.

Thanks to the Mingei movement, which was perfectly timed to coincide with a return of interest in Japanese aesthetics in the nationalistic Taisho era, Japanese pottery traditions were once again revived, and the public learned to appreciate folk pottery.

Japan now supports a healthy ceramics industry. Not only are potters of famous lineages selling enough to make a living; there are also independent young potters who have struck out on their own, driven only by their talent and creativity.

(Wikipedia and Savory Japan)

Banquets Against Boredom: Towards Understanding (Samurai) Cuisine in Early Modern Japan

Early modern japan was around (ca. late 16th to late 19th century) The period spanned roughly 250 years extending from the 17th century through half of the 19th century. Politically, this generally corresponds with the Edo period.

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 21.01.12Edo-period samurai

During the Edo period only samurai were allowed to carry weapons, life was ordered according to strict Confucian principals of duty and family loyalty, and people were restricted to their villages and only allowed to leave on special holidays or to visit special shrines.

There were also rigid caste-like rules that defined what people could wear eat and eat. Social status was defined by birth and social mobility was prohibited. The result of all this was peace, stability and flourishing of sanctioned arts such as kabuki, haiku poetry, ceramics, lacquerware, painting and weaving but little freedom.

People were told the size and kind of house they could live in, based on class and rank more than wealth. Farmers, no matter how rich, could not have grander homes than low-ranking samurai who often owed money to the farmers.

The Tokugawa passed a strict dress code, forbidding merchants from wearing embroidered silk, to cub inflationary spending and keep a lid on social pretension. People were told the designs and materials to use for their the clothes they wore and objects the used. There were even rules that designated the food people ate and the dates when people were supposed to change from their winter clothes to their summer clothes. Even horses needed identity cards to move around.

There was little tolerance for criminals and lawbreakers.

EARLY MODERN JAPAN 2008 by Eric C. Rath

“The pleasures of the table belong to all times and all ages, to every country and
every day; they go hand in hand with all our
other pleasures, outlast them, and remain to
console us for their loss.”
—Jean-Antheleme Brillat-Savarin,
The Physiology of Taste2

Recent definitions of “Japanese cuisine”
designate it as a modern category and imply that
there was nothing similar in the early modern
period (1600–1868), but is that necessarily the
case? Certainly the words for Japanese cuisine
(washoku, Nihon ryōri) are no older than the
Meiji period (1868–1912), appearing during a
time of rapid modernization as a response to new
notions of national identity, political cohesion,
and as a way to differentiate native cooking
practices from newly introduced foreign ones.3
According to culinary historian Katarzyna
Cwiertka, what became “Japanese cuisine” grew
out of a fusion of native and imported
The author appreciates the comments provided
by Morgan Pitelka, Phil Brown and the
anonymous readers on an earlier draft of this
manuscript called “The Sole of the Samurai:
Warrior Diet and Cuisine in Premodern Japan.”
Jean-Antheleme Brillat-Savarin, The
Physiology of Taste, trans. by Anne Drayton
(New York and London: Penguin Books, 1970),
p. 13.
Words referencing regional cuisines, such as
Kyō ryōri, the famous local cuisine of Kyoto, are
also modern, coined to establish a contrast with
the category of national cuisine in the same
period. Murai Yasuhiko, ed., Kyō ryōri no
rekishi, vol. 4 of Shiriizu shokubunka no hakken
(Shibata shoten, 1979), p. v.
ingredients and methods of cooking that
signified “an imagined national identity and
cultural homogeneity” lacking in the early
modern period.4
From this standpoint, “cuisine”
in early modern Japan can only be defined in
negative terms by what was absent. Cwiertka,
while recognizing a “differentiated gastronomy”
in urban areas, nevertheless describes diet in the
early modern period as “austere” and
monotonous—in other words boring—in contrast
to the variety of foods available in Japan today, a
view echoed by other culinary historians.5
But before we dismiss cuisine in early
modern Japan entirely it might be useful to think
more about other meanings of the term besides
inextricably linking it with modernity. Another
approach to cuisine is to put aside references to
traits that would have been anachronistic for the
early modern period and look for other ways that
cooking and eating generated meanings. Even by
Cwiertka’s definition it is not just cooking
techniques and ingredients that designate a
cuisine, it is also about the ability of foods to
evoke cultural meanings like national identity.
Examining the foodways of early modern Japan
to fully explore this definition of cuisine is
beyond the scope of this article, but sampling
even one meal exemplifying the banqueting
customs of elite samurai suggests evidence of a
sophisticated system of culinary rules used to
transform foods into “message bearing objects.”6
Ordinary diet for samurai of all ranks from
shogun to footmen (ashigaru) was indeed boring
in contrast to the modern Japanese diet as the
second part of this article recounts, but banquets
allowed elite warriors such as daimyo and
shoguns to partake in a highly refined culinary
experience in which the symbolic meanings of
the dishes provided a rich subtext for the dining
Katarzyna, J. Cwiertka, Modern Japanese
Cuisine: Food, Power and National Identity
(London: Reaktion Books, 2006), p. 12.
5 Cwiertka, p. 95; see, for example, see Naomichi Ishige, The History and Culture of Japanese
Food (London, New York: Kegan Paul, 2001), p.
Sidney W. Mintz, Sweetness and Power: The
Place of Sugar in Modern History (New York:
Viking, 1985), p. 89.
experience. These dishes may not have
referenced an imagined national identity but they
did evoke other culinary meanings important to
their consumers.
This was the case on the eighteenth day of
the fourth month in 1630 when Shogun
Tokugawa Iemitsu (1604–1651) visited the
mansion of the Shimazu daimyo house in Edo.
The style of eating, the foods served, and the
manner of the visit itself resonated in wider
cultural traditions known for centuries among
elite warriors that gradually disseminated to
other social groups in the Edo period through
published culinary books (ryōribon). The
Shimazu offered a menu that not only contained
many rare delicacies and bespoke of great luxury
and high status, it also referenced Buddhism,
five agent theory (gogyō), and Chinese legends;
it evoked connections to the Ashikaga shoguns
of the Muromachi period (1336–1573), and even
demonstrated a degree of playfulness. This menu
illustrates how cuisine can be defined without
reference to nationalism as sociologist Priscilla
Clark stated in the context of her research on
early modern France: “cuisine is food
transcended, nature transformed in a social
product, an aesthetic artifact, and linguistic
creation, a cultural tradition.”7
Cuisine, in other
words, carries special artistic and cultural
meanings that differentiate it from mundane acts
of food creation and consumption. We can best
understand how cuisine in early modern Japan
functioned in this way by interpreting the 1630
banquet in reference to culinary manuscripts
(ryōrisho), created by and for the class of chefs
called hōchōnin responsible for creating these
types of banquets for samurai, along with
published culinary writings (ryōribon) written by
hōchōnin and other authors. Doing so will allow
us to define cuisine in the early modern period
provisionally as a repertoire of techniques to
enable food to take on special meanings
distinguished from ordinary acts of consumption
and significant to participants in important
Priscilla P. Clark, “Thoughts for Food I: French
Cuisine and French Culture,” The French Review
49.1 (1975): 32–41, p. 32.
Iemitsu’s Visitation to the Shimazu
Following centuries-old customs, on the
eighteenth day of the fourth month of 1630, the
daimyo of Satsuma domain, Shimazu Iehisa
(1576–1638), hosted a visit by Shogun Iemitsu in
the Satsuma mansion in Edo, entertaining him
with a tea ceremony, a banquet, noh theater, and
music from the Ryūkyū Islands. The chef
(hōchōnin) responsible for creating this banquet,
Ishihara Sadomori (d. 1648), recorded the event
and a subsequent visit three days later by the
retired shogun Tokugawa Hidetada (1579–1632)
in Record of the Shogunal Tea Ceremony and
Visitation (Osuki onari no ki).9
The menu for
both of these visits was almost identical and both
followed the custom of shogunal visitations
(onari) that began in the Kamakura period and
crystallized in the Muromachi era when the
shogun formally visited his chief retainers and
prominent Buddhist temples by invitation or
annually. Visitations in the Muromachi period
lasted from the early afternoon around 2:30 PM
and ended in the mid-morning the next day
around 10:00 AM. They began with a meeting
between the host and guest in a private room
decorated in the shinden style of the mansions of
Heian-period aristocrats. The host greeted the
guest with a special drinking ceremony called
the “three formal rounds of drinks” (shikisankon)
described below. After that the host and the
shogun exchanged gifts such as swords and
saddles.10 Then the group retired to a larger
“public” room (kaisho) for a banquet. Typically
alcohol was served before the banquet for the
shikisankon but not during it. However, further
rounds of drinking followed the meal along with
the exchange of more presents such as swords,
For a more extensive discussion of cuisine in
early modern Japan, see Eric C. Rath, Food and
Fantasy in Early Modern Japan (forthcoming).
The culinary customs of the Shimazu house are
well documented by Ego Michiko, Daimyō no
kurashi to shoku (Dōseisha, 2002); her
description of Iemitsu’s 1630 visitation appears
on pp. 10–15, with the menu itself on pp. 11–13.
10 Kumakura Isao, Nihon ryōri bunkashi: kaiseki
o chūshin ni (Kyoto: Jinbun shoin, 2002), p. 156.
imported artifacts, and robes. After a rest and
perhaps a bowl of tea, the shogun returned to the
main room to enjoy noh plays and other
entertainments accompanied with even more
eating and drinking. 11 Thus visitations were
highly structured events providing the shogun a
chance to demonstrate his authority and giving
the daimyo the task of showing their fealty
through their lavish entertainments. The personal
bond between hosts and guests would
presumably be strengthened by the visit. The
retainer may have gained some cultural and
political capital but at the expense of hosting a
costly event.
Tea ceremonies became more prominent
aspects of shogunal visitations in the Edo period
and Iemitsu’s visit to the Shimazu began in the
morning with one featuring its own elaborate
meal. 12 The meal accompanying the tea
ceremony consisted of two trays of food with
additional snacks to be passed around:
Tea ceremony Menu (osukiya gokaiseki)
[First Tray]
Sea bream and bonito (yorigatsuo) flavored
in sake (sakabite) [served with] kumquat
Soup of crane, burdock root, and preserved
matsutake mushrooms (tsukematsutake)
Skylark (hibari) [cooked] in dark soy sauce
Second Tray
Grey-headed lapwing (keri) grilled with salt,
Japanese pepper (sanshō),
and “small greens” (kona)
Fish-paste loaf (kamaboko)
Additional Tray [ohikimono]
Grilled sweet-fish
Soup (oatsumono) of sea bream roe, squid,
mashed tofu flavored with yam and fish
11 Satō Toyozō, “Shōgun no onari to cha no yu,”
in Buke chadō no keifu, ed. Bukeshi dankai
(Perikansha, 1983, pp. 156–77), p. 159.
12 Harada Nobuo, Edo no ryōrishi: ryōribon to
ryōri bunka (Chūō kōronsha, 1989), p. 6
Shōgan no hibo seaweed (nori)
Snacks (osakana)
Tilefish (okitsudai)
Grilled mollusks
Salted dried mullet roe (karasumi)
Sweets (okashi)
Rice cake in a twisted shape (yorimizu)
Persimmons served on a branch
Colored potato (irozuke imo)
[Served with a] toothpick (yōji)
The overall message of this tea menu was
luxury indicative of the elaborate style of
“daimyo tea” not the restrained wabi style of the
adherents of Sen no Rikyū (1522–1591). Rikyū’s
tea meals can be characterized by their structure
of a single soup and three side dishes (ichijū
sansai), but in this case there were two trays with
four side dishes (nijū yonsai) not including the
pickles and another tray with grilled sweetfish on
it.15 Rather than a single meal, Iemitsu’s tea
menu can be thought of as a program of meals in
three stages: the first three trays were served
simultaneously as stage one while the additional
soup (atsumono) and snacks (sakana) were
served later as an accompaniment to sake in the
second stage, later followed by the sweets served
before the tea as a final stage. Another
distinction of this menu was the predominance of
meat dishes, which ran counter to trends in
Rikyū’s wabi style that tended toward vegetarian
meals.16 The dishes served here were also grand
and included freshwater fish, seafood, and game
fowl as well as mullet roe (karasumi) considered
one of the three “superlative delicacies” in the
Edo period.17
By modern standards the sweets (okashi)
served to Iemitsu would not be particularly sweet
compared to those available today since they did
not use much if any sugar, but they did hold
13 Shōgan no hibo, written as shōkan no hiho
here, is a type of seaweed, probably served
grilled as a snack.
14 Ego, pp. 11–12.
15 Kumakura 2002, pp. 27, 29.
16 Harada 1989, p. 17.
17 Richard Hosking, A Dictionary of Japanese
Food: Ingredients and Culture (Rutland, Vt.: C.
E. Tuttle Co., 1996), p. 73.
other significance for the banquet participants.
Despite the Satsuma domain’s dominance of the
sugar trade with the Ryūkyū Islands since their
invasion of those islands in 1609, here the sweets
served remained true to the original definition of
the Japanese word (kashi), meaning fruit. Sugary
sweets, both hard and soft, became popular by
the end of the seventeenth century with the
greater availability of domestic and imported
sugar and the diffusion of confectionery
techniques. It is tempting to hypothesize that the
colored potato was another dish that spoke of
Satsuma’s trade with the Ryūkyūs. Sweet
potatoes called “Satsuma potatos” (Satsuma imo),
originated in Central America or southern
Mexico and arrived in Kyushu either from China
via the Ryūkyū Islands or from the Philippines
by the mid- to early seventeenth century. The
culinary book One Hundred Tricks with Sweet
Potatos (Imo hyakuchin, 1789) contains a recipe
for “dyed potatos” using sweet potato dyed in
five different colors reflecting an alternate name
for this sweet, “five colors” (goshiki).18 Here the
potato is probably not a Satsuma imo or even if it
was, it was probably not referred to by that name.
The sweet potato’s close association with
Satsuma domain dates to a century later when
Dutch-learning scholar Aoki Kon’yō (1698–
1769) undertook trials of the sweet potato in
1735 at the bakufu’s orders and helped to
popularize it in the Kantō area.
19 “Imo” can refer
to a number of different tubers including taro
(sato imo) and yam (yamanoimo). Since this is a
dessert, the imo here is probably a yam. Tales of
Cookery (Ryōri monogatari, 1643) the first
published cookbook and a work closer
historically to Iemitsu’s banquet than Hundred
Tricks with Sweet Potatoes indicates that yams
are good for sweets, while taro should be used
only for savory recipes like soups, simmered
dishes (nimono), pickles, and fish and vegetable
salads (namasu and aemono). Tales of Cookery
18 Imo hyakuchin, in vol. 9 of Nihon ryōri hiden
shūsei, ed. Issunsha (Kyoto: Dōhōsha, 1985), pp.
19 Nishiyama Matsunosuke, et al., eds., Tabemono no nihonshi sōkan (Shinjinbutsu ōraisha,
1994), p. 154.
does not mention any dishes for sweet potato.20
Whatever its principle ingredient, the dyed sweet
prefigures similar five-colored dishes important
to the shikisankon later in the day. The rice cake
served evoked shogunal largesse since it was one
of the sweets presented by the shogun to daimyo,
bannermen (hatamoto), and other bakufu
employees annually on the sixteenth day of the
sixth month in the kajō ceremony. Kajō was a
tremendous demonstration of shogunal largesse
for in a typical year the shogun distributed
almost 21,000 sweets. In Hidetada’s lifetime the
shogun himself personally supervised this task
over the course of several days.21 By serving the
distinct rice cake, if the Shimazu were not subtly
repaying or reminding the shogun for past
generosity, they were at least evoking a special
culinary connection between the shogun and
Of all the dishes served, pride of place at the
tea meal went to the crane soup, a particular luxury especially prized by elite samurai. Said to
live a thousand years—except when killed for a
soup—crane became by the late sixteenth century a dish indispensable for the most formal
warrior banquets. In 1582 warlord Oda Nobunaga (1534–1582) served crane soup to Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542–1616) at a banquet, and in
1587 Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537–1598) introduced crane to the imperial court. Soup appears
to have been a typical way to serve crane, although the blood was also mixed with sake as a
cocktail on some occasions.22 Confucian scholar
Hayashi Razan (1583–1687) stated that drinking
the blood of a white crane was “said to increase
20 Ryōri monogatari, vol. 1 of Nihon ryōri hiden
shūsei, ed. Issunsha (Kyoto: Dōhōsha, 1985), p.
21 For an overview of this ceremony, see Aoki
Naomi, Zusetsu wagashi no konjaku (Tankōsha,
2000), pp. 143–47. By decision of the All Japan
Confectionery Association (Zenkoku wagashi
kyōkai) in 1979, June 16 is now celebrated as
“sweet day” (kashi no hi), Nakayama Keiko,
Wagashi monogatari (Asahi shinbunsha, 1993),
p. 45.
22 Ego, p. 38.
vitality.”23 In the same period as Razan, tea master Endō Genkan (n.d.) published Guide to Meals
for the Tea Ceremony (Cha no yu kondate shinan,
1676), the first book on meals (kaiseki) for tea.
This text contained a recipe for crane soup that
approximates the dish mentioned in Iemitsu’s
menu above except that it is even more lavish.
Endō’s recipe called for “crane in a clear soup
[using the] sinews from the leg, burdock root,
salted matsutake mushrooms, eggplant, shimeji
mushrooms, and greens.” He noted that it was
important to include some leg meat from the
crane so that guests will know immediately that
they were eating crane soup and not some other
bird.24 So important was crane to samurai banqueting customs that the bakufu enacted sumptuary legislation that prohibited commoners from
serving crane and other game fowl at banquets.25
“The Three Formal Rounds of Drinks”
Shogunal visitations in the Muromachi
period began with the “three formal rounds of
drinks,” but this event came after the tea
ceremony in Iemitsu’s visit, following the
pattern set in the Tokugawa period.26 The three
formal rounds of drinks was a toasting ceremony
involving the host and the guest drinking sake
from the same shallow cup (sakazuki). Both
participants drained a cup of sake three times for
each of the three rounds of drinking for a total of
nine cups of sake—or more if the participants
decided to continue drinking. This formal
exchange of drinks between lord and vassal
signified their personal bond, and the same
ceremony was used for weddings. The
23 Hayashi Razan, “Hōchō shoroku,” in Nihon
zuihitsu taisei, vol. 23, first series, ed. Nihon
zuihitsu taisei henshūbu (Yoshikawa kōbunkan,
1976), p. 347.
24 Endō Genkan, “Cha no yu kondate shinan,” in
vol. 11 of Nihon ryōri hiden shūsei, ed. Issunsha
(Kyoto: Dōhōsha, 1985), pp. 29, 95.
25 Donald Shively, “Sumptuary Regulation and
Status in Early Tokugawa Japan,” Harvard
Journal of Asiatic Studies 25 (1964–65), p. 135.
26 The word shikisankon originated in the
Muromachi period as did the rules for it,
Kumakura 2002, p. 142.
shikisankon usually occurred in a private room
appropriately decorated for the occasion with
armor and Chinese art objects. Accompanying
the sake were snacks (sakana), traditionally
konbu seaweed, dried chestnuts, and dried
abalone.27 These foods could not be eaten in the
form they were served, and they were instead
surreptitiously dropped into a kimono sleeve or
wrapped in paper if they were touched at all. The
shikisankon menu for Iemitsu offered a more
formal variation of these symbolic snacks in the
form of the “five varieties of offerings” and it
also included a few edible delicacies.
First Round
Pheasant [served on a] tortoise shaped dish
Rice cake soup (ozōni)
“Five varieties of offerings” (goshu)
Salt (oteshio)
Second Round
Grilled salt-cured fish (shiobiki)
Grilled “hawk’s wing” [sea bream] (taka no
ha sen)
Dried Cod
Third Round
Dried salted mullet roe (karasumi)
Whole grilled young “winged” sea bass (Shin
hane sen)
Dried rolled squid (makizurume)
The menu here demonstrates playfulness in
its clever use of flight imagery on each of the
three trays. In addition to the pheasant on the
first tray, two of the fish served on the second
and third trays reference birds. One was a variety
of sea bream said to resemble the wings of a
hawk and the other used the nickname “winged”
for young sea bass because of the misconception
that they could jump through the surface of the
water.28 Traveling over water may have been a
27 Ogura Kumeo, Komatsuzaki Takeshi, Hatae
Keiko, eds., Nihon ryōri gyōji, shikitari daijiten,
vol. 2 (Purosatâ, 2003), p. 161.
28 Editors’ notation to Complete Manual of
Cuisine for Our School (Tōryū setsuyō ryōri
taizen, 1714), Shijō Takashima, Tōryū setsuyō
reference to Satsuma’s trade with the Ryūkyūs a
connection reinforced by the Ryukyuan musicians who entertained the guests later in the day.
And the rolled squid may have continued the
flight imagery as it was sometimes shaped into
the form of butterflies, albeit that was a motif
usually reserved for weddings: two butterflies
representing the couple’s future happiness together.29
The pheasant, rice cake soup (zōni), and
“five varieties of offerings” (goshu) were a set
for the first round of a shikisankon according to
Secret Text on Carving and Cuisine (Ryōri kirikata hidensho, 1659), the first published treatise
on warrior banquet cuisine. That text indicates
that crane was once served cut into pieces and
served on decorative paper, but that the dish later
changed to pheasant served with one of its feet
protruding from a pile of its sliced meat. The
sliced fowl accompanies “the five offerings,”
which were also called “shaved foods” (kezurimono), indicating five piles of finely sliced
meats each of a different color. Although the
contents of the five piles of shaved foods are not
delineated in the menu for Iemitsu, Secret Writing on Carving and Cuisine indicates that they
represent “tortoises from the island of the immortals” (hōrai no kame), signifying ten thousand years of happiness. The same text further
describes how these five varieties of things
should be arranged on a plate into five piles according to their different colors:
ryōri taizen, in vol. 3 of Nihon ryōri hiden shūsei,
ed. Issunsha (Kyoto: Dōhōsha, 1985), p. 148.
29 Nakamura Kōhei, Shinban nihon ryōri
gogenshū (Asahiya shuppan, 2004), p. 640.
Paper butterflies were also affixed to bottles of
sake used at weddings for the same reason that
these signified felicity, William Lindsey,
Fertility and Pleasure: Ritual and Sexual Values
in Tokugawa Japan (Honolulu: University of
Hawai’i Press, 2007), p. 83. Complete Manual of
Cuisine for Our School contains a recipe for
makizurume that calls for washing the squid,
tossing it in kudzu starch, rolling it up in a rice
mat, boiling it, and then cutting it into pieces,
Shijō Takashima, Tōryū setsuyō ryōri taizen, p.
yellow black
red green
Secret Writing on Carving and Cuisine indicates, “These [piles] are placed inside tortoiseshaped dishes. The pheasant is also placed inside
a tortoise dish. The five [piles of] things go to the
left of the rice cake soup and the diced fowl [i.e.,
the pheasant] is to their right.”30 Here too the
ingredients for the kezurimono are left unstated
but these appear in an older text on warrior custom and banqueting ritual Ise Sadayori’s Sōgō
ōzoshi (ca. 1529). Sadayori, a specialist in warrior traditions from a long family line of experts
in that topic, states:
Use conger eel (hamu, [hamo]) for the color
white. Bonito is for the color red.
Black is made from dried sea cucumber.
Green is shark. Yellow is dried squid.
It is best to slice these finely. One ought to
alternate male and female forms.
The reference to “male” piles of meats as opposed to “female” ones is evocative but cryptic.
Sadayori is clearer in this assertion that the kezurimono, which he also called the “islands of the
immortals” (tekake), “represent Mount
Sumeru.”31 Sumeru, the center point of the Buddhist cosmos, was a mountain said to be wider at
the top than at its base. Here Mt. Sumeru is offered in five different forms, in male and female
manifestations. This recalls customs of religious
offerings such as the large piles of dyed rice
called shishiki and some wake served annually
for the wakamiya festival at Kasuga Shrine in
Nara.32 Both the shishiki and the some wake are
30 Ryōri kirikata hidensho, vol. 1 of Honkoku
Edo jidai ryōribon shūsei, ed. Edo Jidai Ryōribon Kenkyūkai (Kyoto: Rinsen shoten, 1978), pp.
31 Ise Sadayori, Sōgō ōzoshi, ed. Hanawa Hokinoichi, in Gunsho ruijū, vol. 22 (Zoku gunsho
ruijū kanseikai, 1959–60), p. 566.
32 For a description of the food offerings at the
wakamiya festival see Iwai Hiromi and Niwa
approximately fifteen centimeters in height and
served as a set in green, yellow, red, and white
colors. The “four colors” (shishiki) are four piles
of rice in solid colors whereas the some wake are
piles of rice divided into four different colors.
The kezurimono were miniature versions of these
religious offerings, measuring 1.5–1.8 cm (5–6
bu) according to the culinary treatise Culinary
Text of the Yamanouchi House (Yamanouchi ry-
ōrisho) compiled in 1497.33 Though tiny, the
above descriptions indicate that the dishes were
rich in symbolism evoking Shinto offerings,
Buddhist cosmology, and Chinese folklore.
The Shinto offerings at Kasuga shrine traditionally had four colors, but the addition of a
black dish for the kezurimono indicates a fivecolor combination (goshiki) an artistic motif
found in the curtains on noh stages and one important to five agent theory, a connection that
expanded the meanings of the kezurimono and
the dishes served with it even further. Each of the
five colors represents one of the five agents.
White stands for metal, black for water, green for
wood, red for fire, and yellow for earth. Besides
these agents, each of the colors also represents a
direction, a season, a taste, and an internal organ.34 One plate of food thus signifies the external and internal universe and everything within it.
The five-color combination also connected
the kezurimono with the other dishes on the tray.
There were five colors on the wings of a pheasant according to Hayashi Razan, giving the bird
a decorative function.35 The dyed potato sweet
served in the earlier tea ceremony and the rice
cake soup also probably contained five colors.36
The recipe for rice cake soup in Ryōri monogatari calls for a stock made from miso or clear
stock (dried bonito flakes, konbu and salt) and
Yūju, Shinsen: kami to hito no kyōen (Hōsei
daigaku shuppankyoku, 2007), pp. 337–45.
33 Yamanouchi ryōrisho in vol. 18 of Nihon ryōri
hiden shūsei, ed. Issunsha (Kyoto: Dōhōsha,
1985), p. 76.
34 Ogura et al, 2003, vol. 2, p. 290.
35 Hayashi Razan, Hōchō shoroku, p. 348.
36 Modern recipes for zōni, though varied, usually preserve this five color symbolism in their
ingredients, Matsushita Sachiko, Iwai no shokubunka (Tokyo bijutsu sensho, 1994), p. 96.
[white / yellow] rice cake, taro, and daikon,
[black] dried sea cucumber intestine (iriko), abalone on skewers, large flakes of dried [red] bonito (hiragatsuo), and green shoots (kukitachi)—
enough varied ingredients to suggest a five-color
combination.37 About a century later, another
member of the Ise family of experts on warrior
protocol Sadatake (also called Teijō, 1717–1784),
writing in Teijō zakki, provides a different list of
ingredients for ozōni but confirms that these reflect the five primary colors (goshiki).38 Zōni is a
dish usually reserved for New Year’s in modern
Japan, but it was a typical snack (sakana) for
shikisankon since the Muromachi period.39 The
Shimazu reserved zōni for the most formal occasions such as weddings and trips to the ancestral
temple (bōdaiji), so its presence here with the
five varieties of offerings and the pheasant dish
marked the solemnity of the event.40
Not all the snacks carried such heavy symbolism. The dried mullet roe, also seen in the
earlier tea menu, and the dried cod were ideal
accompaniments for drinking alcohol like modern finger foods (otsumami).
Iemitsu’s Banquet Menu
The banquet that followed the shikisankon
used a style of service that originated among the
warrior elite in the fourteenth century called
“main tray cuisine” (honzen ryōri).41 Served
simultaneously with a main tray with its own
dishes of food were an additional number of
trays with more dishes. Each tray, including the
main one, had at least one soup (shiru, jū) and a
number of side dishes (sai), but rice and pickles
were usually only found on the main tray along
with the chopsticks. A typical formula for describing the organization of trays and dishes at
honzen banquets was “seven, five, three” (shichi
37 Ryōri monogatari, p. 81.
38 Ise Sadatake, Teijō zakki in vol, 18 of Nihon
ryōri hiden shūsei, ed. Issunsha (Kyoto: Dōhōsha,
1985), p. 300.
39 Kumakura 2002, p. 157.
40 Ego 2002, p. 141.
41 Kumakura Isao, “Honzen ryōri,” in Kyō ryōri
no rekishi, vol. 4 of Shiriizu shokubunka no hakken, ed. Murai Yasuhiko (Shibata shoten, 1979),
p. 45.
go san). This indicated three trays each with a
soup, and seven, five, and three side dishes on
them respectively. This was the format of the
banquet for Iemitsu in 1630, and one that was
typical service for the shogun in the Edo period.42
Three trays was a typical formulation for
shoguns, but the number of trays and the number
of dishes on them varied for guests of other rank.
Large banquets in the Muromachi period might
have up to thirty-two side dishes, although some
of these dishes, like a few described below, were
decorative and not meant to be consumed.43 In
the Edo period, most samurai including daimyo
were, like commoners, limited by sumptuary
legislation to just two trays of food at banquets,
albeit daimyo that held their own provinces
(kunimochi) were allowed seven side dishes, but
commoners and hatamoto could only have five
side dishes. 44 Samurai and commoners who
could afford extravagance were able to get
around this rule by serving a third tray separately
from the first two trays. Thereby they maintained
the appearance of a simple two-tray banquet,
even if only temporarily.45
A notation in the menu for Iemitsu states that
the three trays would bear seven, five, and three
items respectively, but other guests at the ban-
42 Maruyama Yasunari, “Kinsei ni okeru daimyo,
shōmin no shoku seikatsu: Sono ryōri kondate o
chūshin to shite,” in Shoku seikatsu to shokumotsushi, vol. 2 of Zenshū Nihon no shokubunka,
eds. Haga Noboru and Ishikawa Hiroko (Yūzankaku, 1999), p. 175.
43 Ogura et al., vol. 2, p. 161.
44 Maruyama 1999, p. 186; Harada 1989, p. 7;
Shively 1964–65, p. 148.
45 In that case, the third was called an “additional
tray” (hikite). The cookbook Threading Together
the Sages of Verse (Kasen no kumi ito) published
in 1748 includes menus of two tray meals
followed by a hikite bearing an additional soup
and more side dishes than the first two trays
combined. Since these trays have soups, the
hikite was meant to be eaten at the banquet and
was not a hikidemono, a tray of foods meant for
the guests to take home and eat later: Kasen no
kumi ito in vol. 7 of Nihon ryōri hiden shūsei, ed.
Issunsha (Kyoto: Dōhōsha, 1985), pp. 57–119.
quet received fewer dishes befitting their rank. In
this instance, the Shimazu’s own high-ranking
retainers (karō) in attendance received only five
dishes on the main tray:46 On the main tray for
the shogun’s meal there were seven items not
counting the chopsticks, salt, and yuzuke, standing for the obligatory rice.
Main tray
Grilled salt-cured fish (shiobiki)
Fish-paste cake (kamaboko)
Fish salad (aemaze)
Hot water over rice (yuzuke)
Fish flavored in sake (sakabite)
Fermented intestines of sea cucumber
Salt for flavoring (teshio)
Looking at the contents of the tray, several of
the dishes recall warrior traditions dating to the
Muromachi period if not earlier, perhaps as a
reminder of the fact that the Shimazu house was
one of the oldest warrior lineages, tracing its
legacy in Kyushu back to the time of the first
shogun, Minamoto no Yoritomo (1147–1199).
According to one Edo-period author the rice dish
here, yuzuke (hot water over rice), began with the
third Muromachi shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu
(1358–1408). The powerful Muromachi shogun
became drunk at a party, poured hot water on his
rice, and ate it, inspiring others to follow suit.47
The fish salad (aemaze) was another throwback
to the Muromachi period, a dish similar to a “raw
salad” (namasu), and was typically served on the
main tray at Muromachi banquets.48 One of the
earliest cooking treatises, Shijō School Text on
Food Preparation (Shijōryū hōchōsho), dating to
1489, indicated: “By custom, fish salad was
46 Ego, p. 14.
47 Ise, Teijō zakki, p. 260.
48 Sashimi gradually replaced namasu in Edo
period banquets, and the latter was renamed su
no mono, Ebara Kei, Edo ryōrishi ko: Nihon
ryōri (sōsōski) (Kawade shobō, 1986), p. 63, 115.
always used in the middle of the main tray….”49
Namasu is a predecessor to sashimi: it combines
slices of raw fish with vegetables and fruits like
citron served with a vinegar-based dressing.
Aemaze is a similar but less complicated
marinade of fish or seafood that used a sakebased dressing.50 The directions for the cooked
salad here are not specified and neither are the
contents of the fish paste cake made from
mashed fish and starch. One Edo-period
commentator wrote that catfish was the only
authentic fish for a fishcake, but he also
conceded that any fish would do. 51 Shijō
Takashima (n. d.) who compiled Revised
Culinary Encyclopedia of Our School, a book
about creating ceremonial banquets for the
samurai elite published in 1714, listed twenty
different fish and seafood combinations that
could be used for making kamaboko.
The second tray, consisting of two soups and
five side dishes, contained another Muromachiperiod dish, “gathered soup” (oshiru atsume).
Second Tray
Dried salted mullet roe (karasumi)
“Gathered soup” (oshiru atsume)
Servings of mollusks (kaimori)
Rolled squid
Dried codfish
Swan soup
Oshiru atsume, more commonly known as
atsumejiru appeared on the menus of formal
banquets for warriors in the early sixteenth
century when it was often used for the
shikisankon, but the recipe itself might be older.
Typical ingredients included dried sea cucumber
intestines (iriko) used frequently in this meal for
Iemitsu, skewered abalone, wheat gluten,
49 Eric C. Rath, trans., Shijōryū hōchōsho, in
Traditional Japanese Arts and Culture: An
Illustrated Sourcebook, eds. Stephen Addis,
Gerald Groemer, and J. Thomas Rimer
(Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2006), p.
50 Matsushita, p. 98.
51 Ise, Teijō zakki, p. 264.
52 Shijō, Tōryū setsuyō ryōri taizen, p. 194.
soybeans, and “sweet seaweed” (ama nori).53
This soup complements a second soup made
from swan. Besides the iriko, the rolled squid
and codfish harkened back to the shikisankon
earlier in the day. The description “servings” of
mollusks indicates that it was probably a
decorative dish not meant to be consumed like
the hamori and funamori dishes on the third tray.
The third tray continued the Muromachiperiod style of the banquet:
Third Tray
Fowl served with its wings (hamori)
Carp soup
Turbo (sazae)
[Spiny lobster] served in a boat shape
“Cloud hermit” (unzen)soup
Unzen (or unzenkan) was a Chinese dish
adopted in the Muromachi period, a gelatin made
from grated yam, sugar, and scrambled egg,
which was steamed to form a cloud shape when
floating in soup.54 The carp in the second soup
was the favorite fish of the Muromachi period
before sea bream surpassed it in popularity in the
Edo period, when it still had its fans. Carp, wrote
Hayashi Razan, was both a delicacy (bibutsu)
and an auspicious delicacy nicknamed a “gift to
Confucius” since the Chinese scholar received
one when his son was born.55
However, two other dishes, which also date
to Muromachi-period culinary customs, were
especially objects of attention. Fowl served with
its wings hamori style featured a duck or quail
cooked with its feathered wings reattached and
positioned so that the bird looked like it might
fly away. Spiny lobster in the shape of a boat
featured a large crustacean whose legs, feelers,
and body had been contorted to give the appearance of a sailing ship. Both dishes were served
with additional decorations made from paper and
flowers. Neither of these dishes was meant to be
eaten; instead they were spectacle pieces meant
to show off the cook’s skills and added dignity to
the occasion. The equivalent of food sculptures,
53 Nakamura, p. 33.
54 Nakamura, p. 96.
55 Hayashi, pp. 343–44.
these dishes provided an important artistic dimension to the meal, crucial to the designation of
a cuisine as distinct from ordinary foods and
mundane ways of cooking and eating.56
Iemitsu’s banquet ended with a desert course
of sweets: “Ice rice-cakes” (kōri mochi),
tangerines, and persimmons on a branch.”57 Ice
rice-cakes are made in mid-winter by pounding
non-glutinous rice in a mortar and then using a
sieve to make a paste, which is then molded into
cakes that are frozen before being cut and sundried for a month. The cakes need to be softened
with hot water to be eaten.58 The tangerines and
persimmons would have been sweeter. All three
are traditional sweets like the ones in the
previous tea ceremony albeit other members at
the banquet were served the Iberian-inspired
sponge cake kasutera.
59 Kasutera, the hard
candy konpeitō, and the softer sugar candy
aruheitō were becoming popular with some
members of elite society in this period.60 Four
years earlier, when Iemitsu and his father
entertained Emperor Go’Mizuno’o (d. 1680) at a
lavish series of meals at Nijō Castle in Kyoto
they served kasutera and aruheitō in a collection
of seven sweets presented as part of a banquet
meal on the morning of the eighth day of the
ninth month.61
Banquet Foods in Contrast to a Boring Diet
Banqueting aside, the meals that samurai in-
56 For a discussion of these dishes, see Eric C.
Rath, Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Japan
57 Ego, p. 13.
58 Sanmi Sasaki, Chado, the Way of Tea: A
Japanese Tea Master’s Almanac, trans. Shaun
McCabe and Iwasaki Satoko (Boston: Tuttle,
2002), pp. 612–13.
59 Ego, p. 14.
60 In 1635, the confectioner Toraya began supplying the imperial court with Iberian sweets
including kasutera, karumera, and aruheitō; and
in the same period these were becoming local
specialties in Kyoto. Nakayama Keiko, Jiten:
wagashi no sekai (Iwanami shoten, 2006), p. 114.
61 GoMizunooinsama nijōjō gyōkō onkondate, in
vol. 2 of Ryōri taikan, ed. Hasegawa Seihō
(Ryōri koten kenkyūkai, 1958), p. 18.
cluding the shogun ate on a daily basis were not
far from what many commoners ate or from the
description of modern culinary historians who
call these meals dull and monotonous. A typical
meal for commoners living in Edo consisted of
miso soup and pickles with one side dish of tofu,
simmered vegetables, or perhaps a fish; and this
was comparable to the meals for most samurai.62
The monotony of these daily meals made the
dishes served at banquets all the more remarkable and memorable.
On the whole, the daily meals for samurai of
high and low rank were rather plain. The shogun
had his daily meals served on two trays, but in
terms of their basic structure, the shogun’s meals
of rice, soup, boiled vegetables, and fish dishes
was otherwise comparable to what people in
other classes ate.63 Some shoguns such as Ienari
(1773–1841) were noted for their extravagant
meals.64 According to one story, the first shogun
Ieyasu died after gorging himself on sea bream
tempura, even though he passed away several
months after consuming this dish.65 Other shogun like the last one, Yoshinobu (1837–1913),
dined rather frugally as described in Record of
Inquiries into Bygone Days (Kyūji shimonroku),
a transcript of interviews with former bakufu
officials.66 Yoshinobu disliked eating animals
62 Ishige, p. 113. For further information about
the diet of commoners in the Edo period, see
Susan Hanley, “Tokugawa Society: Material Culture, Standard of Living, and Life-Styles,” Cambridge History of Japan, vol. 4, Early Modern
Japan, ed. John W. Hall (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1991), pp. 660–705, especially
pp. 680–89.
63 Harada 1989, p. 7.
64 Harada Nobuo, Edo no shoku seikatsu
(Iwanami shoten, 2003), p. 127.
65 This dish was not the modern, batter-fried
version of tempura but another dish by the same
name consisting of fish cooked in oil, garnished
with leeks, and served in a broth. Hirano Masaki,
Hirano Masaki chō, Nihon ryōri tankyū zensho,
vol. 11 Shōyu, tenpura monogatari (Tōkyō
shobōsha, 1979), pp. 182–87.
66 See Anna Berens, “Interview with a
Bakumatsu Official: A Translation from Kyūji
that had been hunted, so rabbit, pheasant, crane,
and duck were off of his menu as were tempura
and soymilk skin (yuba), two dishes popular with
townspeople. He avoided pungent foods such as
onion, leek, and fermented soybeans (nattō), and
he disliked oysters, sardines, cockles (akagai)
and Pacific saury (sanma). What then did he actually eat? For breakfast one spring (menus
changed according to the season), the shogun
was served two trays of food. The tray first had
rice, miso soup with an egg in it, chilled tofu
(sawasawa tōfu) flavored with flower petals
(perhaps pickled cherry blossoms), and a gelatin
made from agar agar (kanten), kamaboko mixed
with walnuts, finely cut strips of egg omelet
(kinshi tamago), konbu seaweed, and slices of
sea bream. The second tray presented a grilled
bluefin gurnard (hōbō), a small omelet of dry
seasoned tofu wrapped in nori, gourd pickled in
sake lees, and daikon pickled in miso.67 These
are fancier versions of the foods commoners ate,
and nothing comparable to the extravagant
dishes found in Iemitsu’s banquet described earlier.
Daimyo ate more simply than the shogun, but
their meals followed the same basic structure of
rice, soup, pickles, and side dishes. For breakfast
in the 1780s, the daimyo of Kumamoto domain
ate rice with tea poured over it (chazuke), pickles,
pickled apricot, and a dish cooked in miso
(yakimiso). Lunch consisted of a soup and a side
dish. Dinner saw the return of the yakimiso dish
and pickles to accompany rice.68 The research of
Miyakoshi Matsuko on the Date house, daimyo
of Sendai domain (modern Miyagi prefecture),
indicates the daimyo usually had two side dishes
to accompany rice and soup for breakfast but
little more than that for lunch and dinner. Vegetable dishes usually made from daikon, burdock
root, Chinese yam (nagaimo), taro, sweet potato,
and devil’s tongue root (kon’yaku) were served
for breakfast, and meat dishes particularly fish,
gamecock, duck, and chicken appeared more
often for lunch and dinner. The daimyo ate eggs
frequently and year round. In winter, he ate more
shimonroku,” Monumenta Nipponica 55.3
(2000), pp. 369–98, especially pp. 369–73.
67 Harada 2003, pp. 126–27.
68 Maruyama, p. 182.
fish particularly prawns, tuna, flatfish, false halibut, and sea bream as well as river fish that included eel, sweet-fish, striped mullet, and carp.
In autumn, he ate more vegetable dishes. The
daimyo consumed shellfish such as fan shells
(tairagai) and Venus clams (hamaguri), but he
avoided foods beloved by commoners such as
tempura, sushi, and grilled fish or vegetables
topped with sweet miso (dengaku)—dishes that
are synonymous with modern Japanese cuisine
but may have been too plebian for the daimyo’s
taste. The daimyo of Sendai domain did not eat a
large number of dishes, but his daily consumption of eggs and fish indicates a rather luxurious
Estimates of the daily caloric intake for the
daimyo of Sendai domain reveal a diet of approximately 3,000 calories a day. This is comparable to the diets of modern Japanese, although
the daimyo may have had a lower intake of vitamin C and other essential nutrients. One lower
level samurai, Ozaki Junnosuke Sadamiki who
lived in the 1860s and kept a scrupulous record
of his meals, consumed an estimated 1,868 calories at home but when he dined out he averaged
1,934 calories.70 This was only slightly higher
that the diet of commoners living in the same
period. Estimates of the caloric intake for commoners living in the Hida area of Gifu in 1874
reveal 1,850 calories with similar deficiencies in
vitamin C, while commoners in the domain of
Chōshū in 1840s had an estimated daily intake of
1,664 calories.71 Such estimates provide a limited but telling view of the commonalities between the diet of lower-level samurai and commoners despite sumptuary legislation meant to
distinguish the two groups.
A few diaries provide concrete information
about the diet of lower-level samurai in the Edo
period, and one of these is Record from a Parrot’s Cage (Ōmurō chūki) by Asahi Monzaemon
(1674–1718).72 A samurai of the Tokugawa do-
69 Sakurai Jun’ya, “Kinsei daimyo yashiki ni
okeru shoku seikatsu,” Shigaku 56.4 (1987), pp.
70 Sakurai, pp. 91, 94.
71 Hanley, p. 687.
72 For an overview of this text and its author, see
Luke Roberts, “A Transgressive Life: The Diary
main in Owari province (modern Aichi prefecture), Asahi was supposed to enjoy a hereditary
stipend of 150 koku, but his actual income had
been reduced to thirty-five koku as part of financial retrenchment in his domain. After paying
seven koku for living expenses, Asahi had only
twenty-eight koku left. He augmented his income
by tutoring and hand-copying texts. His diary,
which covers the years 1686–1717, describes his
passion for eating, which one modern commentator has described as his reason for living.73
On the twenty-seventh day of the tenth
month of 1697, Asahi invited nine guests to dinner, serving them “codfish soup with water-drop
wart (seri), simmered winter melon with grated
yam (tororo), grilled Spanish mackerel (sawara),
and pickles.” For snacks to accompany drinks
after the meal, he provided “simmered duck meat,
sea cucumber marinated in vinegar, salt-cured
fish entrails (shiokara), thick slices of simmered
burdock root, miso soup with duck gizzard simmered in sake with blue-green freshwater nori
(Suizenji nori), clams (hamaguri), pears, and
other things.”74 It would have been superfluous
for Asahi to mention rice in his record, as it
would have been the indispensable accompaniment for any meal. Salt-cured fish intestines,
especially those made from sea cucumber, would
also have been recognized as a delicacy in the
seventeenth century as they remain today.
Sekijō’s diary (Sekijō nikki), the diary of
Ozaki Junnosuke Sadamiki, an artist who went
by the name Sekijō, presents information about
the life of a samurai who lived two centuries after Asahi and had an even lower income. Sekijō
hailed from Musashi province (in modern Saitama prefecture). He had some talent as a painter
and his diary, which spanned a period from the
sixth month of 1861 to the fourth month of 1862,
includes a few illustrations. Adopted into the
Ozaki family, Sekijō saw his salary of 100 koku
reduced to the equivalent of 18 koku after writing
a complaint to the leadership of his domain in
1857. Sekijō continued in his official duties, but
these did not occupy much of his time. Instead,
of a Genroku Samurai,” Early Modern Japan 5.2
(1995): 25–30.
73 Ebara, pp. 146, 165.
74 Ebara, p. 161.
his diary indicates that he devoted most of his
time to drinking, eating, and reading about food
in culinary books. On the twenty-sixth day of the
six month of 1861, he wrote that he ate “breakfast of soup, lunch of tofu, and dinner of the
same.”75 Sekijō’s soup was a broth made from
fish paste and egg. All three meals would have
been accompanied by rice. Tofu was apparently
one of Sekijō’s favorite dishes, but he also ate a
lot of dried sardines, pickles, and rice doused
with tea (chazuke). He broke the monotony of
his meals at home by dining out or at a friend’s
house. On these occasions he recorded eating
sashimi, simmered dishes, and stews; he augmented his usual diet of sardines, tuna, and
freshwater clams (shijimi), with sea bream,
salmon, and cockles. While Sekijō rarely missed
the chance to have a drink with his meals, he
only ate one egg a week. Whether he was dining
in or out, the vegetables he consumed were usually daikon, eggplant, green onion, and taro.76
Sekijō occasionally prepared his own meals, as
on the seventeenth day of the fourth month of
1861 when he made “scattered sushi” (chirashizushi) by sprinkling chopped ginger shoots, egg,
dried squid, shiitake mushrooms, red seaweed
nori (tosaka nori), Japanese butterbur (fuki), lotus root, [green] nori, dried gourd, udo, bamboo
shoot, and salmon over rice flavored with vinegar.77 However, he never described the taste of
his cooking or of the other meals he ate.78 This
speaks both to the monotony of his diet and to
the fact that he meant his diary as a personal record not as a gourmet column.
The diet of lower-level samurai as seen from
these two diaries differed from that of elite
samurai in terms of ingredients, but the cooking
techniques employed for their meals were very
similar. Grilled and simmered dishes appear to
be the most typical. Meticulous slicing was also
important in the preparation of sashimi and scattered sushi. Desserts such as fruits and sweets
were not usually mentioned as part of the meal
even for elite samurai, although they may have
75 Harada 2003, pp. 97–109.
76 Sakurai, p. 91.
77 Udo looks like celery, but it is much longer;
both the leaves and stalk are edible.
78 Harada 2003, p. 112.
been consumed outside of regular mealtimes.
The most profound distinctions between samurai
and other social groups as well as between the
diet of elite and lower-level samurai were apparent in the extravagant banquets described above.
should not lose sight of the diversity and complexity of early modern cuisine. In contrast to
modern cuisine, the early modern version was
heterogeneous, but it had to be in order to resonate on so many different levels for its practitioners and consumers.
The chance to experience cuisine in its most
exalted form in the early modern period was not
an everyday experience, and it was limited to a
handful of members of society; yet this elite cuisine was influential in several ways on other sectors in society and on the development of Japanese cuisine in the modern period. Main tray
cuisine (honzen ryōri), which began in traditions
of shogunal visitations in the Muromachi period,
came to be adapted by commoners in the Edo
period who found a use for a version using two
trays of dishes for meals at festival banquets,
weddings, and in restaurants. The basic components of honzen dining—rice, soup, side dishes,
and pickles—comprised the typical elements of
most meals in Japan until after World War II.79
Commoners adopted the samurai custom of shikisankon, performing the drinking ceremony at
weddings, and adapting it to other occasions
such as when a client met a courtesan for the first
time.80 Rice cake soup (ozōni) remains a staple
of traditional New Year’s meals in Japan to this
day, while the festival of kajō gave an excuse to
commoners to eat sweets on the sixteenth day of
the sixth month in the belief that doing so prevented disease.81
Finally, to return to the topic of cuisine raised
at the beginning of this article, the evidence from
the banquet for Tokugawa Iemitsu examined here
helps us to recognize the complexity of dining in
early modern Japan and how it could be as much
a mental and artistic exercise as a sensory one. In
that light, future research should examine how
modern Japanese cuisine not only built upon earlier cooking techniques, but how it also drew
upon older practices of signification found in
early modern cuisine. Yet in the effort to isolate
the elements that contributed to the national and
regional cuisines in modern Japan, scholars
79 Kumakura 2002, pp. 168–70.
80 Lindsey, p. 94.
81 Nakayama 1993, p. 46.

Arts in Japan in the Edo Period

“During the Edo Period (1603-1868) both the subjects and styles of painting diversified significantly,” wrote Smithsonian art curator Ann Yonemura, “as patronage broadened to include a newly affluent merchant class. Genre painting of contemporary urban life, new subjects and styles influenced by a limited importation of European art, and work by artists who based the lives on Chinese scholarly ideals flourished.”

The Genroku era in the late 17th and early 18th century is sometimes regarded as the golden age of Japanese art, Kabuki plays, haiku poetry, and woodblock printing.

Edo period Japanese art is very popular worldwide. An Edo art touring exhibit drew 900,000 people in 2007, making it the most seen art show in the world that year.

Book: Art of Edo Japan by Christine Guth (Harry N. Abrams, 1996).

See Edo Art. Arts and Culture

Daimyo, Samurai and Art in the Edo Period

The Edo Period was a time of relative peace. With no wars to fight and non-Japanese restricted from entering the country, the shoguns and daimyos (landed aristocrats) and samurai under them, concentrated their energies on the administration of the estates and pursuit of the art forms such as poetry, painting, architecture, No theater, calligraphy, flower arranging and the tea ceremony. With no foreigners to distract them, the daimyos and samurai were able to develop and refine art forms that were uniquely Japanese.

The emphasis on the arts was intended in part to keep the minds of military men off of military matters. “In daimyo Japan,” Bennet Shiff wrote in Smithsonian magazine, “culture became synonymous with authority. Lords competed with one another in high art, tea, theater, poetry and the employment of artists, actors, poets, tea masters. Frequently they practiced one or two arts themselves. Not to participate was to be dropped out of what was meaningful and necessary. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to name another society in world history in which art was so much a part of daily existence.”

Urban Art in Japan in the Edo Period

The rise of large urban areas, the increasing power and influence of the merchant class and a good network of roads and water routes in the Edo Period helped to take art out of the daimyo courts and bring it to the cities and ordinary hardworking and hard-partying Japanese. Artist liked the changes. They were able to sell their works to a much wider audience.

Urban Edo art, often in the form of colored prints, was more direct and rawer than daimyo art and often satirical and humorous. Robert Singer, the force behind a superb Edo Period exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in 1999, wrote that this kind of Edo art is characterized by “bold, sometimes brash expression…and playful outlook on life in general.” [Source: Time magazine]

The subjects of urban Edo art were prostitutes, sumo wrestlers, popular actors, everyday life scenes, and people at work. Religious imagery sometimes was treated with irreverence and symbols were used that ordinary people could understand. There is clear link between Edo urban art and manga.

Edo Period Decorative Arts

Some of the greatest Edo art was works were neither paintings or sculpture but rather were things like writing boxes, tea bowls, and game boards. “It may be that no civilization, East of West, attained a greater refinement in the decorative arts than Edo Japan,” wrote TIME art critic Robert Hughes. “Ceramics, lacquer and textiles were brought to an extraordinary pitch of aesthetic concentration by a large body of artisans.”

“Skill was the key,” Hughes wrote. “Edo artists and patrons loved virtuosity within a given medium, but they didn’t have a hierarchy of art and craft. To them, the work or a lacquerer or papermaker was no less worthy than that of the screen painter, and in any case so many media could converge in a single work that art hierarchy became meaningless.”

Edo art objects included polychromatic wood No masks of women who have become demons because they have been betrayed by love; cheukei fans used by No actors playing women roles; ceremonial samurai swords made of rayskin, lacquer, copper, gold, enamel, leather and steel; reptile-like samurai armor made from iron, leather, lacquer, silk and gold; leather saddles and stirrups embellished with gold and lacquer; and uchiakake (“outer garments” worn by samurai-class women), embroidered with blossoms, clouds and birds.

Ideas about the decorative arts made their way into cooking and perfumery. One Edo period cookbook illustrates 55 different ways to cut and display carp.

See Samurai Armor

Edo Period Painting and Samurai

Many Edo period painters were samurai. Paul Richard wrote in the Washington Post: “Slicing through a torso with a curving steel blade and putting ink to silk with a liquid-loaded brush, both of these were stroke arts. Both required the same swiftness, the same lack of indecision. For the master of the brush and the master of the blade…the flawless stroke expressed a Japanese ideal—the beauty-governed union of sure, unhurried speed and centuries-old tradition, utter self-assurance and Zen purity of mind.”

Painting from Edo period was rich in drama and symbols. A painting of a carp swimming up a waterfall—something bottom-dwelling carp are unlikely to do—is seen as a manifestation of a fish becoming a dragon and viewed as an allegory of social climbing. An image of a monkey trying to catch a wasp is a warning to not cross a feudal lord as the Japanese words for word for “wasp” (hachi) and “fiefdom” (hoch) rhyme as do the ideograms “monkey” and “lord.”

Ukiyo-e Woodblock Printing

Woodblock printing in Japan is known as ukiyo-e, literally “pictures of the floating world.” One of the most popular forms of Japanese art, it was created for the contemporary masses and depicts images of urban life and natural scenes that ordinary people could relate to and enjoy. The “floating world” is a Buddhist metaphor that refers to the changing world of fleeting pleasures, which were often found both in seasonal changes of nature and the entertainment districts of Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto.

“Ukiyo-e” is derived from “uki,” a Buddhist-derived term denoting the state of mind conveyed by the German word “weltschmerz” (“disenchantment with the actual,” or “world weariness”). During the Edo period the kanji (Chinese character) for “uki” was replaced, playfully, by the homophone kanji for “float” and “ukiyo” took on antithetical meaning—the worldly “sea of trouble” became “sea of tranquility,” in which impermanence was celebrated not lamented. [Source: Mark Austin, Daily Yomiuri]

Among the Westerners who collected ukiyo-e were Vincent Van Gogh, the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the painter Claud Monet, who was particularly found of Utamaro and Hokusai. Wright once said, “The Japanese print is one of the most amazing products of the world and I think no nation has anything to compare with it.”

Van Gogh copied Plum Garden in Kameido and Great Bridge , Sudden Shower at Atakae from Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. The background of Van Gogh’s Portrait of Pere Tanguay shows several ukiyo-e’s that the artist collected.

Ukiyo-e prints are famous for their exquisite calligraphic lines, bold composition, dramatic colors and flat, unshaded subjects. Some images are serene and dignified and look at home in museum while others are full of drama and violence and look as if they belong in a comic book. Usually only a few hundred or a few thousand prints were made. On average a printer could make about 200 prints a day.

Ukiyo-e was inspired by everyday Edo pleasures and urban leisure pursuits like drinking, whoring and attending Kabuki theaters as well as scenic spots around Japan. Ukiyo-e prints depicted tea ceremonies, theaters, sumo wrestlers, women bathing in wooden tubs, picnics under cherry trees, excursions to pastoral lakes, prostitutes, sexual acts, actors, and make-believe characters like warriors, mythical animals and monsters. One major source of inspiration was Yoshiwara, an entertainment district in Edo (Tokyo), where daimyos and members of the Imperial court mingled, attended sumo bouts and kabuki plays and enjoyed the company of prostitutes.

Book: Japanese Woodblock Printing by Rebecca Salter (A&C Black, 2001).

Galleries: Ebisu-do Gallery, Inagaki Building, 4F, 1-9 Kandajimbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo . Tel. (03)-3219-7651www.ebisu-do.com

History of Woodblock Printing

Woodblock printing originated in China but was greatly improved by the Japanese through the skill of Japanese craftsmen and introductions of washi paper; which tolerates repeated printing and absorbs color without collapsing; the development of the kento method or printing, which ensured that layers of were color correctly applied and aligned; and invention of the baren, a circular pad mad from compressed laminated paper that was used in manual printing to apply the flat colors so pleasing to fans if ukiyo-e.

The first ukiyo-e in the 17th century were simple monochrome black prints. Later “red prints” appeared. They were followed by yellow and green prints, and eventually full color prints known as nishikie, were developed in the middle of the 18th century.

Ukiyo-e was reportedly founded by a printer named Iwa Matabie and popularized, beginning in 1681, by Hishikawa Moronobu, an artist who lived among ordinary people and found inspiration among them. He rose to fame by producing images of famous erotic tales, scenes from the entertainment district in Yoshiwara and portraits of beautiful women. As an art form ukiyo-e drew on and synthesized Chinese painting. Yamato-e (classical Japanese Painting) and byobu-e (screen painting).

Techniques of Japanese woodblock printing originated in Kyoto and Osaka but are most closely associated with Edo (Tokyo). Early prints from the Edo Period between 1660 and 1720 featured only black and white printing. Color printing had not been invented and colors were applied by hand. Many early ukiyo-e were how-to sex manuals for brides and courtesans and erotic prints pertaining to the red-light entertainment districts in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto,

Many of the of the best works of ukiyo-e are found now outside of Japan in places like British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Many of these were snatched up in the years following the end of Edo Period—as Japan rushed towards modernization— when ukiyo-e was seen as passe and disposable, and Western collectors acquired huge masses of work for a song. Almost half of the 25,000 prints, books and paintings at the Victoria &Albert Museum—regarded as one of the largest and finest collections of ukiyo-e n the world—was obtained in a single purchase from a London dealer in 1886.

Kabuki and Geishas in the Edo Period

Kabuki actor by
SharakuThe first formally recognized kabuki show was performed in Kyoto at in 1603—the same year the Edo Period began—by a Shinto priestess named Izumo no Okuni and her troupe of female dancers to raise money for Izumo Taisha shrine. Though based on Buddhist prayer dances, early shows were generally romantic tales intended as popular entertainment. Like Noh, kabuki has its roots in drama, music and dance that can be traced back to the eight century.

Kabuki was inspired by the activities of Kabuimono, urban youths who were the punks of their day. They traveled in armed groups, thumbing their nose at middle class values and harassed anyone who got in their way.

Early Kabuki, known as kabuki odori (which roughly means “avant guard dance”) were primarily dances, often known for their lewdness and vulgarity. Although women helped popularize the art they were banned from Kabuki in 1629 because many of the lead actresses were prostitutes and producers were concerned about fights breaking out between men trying to win the attention of the actresses. See Arts and Culture, Theater, Kabuki

Geishas first appeared in brothels in the pleasure quarters of Tokyo and Osaka in the 17th century. Their job was to entertain bar and inn customers with dancing and music. A geiko (literally “arts child”) is the Kyoto expression for a geisha.

The earliest geishas were men known as taiko-mouchi (literally “drum carrier”). Like their female counterparts today, they charmed male clients with conservation, service, performances and sexual innuendo. There were around a half dozen taiko-mouchi still alive in the 1990s.

It wasn’t until the mid 18th century that the geisha profession was dominated by women. In the 19th century geishas were the equivalent of supermodels. The most well-known ones earned substantial incomes and influenced fashion and popular culture. In a world where women were either wives of prostitutes, geisha lived in separate communities known as the “flower and willow world.” See Arts and Culture, Theater, Geishas

Manga in the Edo Period

Some trace the origin of manga back to nishiki-e prints made in the Edo period. These prints were often satirical and instilled with humor and fun, qualities found in modern manga “I think they share a similar espirit, satisfying the purpose of entertaining people.” The term “manga” was coined by the famous wood block print artist Katsushika Hokusai (1761-1849). Although he produced graphic images he did not produce true manga that tell narrative stories.

True manga has its roots in 19th century one-panel and later multi-panel newspapers and magazine cartoons that depicted political, satirical and humorous subjects. Some also trace its roots to the Japanese written language, which has so many symbols and characters it wasn’t easily adaptable to movable type, and often it was just as easy to make wood blocks with words and illustration as it was to make wood block with long texts. By contrast, the Roman alphabet with is 26 symbols was adaptable to movable type.

Image Sources: Ukiyo- from Library of Congress, British Museum, and Tokyo National Museum, Old photos from Visualizing Culture, MIT Education

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Professor Eric C. Rath – The importance of learning the historical and cultural context that gave rise to the aspects of Japanese Culture

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 20.36.27

Eric C. Rath is professor of premodern Japanese history at the University of Kansas and a specialist in Japanese dietary culture and the traditional performing arts. His recent publications include Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Japan (University of California Press, 2010) and “Revaluating Rikyū: Kaiseki and the Origins of Japanese Cuisine,” Journal of Japanese Studies 39.1 (2013): 67-96. His current research interests encompass local foods in Japan, tobacco, confectionery, and sake.

new Rath website photo

Eric Rath at the school of Mayul in Gande, Golok, Qinghai Province.

It is my pleasure today to introduce Eric C. Rath here on my blog. It is an absolute pleasure to know someone who can understand the special connections one has when one encounters Japanese culture from a very young age and how this becomes part of your life and you somehow want to express the appreciation for this culture in any way that you can throughout your adult life.

We share 2 things in common and that is the appreciation for Japanese food culture/ culture and  its history and having both spent some time in the Himalayas/Tibet.

I have never met anyone before that could perhaps understand this relationship that I have with Japanese culture and how important it is to learn more about the historic context that gave rise to this beautiful and outstanding culture in the first place.

Eric C. Rath’s work in Japan and his incredible achievements are far more developed then mine, however I really appreciate that I can learn and share the incredible information Eric is making available to us in english.

I have been a japanese chef in the western world for 15 years and what is lacking in our westernised japanese eatery’s is the cultural heritage. I feel it is of great importance to not just create restaurants that are completely removed from its own cultural essences as it is in most of America and the rest of the world at present.

In the 1970’s Japanese restaurants were adapted to suit Westerners as Japanese eating culture was very alien to the west in these day’s. All the chefs were japanese then but now you have so many different cultures working in japanese restaurants and nobody knows the actual culture which is very tragic.

Of course Japanese restaurants are aslo seen as a very profitable business and therefor we have had a japanese fast food to fine dining boom since the world wide successes of Nobu.

Generally there is a to wide of a cultural gap that is missing in our modern interpretations of japanese eatery’s here in the west in general and I would love to see more aspects of japanese cultural appreciation’s introduced here purely because this is the ultimate spirit, experience and essence of that which transmit something very special to people and of course if you have been to Japan you will appreciate what I am trying to say.

Japanese culture has many profound aspects to offer that are positive for all human’s to experience and learn about.

I strongly feel that the cultural aspects are so unique and beautiful as well as significant that they must not be lost and even if it is a modern interpretation of a japanese restaurant it should resonate certain key aspects inorder to be in harmony with the culture itself rather then be completely removed from its own original essence, history and culture.

To be clear I dont seek to replicate japan here in the west but to incorporate more culture and history as a concept.

It is my research and dedication to refine and develop restaurant concepts that can bring a more cultural experience then what we would normally see here in the west and to connect to the appreciation of the arts and culture for example: through space/ architecture/ art/ philosophy/ literature/crafts/ gardens/ values/ historical events and food etc.

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 20.23.04Illustration from a Heian period (794-1185) book on imperial court ritual showing kamaboko served at a banquet.

Eric C. Rath’s is helping us to try to uncover the origins of Japanese cuisine and study more about the traditions and  history’s of the ancient eating cutlure of Japan. He has translated some extraordinary historical texts that would normally not be able to be accessed or read by just anyone and most importantly he translated aspects of these important writings into english aiding us to gain a much deeper cultural insight into the history of japanese eating culture century’s ago.

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 20.11.49Ikamaryu Shikibocho (Court Knife Ceremony) Master/  Kyoto Kichisen Master Chef Yoshimi Tanigawa 京都吉泉 谷河吉巳

Introduction and shot interviewe with Eric C.Rath:

Ni: What brought you to Japan and what made you so closely connected to the Japanese culture?

Eric: My father lived in Kyoto when he was in the military and my mother’s father traveled extensively in Japan and ended up dying there to be buried through the intervention of a close friend in Nanzenji Zen temple in Kyoto, so although I am not Japanese I have close family ties to Kyoto and Japan. I was unable to study about Japan until I went to college where I decided that if I really wanted to know the country I would have to visit there. One visit was enough to prompt me to enter graduate school to learn more. I earned a Ph.D. in premodern Japanese history from the University of Michigan, and en route I lived for several years in Yokohama and Kyoto studying language and doing research. Now I teach premodern Japanese history at the University of Kansas.
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Nanzen-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto. It began as a detached palace in 1264 but was repeatedly destroyed by fire and most of the old garden was lost. A new Zen garden, called the Leaping Tiger Garden, was made after 1611 and is a good example of the karesansui (dry garden) style. . It has a large sand rectangle enclosed by a buildings on two sides and a sloping bank on another side. The bank has rock compositions at its foot which can be seen as tiger cubs or as a turtle and a crane (animals associated with the Isles of the Immortals). Nanzenji is now the headquarters of the Nanzen-ji branch of Rinzai Zen.
Ni: What made you write your first book and what was it about? 

Eric: I was involved in theater and I had the opportunity to see a noh play during my first visit to Japan. Noh uses masks, elegant costumes, and chanted speech punctuated by drums and a flute. The stillness and strength of noh can only be compared to watching a Zen rock garden, which in its silence, space, and forms has secrets to convey if one watches. As a graduate student, I had a chance to study the basics of noh dance and music in the Traditional Theater Training program in Kyoto, which brings Western and Japanese actors, dancers, and enthusiasts like myself to study noh intensively for a summer. The experience prompted me to try to understand the noh’s historical development to comprehend the culture that created such a powerful, mystical, but hard to understand drama. My dissertation, which later became my first book The Ethos of Noh: Actors and their Art (2004), is a study of the six hundred year history of noh examining the ways that actors through the centuries have tried to explain the close boundaries between their art and ritual, magic, and mysticism.

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Ni: What made you particularly interested in Japanese food culture?

Eric: I was in high school when the movie “The Breakfast Club” came out, and there was a scene where actress Molly Ringwald eats sushi to demonstrate her sophistication. My more adventurous friends and I were accustomed to dining out if only to drink alcohol, and we decided we had to try sushi. I remember ordering it and being confronted by small beautiful pieces I had no idea how to eat. After observing our puzzled faces the owner of the restaurant mimed how to eat sushi. Chinese food had long served as an entry point to Chinese culture for me and after that first taste of sushi I learned that there was much more I had to discover about Japanese food.
Even as I wrapped up my project on noh theater, I knew that I wanted to do research on the history of Japanese food. While finishing my dissertation, I worked for about a year in a Japanese restaurant in Kyoto, chiefly as a waiter but occasionally performing minor kitchen tasks. Noticing the great drama that unfolded behind the counter where the chef sliced sashimi while talking with customers, I had thought to research cooking as a type of performance. I later learned that at least one eighteenth century author compared the meal to a noh play to describe how a fish had a starring role and the vegetables were minor players. But, when I began researching Japanese food history, I decided to try to uncover the origins of Japanese cuisine, which led to my second book Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Japan. The book describes the multiple artistic, religious and poetic meanings behind preparing and consuming food in premodern Japan.

Ni: What in your experience is the first initial attraction for western students to Japanese culture?

Eric: Many students are attracted to Japanese culture through manga, anime, films, food, and the samurai which have become part of our global culture. I hope that students taking my classes are able to learn the historical and cultural contexts that gave rise to these familiar aspects of Japanese culture and that they learn that there is a deeper level to these things and that they can uncover that hidden story through the historical method.

Some other publications include:


Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Japan. University of California Press, 2010.

Japanese Foodways Past and Present, Co-edited with Stephanie Assmann. University of Illinois Press, 2010. 

The Ethos of Noh: Actors and Their Art. Harvard University Asia Center Press, 2004 (Pb. 2006).

Articles and Chapters

“The Magic of Japanese Rice Cakes,” Routledge History of Food, ed. Carol Helstosky. NY: Routledge Press (scheduled for 2014).

“The Tastiest Dish in Edo: Print, Performance and Culinary Entertainment in Early Modern Japan,” East Asian Publishing and Society 3.2 (In press for 2013). 

“Kyoto Foodways,” Sabor: Culinair Magazine Voor Bon Vivants 3.1 (2013), 8 pp.

“Traditional Kyoto Vegetables,” Sabor: Culinair Magazine Voor Bon Vivants 3.1 (2013), 5 pp.

“Revaluating Rikyū: Kaiseki and the Origins of Japanese Cuisine,” Journal of Japanese Studies 39.1 (2013): 67-96. 

“How Intangible is Japan’s Traditional Dietary Culture?” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 12.4 (2012): 2-3. 

“Honzen Dining — The Poetry of Formal Meals in Late Medieval and Early Modern Japan.” In Japanese Foodways Past and Present, ed. by Eric C. Rath and Stephanie Assmann. (University of Illinois Press, 2010): 19-41.

“Mealtime at a Tibetan Monastery,” Gastronomica: Journal of Food and Culture (2010): 17-21.

“The Significance of Large Servings of Food in Japanese Cuisine” [in Japanese] for Kokubungaku: Kaishaku to kanshō, special edition on Japanese foodways, ed. Haruo Shirane et al. (2008): 278-82.

“Rural Life and Agriculture.” In A Companion to Japanese History, ed. William Tsutsui. (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2007): 477-92.

Nihon-Ryōri 日本料理

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 17.09.48This is a painting by Sen no Rykiu called the intoxication of the moon-Suigetsu

I have been around Nihon Ryori since the age of 5 and was fortunate to absorbe the many aspects that materialises around this beautiful culture and cuisine which filled my hart with many feelings for the japanese culture and life itself from deep within.

I have studied and still am studying the living culture of japan and of life from may perspectives but of course having dedicated myself to being a Japanese chef, it is what I  am on a journey on , to constantly rediscover deeper and deeper, as to what it’s nature really is. Coming closer and closer to the essence of life  ultimately helps me appreciate the depth that lies within Kyoto Ryori and Nihon Ryori .

Many activities help me to find these connections to japanese cuisine. Nature is the most prominent of teachers and following this root definitely brings you very close to the essence of japanese cuisine.

Tea ceremony is a wonderful aspect to practice as well as Ikebana, Kyudo, pottery, poetry and reading as well as meditation are all examples of things that help to study this beautiful cuisine.

Kyoto Ryori having its roots in the tea ceremony and by the 16th century, tea drinking had spread to all levels of society in Japan. Sen no Rikyū , is perhaps the most well-known—and still revered—historical figure in tea ceremony, followed his master Takeno Jōō‘s concept of ichi-go ichi-e, a philosophy that each meeting should be treasured, for it can never be reproduced. His teachings perfected many newly developed forms inarchitecture and gardensart, and the full development of “the “way of tea”. The principles he set forward—harmony (和 wa?), respect (敬 kei?), purity (清 sei?), and tranquility (寂 jaku?)—are still central to tea ceremony.

The tea ceremony has its influences from Buddhism and Shinto aspects reflecting that it is not the object that we perceive itself that is so fascinating but what we want to cultivate and find within!

“Though many people drink tea,

if you do not know the Way of Tea,

tea will drink you up.”

Human being in tune with the universe- to better oneself and living in line with the ultimate potential that is limitless through the way of tea.

This is just brief. The japanese works of cultural documents are to vast to mention in detail in this short blog but you will find many references and I encourage you to study.

The discipline of japanese cuisine is intense but this is another aspect which I will write about another time.

My personal journey as a japanese chef is unconventional but no less valuable then a full traditional training in Japan itself. I will write a article about my journey soon.

The reason I am writing this short article is because here in the west we have so many japanese restaurants that are not japanese at all and the essence and the way of life/tea/ culture is little bit left aside which is terribly sad.

Being a japanese chef is a way of life and we cultivate all to our own limitations. I would like to braden those limitation here in the west as we now encounter a time that may be more open for this. We now have developed a strong sense of seasonality and sustainability here in the UK, in New York it is even more established and is part of urban life in a big city,  japanese cuisine is the ultimate celebration of this.

My master said that he could explain everything there is to know about being a japanese chef in 5 minutes, however it would mean nothing! He always sed when he does anything he does it with his whole life and totality possible and this nobody can just explain to anyone.

I get approached constantly about helping owners to produce another Nobu chain which I can understand. Nobu is a great business module and so attractive to be a owner of however this is already done and there is so much more to consider.  Japanese Culture cuisine can be a great and endless possibility’s for new ideas can arise creating new concepts that may be more suitable for the times we live in now.

At the very center and hart of everything in life there is only ultimate potential and working from and with this is what really makes me happy as a chef.

I did not become a chef because I wanted to be what I saw, I became a chef because what I realised which was a direct universe of beauty from within, an expression of this ultimate potential and universal vibration so close to life and how nature expresses itself is no short of a miracle.

Over and over you will find paintings in Zen and in japanese culture that reference enigmatic moments captures as in the painting of the tea master Sen no Rykiu the intoxication of the moon which is a beautifull example of a man that is at one with Nature and the universe at a very refined level.

I grew up very close to Mifune’s Restaurant in Munich run my his son. This is were I was first exposed to the culture of Japan. He actually acted in a movie about Sen no Rykiu called Honkakubô ibun- Death of a Teamaster. Toshiro Mifune was a great actor of Japan filming many cult movies.

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A very great chef of Kyoto once told me to not try and copy and try to be like me but to find my way through nature and the practice of Zen.

I believe that Zen is free of religion and we can find the pure essence of it anywhere.

I wrote this article because the spiritual aspect is very important to my personal work and has been the catalist and soul of Kyoto Ryori but not many chefs in the west speak this aspect that I know. mostly ithe discussions revolve around sciences however it is good to put the science and the perceptive spiritual culture together. Some chefs do have a very strong bond to nature in there work which is wonderful to see and these chefs usually are the ones that resonate the strongest with japan.

I just wanted to share this video with you as it is a very good introduction of principles that have been with us before we can imagine but is hard to explain. Through animation it is more easy to explain what we consider to be invisible or spiritual subjects.

This is just to encourage an open mind about how we live, what we do and how we work- the universe works and by getting closer to that ,we will find only miracles.

Science and religion spirituality is coming closer and closer like never before helping us to understand and suport us to create new designs and ideas that will be better for our environment and the spirit of man living more harmoniously for the future to come.

There is so much to say on this subject however I am only able to provide a glimpse by showing this simple video and my feeling on the matter.

Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace
– Buddha

Here is a basic article about Tea ceremony:


My Hero Masanobu Fukuoka

“In my opinion, if 100% of the people were farming it would be ideal. If each person were given one quarter-acre, that is 1 1/4 acres to a family of five, that would be more than enough land to support the family for the whole year. If natural farming were practiced, a farmer would also have plenty of time for leisure and social activities within the village community. I think this is the most direct path toward making this country a happy, pleasant land.”

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“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” —Masanobu Fukuoka

Masanobu Fukuoka is a farmer/philosopher who lives on the Island of Shikoku, in southern Japan. His farming technique requires no machines, no chemicals and very little weeding. He does not plow the soil or use prepared compost and yet the condition of the soil in his orchards and fields improve each year. His method creates no pollution and does not require fossil fuels. His method requires less labor than any other, yet the yields in his orchard and fields compare favorably with the most productive Japanese farms which use all the technical know-how of modern science.

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Natural farming is an ecological farming approach established by Masanobu Fukuoka (1913–2008), a Japanese farmer and philosopher who described his way of farming as 自然農法(shizen nōhō) in Japanese. It is also referred to as “the Fukuoka Method”, “the natural way of farming” or “do-nothing farming”. The title refers not to lack of labor, but to the avoidance of manufactured inputs and equipment. Natural farming can also be described as ecological farming and is related to fertility farming, organic farmingsustainable agricultureagroforestryecoagriculture and permaculture but should be distinguished from biodynamic agriculture.

The system exploits the complexity of living organisms that shape each particular ecosystem. Fukuoka saw farming not just as a means of producing food but as an aesthetic or spiritual approach to life, the ultimate goal of which was, “the cultivation and perfection of human beings”. He suggested that farmers could benefit from closely observing local conditions. Natural farming is a closed system, one that demands no inputs and mimics nature.

Fukuoka’s ideas challenged conventions that are core to modern agro-industries, instead promoting an environmental approach. Natural farming also differs from conventional organic farming, which Fukuoka considered to be another modern technique that disturbs nature.

Fukuoka claimed that his approach prevents water pollutionbiodiversity loss and soil erosion while still providing ample amounts of food.

“Modern research divides nature into tiny pieces and conducts tests that conform neither with natural law nor with practical experience. The results are arranged for the convenience of research, not according to the needs of the farmer.”
― Masanobu Fukuoka

He is increadably inspiring and clearly demonstrated that all the wisdom that surpasses any technology is learning from life and nature itself. By observing nature we find solutions to all our problems and become better human beings.

I just wanted to introduce Masanobu Fukuoka to anyone who does not know him and to encourage reading some books about his work to find out more about his wonderful work with nature.

Everything we do we do better with our harts and life/ nature as our teacher.

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“I do not particularly like the word ‘work.’ Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think that is the most ridiculous thing in the world. Other animals make their livings by living, but people work like crazy, thinking that they have to in order to stay alive. The bigger the job, the greater the challenge, the more wonderful they think it is. It would be good to give up that way of thinking and live an easy, comfortable life with plenty of free time. I think that the way animals live in the tropics, stepping outside in the morning and evening to see if there is something to eat, and taking a long nap in the afternoon, must be a wonderful life. For human beings, a life of such simplicity would be possible if one worked to produce directly his daily necessities. In such a life, work is not work as people generally think of it, but simply doing what needs to be done.”
― Masanobu FukuokaThe One-Straw Revolution

“Speaking biologically, fruit in a slightly shriveled state is holding its respiration and energy consumption down to the lowest possible level. It is like a person in meditation: his metabolism, respiration, and calorie consumption reach an extremely low level. Even if he fasts, the energy within the body will be conserved. In the same way, when mandarin oranges grow wrinkled, when fruit shrivels, when vegetables wilt, they are in the state that will preserve their food value for the longest possible time.”
― Masanobu FukuokaThe One-Straw Revolution

wikipedia and other

What is the most important ingredient in Kyoto cuisine?


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In order to be a great chef you need to learn the nature of things deeply and also learn how to think.

Many chefs go everywhere in the world to do STAGE work placement for free from one day – a year etc  inorder to gain experience and also to build up there CV’s. I regularly read about young chefs that  have been here and there traveling then making a restaurant. In japan that does not go down so well as training to be a very good chef is through discipline and long years as a apprentice . Being in a lot of places of high acclaim does not make you a good chef necessarily.

It is important to do these stages of course  however the most important thing to develop as a chef is often overlooked and that is to develop an interest to try to really understand as much as one can about the natural nature of things and how to think for yourself. Ferran Adria more then anything really wants people/ chefs to do exactly this.

Nobody expects you to become a professor but the intention to try to make a deeper relation to the nature of nature is something that will benefit your cuisine much more then you can imagine.

You have to ask yourself or with others questions inorder to come closer to what you really want and need to know.

I just want to encourage everyone to look at water for example more deeply. Not just follow but try to experience Water and learn about Water if you are a chef or not.

How you want to do this is up to you the internet is a great starting place and see what you can find. Please send me anything that you might particularly find interesting and I keep adding links to this article for others to have a look at.

I will just briefly share some things about Kyoto and the significance of water in Japanese culture.

In Kyoto WATER is and always has been a very significant natural element that is at the center of Kyoto Ryori.

Kaiseki (懐石?) or kaiseki-ryōri (懐石料理?) is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. The term also refers to the collection of skills and techniques that allow the preparation of such meals, and are analogous to Western haute cuisine.

There are basically two kinds of traditional Japanese meal styles called kaiseki or kaiseki-ryōri. The first, where kaiseki is written as 会席 (and kaiseki-ryōri, 会席料理), referring to a set menu of select food served on an individual tray (to each member of a gathering). The other is written 懐石 or 懐石料理, referring to the simple meal that the host of a chanoyugathering serves to the guests before a ceremonial tea, and which is also known as cha-kaiseki (茶懐石).

In Kyoto Dashi ( a very specific stock used for the base of dishes ) is a fundamental key to the hart of Kyoto Ryori and water is extremely specific as to what atributes it has to have.

Many of you may have read or seen japanese chefs from kyoto use Volvic bottles of water when away from kyoto.

Murata-san the grand master of Kikunoi in Kyoto has worked with local university researchers to find out the optimum method for making dashi by extracting the maximum umami flavour from the ingredients.

Firstly you need soft water, like the water they have from the mountains that surround Kyoto (the city is famous for its water which is why its sake, tofu and fu are so renowned throughout Japan). If your water is too hard, it won’t extract the best flavour which is related to  PH values etc. Volvic being the closest alternatieve.

When Murata-san traveled to a book launch to London, he brought his own water with him. There was one restaurant in the UK that claimed they flew in there water from Kyoto specially.

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So now, even though I agree that Water is fundamental in Kyoto Ryori, I also see the implication the information above could have on the environment if everyone jumps on the bandwagon with out thinking about this in more detail. One also needs to understand a little about the natural constitution of Kyoto historically, the wells, the sake culture, the mountains that surround kyoto basically something about how water behaves and has behaved in the past and present. Water always changes and adapts there are reasons for the water to have its unique “flavour” depending on what is going on in and around or what is influencing the water at that moment in time.

Is water really significantly determined by hardness or softness? The flavour of this, the hardness, is definitely very distinctively different however- what I want to really investigate is, the total capacity of what the miracle of water is and that there are other aspects to look at inorder to find the best possible water for Kyoto Ryori or for what ever you are wanting to produce from beer to Sake, Tofu etc.

There is so much more to say about the significance of water in Kyoto/ Japan and I will update as best as I can on my blog in the future.

Indeed there is so much more to say about WATER and our relationship to it GLOBALLY.  Everyone has seen something about the terrible things that have and are happening to our water and the overfishing and global warming etc. and it is really urgent that we all try to do our best to get to know water on a more intimate and personal level no matter who you are. It is really overdue to recognise that water unites us all and gives us life itself and we need to take care and show gratitude.

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Dr. Masaru Emoto offers prayers before shipping out boxes of “Love and Gratitude Water” to afflicted peoples of Japan effected  in the afflicted areas of Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate prefectures in Japan. This is a great thing to do and it is importnat to collectively show our gratitude to our Water.

I wish we would adopt a global world water day tradition because it is an important practice for us human beings beyond anything else in life, to acknowledge what is our life force before anything else!  It would be educational and awareness enhancing to all generations and it may help to inspire people to spend more attention to our WATER!

Water in my personal opinion needs to be looked at much more holistically and Ho2 is only describing water very basically and impersonally for example. Any isolated characteristic is only an aspect:  so what or who is water?

If water is so changeable what is my relationship with water? As we are predominantly made of water we should know so much more about water, should we not?

What does the fish know of the water that it lives in? Probably more then us to be honest.

Certain instruments have made it possible  to record the fact that within each water memory cell it contains

440 000 information panels! Each of which is responsible for its own type of reaction to the environment.

Water has a structure like a nervous system which reacts to any irritation.

Water in its NATURAL form in its NATURAL ENVIRONMENT is incredibly alive and has intelligence amongst many other atributes and I doubt that by transporting water in tanks abroad or in bottles that it is really what we should be looking for in our water. To challenge this I am suggesting more research and study of what the true nature of water is.

Were did water come from Theory National Geographic:


The next question is what is the water like were you are, what is happening to your water, why are things added into the water, should I test my water, were is a natural water source closest to were I live, what does water mean to you, what is your relationship with water, how can the relationship with water make me a better person and a better chef, how can I help to treat water more better………we need to have gratitude to water, water is our best friend and it is what connects as all and more!

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From Masaru Emoto
Emoto Peace Project:


My sincere request to the concerned people in the world

March 11th, 2013 will mark 2 years after the Great East Japan Earthquake devastated Japan. Measuring at a magnitude 9, the earthquake created a huge tsunami to follow, that hit the Tohoku area of Japan at 2:46 pm that day.Literally destroying everything in its path, including victimizing 18,574 people. Sadly there are still 2,694 people who are missing as a result of the tsunami’s powerful surge, taking them back out to sea. In addition, the earthquake created meltdowns at the Fukushima Nuclear reactors that resulted in a lot radioactive substances leaking into the ocean waters of Japan, contaminating the Pacific Ocean.In 1997, I was with a Buddhist monk, Rev. Kato who cleansed dirty dam water with his prayers at the Fujiwara dam lake in Gunma Prefecture of Japan. I would like to share this important story with you.
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Me with Rev. Kat
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Water Crystal Photo – before the prayer
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Water Crystal Photo – after the prayer
My interpretation of the 2 photos is that they were certainly a good indicator about the condition of the lake at that time. The water crystal before the prayer shows design that looks like a figure of suffering female face. On the other hand, the water crystal after the prayer turned out to be divine in showing lights around the water crystal.
Another example of how our prayers effect water, In the early morning of July 25th in 1999, 340 people were gathered for a water ceremony at Lake Biwa the biggest lake of Japan. At that time, Lake Biwa was so polluted that horrid odors were emitting from the lake. A few days after we went there to offer prayers, the local newspaper reported that suddenly there was no longer bad odors emitting from Lake Biwa.
So from these experiences, I learned that if our prayers and intentions are pure, with using water as medium, multi-dimensional power can take place.
I would like to help those missing 2,694 people who are still missing after 2 years past from the disaster. I would like to protect and heal the oceans from contamination of radioactive substances. I am sure that you feel the same way. In order to do so, we need numerous numbers of people at the same time to join together to send pure prayers to souls of the victims.
I speak of this well known Einstein theory at my seminars:
E = MC2  Mass–energy equivalence by Albert Einstein
I believe the true meaning and power of this equation is
The amount of energy or power of the prayer is determined by amount of people who collective connect their pure hearts at the same time. Therefore, I would like to request the everyone around the world to join together for a Simultaneous Global Prayer at exactly 2:46pm Japan time on March 11th. Together we will collectively send our sincere prayers with the following words.
To the victims lost in the oceans and to the water in Pacific Ocean which has suffered radioactive contamination from the nuclear accident in Fukushima.
“I am sorry, please forgive me, thank you and I love you.”
(Repeat 3 times)
Where: Right from where you are.
When: Match 11, 2013
Time: 2:46pm Japan Time
*** Use this Time Convertor Link to find out what time 2:46pm Japan time is in your time zone.  http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html
My sincere love and thanks to each and every one of you for your simultaneous participation in collectively connecting to your heart for this powerful global prayer.
With sincere love and gratitude,
Masaru Emoto
Emoto Peace Project
Water the future:

The 3 Albarino’s

This is my first article in the new year 2013. For me the beginning of this year was a little bit challenging to say the least however I’m really excited to write about a very nice dinner invitation I got from 2 very special incredible people and shared with another two incredible friends and all revolving around wine.

I recently wrote an article about a wine producer from Galicia. My friend Hugo  who’s father is  JOSÉ ANTONIO LÓPEZ DOMÍNGUEZ a very special wine producer I wrote about just before christmas last year (see article link below). Hugo and his father was so kind to organize three wines from his wine estate so that we could make a little tasting together here in London.

I arrived at Hugo’s flat in Hackney which is in the beautiful old church that has been converted into flats. I then was introduced to an incredible person for the first time which was Christopher Kelly  of Theatre dela Mode (http://www.notjustalabel.com/editorial/theatre_de_la_mode).  His is a british unique designer who also loves many other art forms, he paints and is involved in many other projects to. His fashion is particularly popular in Japan.

He is such an extraordinary menswear designer. I love fashion and find mens ware fashion sometimes more exiting then womans purely because it speaks to me more in the sense that is is so wearable in a city like London.

I have always liked man’s fashion because of the different structures  layers and combinations, attitude ….almost being like kind of urbon city amor but at the same time being really cool and edgy.  I like to switch things up combining obviously something feminine with the masculine and Christopher Kelly’s work is a beautiful example of this, I really  appreciate craftsmanship and simplicity but within this simplicity I find complexity that is really satisfying to me.

Being a Japanese specialist chef we see simplicity as something that we aspire to and  in order to do this you have to develop great craftsmanship over many years of practice. The journey of  getting to this level is definitely not a simple one it is layered with so many different emotions, feelings understanding, insight, revelations, aspirations, struggles and many many many experiences and this is what really fascinates me.

I guess I see my own view when looking at Christophers work and I hope it resonates correctly to some degree.

Christopher had a collaboration project (see picture above) which was a exhibition of monster sculpture, embodying the spirit of the jacket. Andrew uses specialist techniques to construct imposing sculptures that express the very makeup of each jacket, its form, colour, style and even how it feels to wear it.”

THis is exactly the kind of thing that I like to do with my food concepts.  In japan the idea of something having a spirit or something else that goes beyond the physical- that is the spirit or essence of something, a kind of extended experience of what you normally see, is not unusual in Japan. That is the magic of something that resonates beyond the physical touching emotion and stimulating the way we can experience things.  That is completely important and interesting for me otherwise my dishes are just technical. To develop sensitivity for that and the skill to make this more experiential to people- is an art.

It can be a bit intimidating for me to try to speak about these things when you meet another very sophisticated artist or trying to write about this on my blog.

I would say in general that working with these concepts is definitely more unusual in gastronomy then fashion and it can be difficult to apply in a comercial business. However restaurants like El bulli and mugaritz etc do have a greater understanding and freedom to work with these elements and have influenced the gastronomic industry world wide with many avantgarde ideas that usually are more accustomed to art and music etc.

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“Celebrating a collection of re-invigorated classics, Theatre de la Mode has collaborated with paper sculptor Andrew MacGregor to create an elaborate exhibition of monster sculpture, embodying the spirit of the jacket. Andrew uses specialist techniques to construct imposing sculptures that express the very makeup of each jacket, its form, colour, style and even how it feels to wear it.”

My evening in the company of Hugo, Christopher, Ana and Theresa was an evening that was a truly rich experience for me  and subject matters were as abstract and fee without prejudice. It is very rarely that I actually meet other creative thinkers on everyday basis so when I do, I really get extremely creatively stimulated.

I would describe it as being overwhelmed and I love being overwhelmed.  It is almost like the richness of everything is overwhelming your being with new information and perceptions which is like being fed with new energy’s.

I am not a Christian however there is a saying which I don’t know exactly who said it -I presume it was Jesus but it said “that man should not live from bread alone” and there are definitely so many different ways to nurture and nourishing your self.

As a chef I definitely don’t just concentrate on the actual physical side of food preparation.

In the early training of my career I definitely focused on really understanding the physical aspects of cooking, timing, textures, all nutritional aspect, history and so on however- now I seem to focus on making the experience bigger by inviting other elements which you would normally not be concentrate on in a  conventional chef training.

A very good example of this is Mugaritz. Food defiantly has the potential to be as artistic as any other art form.

I do believe that perhaps developing this more holistic idea of different ways that the human can nourish his senses and being is an interesting subject to develop.

Eating in good company in a nice place with people that really care about you definitely has energetically a different effect on your body then if you’re on your own depressed and in the harsh environment.

If you look how we eat and were the food comes from and how it all is handled etc that alone is a very good place to start analysing how that might effect you nourishment ultimately.

I’m not having any particular revolutionary thoughts on this subject however it’s something that really occupies my mind and I do try to focus on this and see how far I can go with it however it is very difficult to find like-minded chefs who are willing to embark on such a journey of developing such ideas and of corse one has to also think realistically in terms of financing such a project.

This is just to share a little bit about what is going on in my mind and how to come closer to these things and creating a tangible operation in the very near future.

So in a nutshell meeting Christopher work was extremely inspiring to me because it is like creatieve parallel thinking. His project with capturing the spirit of the jacket is very much what I am doing with food. Seeing Christophers work assures me that I am not wrong in what I am exploring. It is always good to know you are not the only one thinking certain things and being a hermit you can easily feel you loosing track with others sometimes.

That evening we were to conduct a mini wine tasting together and comparing what each one of us actually got fromt he wine’s,  one was Nicola the other was Tabela and the third one was Trico.

Below this article I will link to a previous article which will explain in detail about where those wines came from and how they’re being cultivated in Galicia.

I have attach the pictures of the evening as it is to hard to write the events of the night in detail.

Hugo is working in the V&A so his home was like a treasure sanctuary of many iconic trinkets and wonders that you just keep discovering throughout the night.

A meal was also prepared for the wine tasting and very charmingly served on vintage collectables creating such a personal experience.

The 3 Albarino’s of Galicia

Nicolas, Trico, Tabla
Hugo and Christopher
Hugo and Christopher
Theresa and Ana from “flavours of Spain” they are importing the wine to UK 🙂
Hugo had prepared this amazing Empanada for us to match with our wine tasting.
The name on the dish is Trico the first wine we tasted.
First we tried the TRICO which is matured for 2 years. It is a young wine but refined and elegant, mineral and peaches .Details of the wine please see article link below.
Hugo made this Galician Empanada to go with our wine tasting which was absolutely lovely made with so much care and love the most important ingredient in any dish!

DSCF0319 DSCF0334 DSCF0322 IMG_1179 IMG_1178IMG_1174This is a more traditional ALbarino matured for 1 year, very nice nose- parfume, delicate, floral, fruity, elegant and light. This wine will be fantastic with vegetable dishes, fish and seafood.

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All 3 wines have labels all drawn by Hugo’s great grandmother, this bottle has a little greek soldier on it symbolising the strength and uniqueness of a child that without trying is irrepetible as is this  wine.

This wine is my favourite, very clean fruity nose really fantastic for the kind of dishes I create. Please read the full article about all these 3 wines attached link below. I have not gone in to much detail in this report and it is important to see all the detail and specialist care goes into the production and history of these very unique special Albarino’s.

We only expected to try the wines but the food prepared that evening was so wonderful that I had to include the pictures. Sorry my camera is not good but I hope the spirit of this special meeting will come across.

All dishes were served in vintage vessels which was really a fantastic way to experience togetherness and sharing food. I used to be involved in a cafe called Macaron in Clapham and my idea was that all the crockery was bought from vintage shops nothing was matching I still love this idea.


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I like this wall of mirrors because you can choose what you want to see and how just like life. There used to be a childrens program I used to watch and the lady always used to say what window do you want to go through today? There was always a choice of different shaped windows!
I like this wall of mirrors because you can choose what you want to see and how just like life. There used to be a childrens program I used to watch and the lady always used to say what window do you want to go through today? There was always a choice of different shaped windows!

DSCF0315 DSCF0359 DSCF0360 IMG_1285 IMG_1271 Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 15.44.46I want to thank everyone for that very special night. I added this picture because seemingly really ordinary things in the right view can become extraordinary. I really like developing my senses and eyes to see the magnificence in everything. The closest thing that feels like god to me.

Alchemy of the moment.

cook it raw…Japan

“Cook it Raw sees avant-garde chefs and traditional food producers come together to create a unique dining experience that explores social, cultural and environmental issues.

In the shadows of the great Mount Haku-san, an expedition takes place to discover the sustainable fabric behind Japanese gastronomy. Cook It Raw for it’s fourth instalment discovers the prefecture of Ishikawa, and immerses itself in ancient rituals and methods have been passed down from generation to generation, enriching the local cultural soil for centuries.A culinary experiment where the chefs create a dish using only the products found in region of Japan, famed for its dedication to harnessing intricate flavour while respecting natures boundaries.Ishikawa Prefecture is also an established artisanal hub in Japan, and each chef was teamed up with a local artist to collaborate on the creation of a dish.Each dish was presented on a plate made by a local artisans from the famed Utatsuyama Craft Workshop, in Kanazawa City. Fifteen artisans from Utatsuyama Craft Workshop, in Kanazawa City where selected, and each one created a dish using traditional Japanese techniques infused by the contemporary vision of the chefs.

The 4 day adventure saw the group immerse themselves completely in local traditions.

Exploring the fish auctions of Nanao City in the Northerly Noto Peninsula. Foraging in the Satoyama forest of the Kaga Hills.

Attempting to hunt duck’s with the ancient technique of Sakaami Ryo.

Tasting and matching the most emblematic sake’s to their dishes.

sleeping and dining in the traditional Ryokans of Yamashiro and Yamanaka Onsen.

the chefs then meditated their experiences and presented their discoveries on a dish at a gala dinner on the final night. The final dinner was titled “Shoku-do”, which translates as “The way of food”.

the dishes where infused by their discovery of Japan, and anecdotal moments of their expedition were present in the naming of each chef’s creation.”

In 2012 they went to Poland check the link below:





New Peruvian Japanese Fusion Restaurant Barcelona…by Ferran

When ever there is a japanese restaurant opening anywere in the world, especially Ferran’s….I am SUPER interested!!!!

Japanese cuisine is my life and my passion. I am probably more a japanese restaurant then a person.

I am constantly investigating and learning. I could not have any better occupation as this truly keeps me learned.

The realms of japanese food culture is imbedded in art, philosophy, spirituality, poetry, culture, architecture, poetry  porcelain,methods, techniques,nature, …the facets are diverse, devine and so incredibly refined enough to keep minds busy for century’s to come.

For me the fascination for japanese cuisine and culture, the history the imagination and passion  will never ever fade.

I am definitely not alone with these feelings, as japan ignites many chefs to find new ways in there culinary search for evolution, aiding in many new investigations making japan ever more relevant for all chefs of all generations and nationalities.

Japan century’s ago was hosting a style of eating and cooking philosophy’s that was incredibly futuristic and suitable for modern society to come.

Ferran Adria has always loved Japanese cuisine and now he will open a 30 seater restaurant right next door to Tickets in Barcelona featuring “NIKKEI” which is the peruvian japanese fusion that exists in peru for more then 120 years.

He will focus on certain vegetables carefully selected from Japan and south america for his new menu.

Nikkei is a term usually used for Japanese people who migrate:

The Japanese migration, and its individual members known as nikkei (日系), are Japanese emigrants from Japan and their descendants that reside in a foreign country. Emigration from Japan first happened and was recorded as early as the 12th century to the Philippines, but did not become a mass phenomenon until the Meiji Era, when Japanese began to go to North America, beginning in 1897 with 35 emigrants to Mexico; and later Latin America, beginning in 1899 with 790 emigrants to Peru. There was also significant emigration to the territories of the Empire of Japan during the colonial period; however, most such emigrants repatriated to Japan after the end of World War II in Asia.

According to the Association of Nikkei and Japanese Abroad, there are about 2.5 million nikkei living in their adopted countries. The largest of these foreign communities are in Brazil, the United States, and the Philippines. Descendants of emigrants from the Meiji Era still hold recognizable communities in those countries, forming separate ethnic groups from Japanese peoples in Japan.

Nobu also is a global Nikkai and his first place to migrate was Peru about 35 years ago:

Most famous and pioneering Peruvian/ Japanese fusion Chef  NOBU MATSUHISA has 42 japanese Peruvian fusion restaurants worldwide.

Nobu in Peru

Here is a short comment from Nobu as to how he migrated to Peru:

When Nobu was 24 he was working in Tokyo at Matsuai restaurant were he met a “Nikkei” from Peru:

“At Matsuei I met a Peruvian of Japanese descent who used to stop in for sushi about twice a year. One day – I was about 24 – he asked me quite seriously if I would consider moving with him to Peru to open a sushi restaurant. It was a dream come true, and I agreed at once. My father was a lumber merchant who died when I was seven. Whenever I felt sad, I used to stare at a photograph of him taken on the Pacific island of Palau, where he had once traveled to buy lumber. I wanted to be like my father. Staring at the photo I knew that I too would go overseas some day.

Lima was the perfect town for a sushi chef. With the Pacific Ocean nearby, fresh fish was never in short supply. And at the time – about 35 years ago – there were only three or four other Japanese restaurants in town. Yet Mitsubishi and many other big Japanese corporations had invested in Peru, so there were plenty of Japanese businessmen looking for good sushi.

I was a 49% stakeholder in the restaurant, but I had to do everything. Just as I had done during my apprentice days in Japan, I opened and cleaned the restaurant, put together the menus and made basic sauces. Back then you couldn’t jog down to the corner store to buy fish paste or other specialized Japanese ingredients, so I created everything from scratch, through trial and error. A lot of what I experimented with in Peru became part of my repertoire later on.”

The rest is history leading Nobu to be the most successful japanese chef world wide.

Peruvian and japanese fusion is still an exiting cuisine prospect and there is so much room for more investigations and developments.

I always felt it is important to refresh and reignite the work that Nobu has set such high bars for.

With the current peruvian/ south american global wave it is now of course the best opportunity to work with this wonderful and exiting concept of peruvian “Nikkei” cuisine.

The atmosphere of peruvian japanese food is very fun and upbeat suitable for the multicultural social, fashionistas and foodies alike.

Traditional Japanese is much more serious and demands a lot of deep knowledge, understanding and training apart form many other factores that are not easy to master or be respected for if you yourself are not from japan.

Upon many restaurants world wide copying Nobus style and menu has left a kind of confused in many people’s understanding of what real japanese food is.

To date there are not many japanese restaurants that are really japanese. Mostly the concepts get modified and customised for europeans.

Traditional Japanese food is perhaps difficult to convey in fast moving western societies so far from japan as it would require a lot of elements that are not readily available. As well there are required setting and atmospheres that  are important. In my experience staffing that have the skills required and the cultural education for example as tea ceremony “Cha Keiseki” and so on is not easy to employ.

I do feel it is not impossible however it takes a dedication and disciplin to establish that is incredibly intense and requires financial considerations.

It is so specific that many shy away from this prospect as heavy criticism follows by the japanese themselves.

In Kyoto having visited many masters, they rarely say about the other that they are great ( they dont say anything bad it is in the posture and look ). There is a kind of view of each other that is very hard to describe. Lets say there is a lot of pride which I do not condem, I understand the mentality and respect it to however it can be very hard.

Ferran Adria claims that Japanese Cuisine has had the biggest influence on his cooking career.

All over spain many  great chefs like Quique-Dacosta, Dani Garcia, Joan Roca and many more, all have a special place in there hart and influences from japanese techniques and ingredients in there menu’s.

Back in July, it was announced that Ferran Adria was teaming up with brother and business partnerAlbert Adria to open a Japanese restaurant in Barcelona. Details about the venture had been scarce until now.

In an interview with Peruvian publication El Comercio, Ferran said he was excited about returning to the kitchen. He explained the restaurant was Albert’s idea and will accomodate only 30 diners. The yet-to-be-named restaurant will feature Nikkei cuisine, a style of cooking native to Peru which blends Peurvian and Japanese ingredients and techniques.

When asked if he intended to reinvent fusion, Ferran insisted the restaurant will be strictly a blend of Peruvian and Japanese cuisine but with one exception: ”We want to incorporate – something that doesn’t exist in the Japanese or Peruvian cooking – working with vegetables.”

As for Nikkei cuisine, Ferran is passionate about bringing it to the international spotlight. ”In Japan, if you talk about Nikkei, they don’t know what it is, it’s incredible…The best part of Nikkei cooking is that it allows you to be more free…this type of cuisine is still being built and there is a long way to go, and this is fantastic,” he said.

Opening a Nikkei restaurant may seem odd at first but Ferran has been a fan of Japanese food for a longtime. The chef recently acknowledged  Japanese food influenced his last 10 years at elBulli, which was named the world’s best restaurant a whopping five times.

Ferran and Albert also plan to open a Mexican restaurant in Barcelona, all while keeping busy with the elBulli Foundation projects.

The news isn’t much of a surprise, given that the brothers have made several moves in the past year that suggest a desire for expansion: first there was Tickets and 41 Degrees, then the Mexican project, then a store, then a cocktail bar in London, and now this.

Not to mention their fascination with Japanese food, which became a major influence on the cooking at elBulli in the restaurant’s last decade. In an Eater interview last year, for instance, Ferran noted, “I didn’t go to Asia until 2002, when I went to China, Thailand, and Japan. And you could say that in the last five or six years, Japan has been and continues to be a major influence on my cooking.”

(Info in this article is from eater and fine dining lovers and link below for el comercio:


Ferran will bring a very upbeat and exiting experience to Barcelona also it will be very fantastic for all the world to see his new creations of his 2 biggest passions Japan and Peru.

I really cant wait 🙂

Nikkei cuisine is no stranger to Barcelona, and while the world awaits the new restaurant of Ferran and you want to try some Nikkei in Barcelona right now you can go here:

Komomoto, a decidedly hip, casual restaurant; nestled in Barcelona’s trendy El Born district.

Sleek, architectural interiors are given a stylish informal edge by a wall of hipster photographs and illustrations, industrial dangling lightbulbs and Ingo Maurer‘s post-it note chandeliers. The food too follows this line of slick modernity fused with offbeat cool with ceviches,  sushi – the wild salmon with chipotle sauce maki rolls etc – and lick-lipping noodles all impressing. Stylish, innovative and ideally located for some serious bar-hopping.

Dont forget to go to Tickets and 41 degrees, they are not Nikkei but really fantastic!!!

I had an amazing evening and Albert had some japanese fusion dishes that day which vere really fabulous. If you’re going to Barcelona book…it’s a must!!!!!


I love Tickets

I will write a separate article of TICKETS soon……

Pastry Chef Sergio del Castillo Mora….Japanese inspirations

1,The first dessert is reflecting on the Zen Gardens in Kyoto.

 Muso Soseki, a Zen priest and poet known as the father of the Zen rock garden, was born on the west coast of Japan in 1275, and died in 1351 in a temple on the outskirts of Kyoto, where he had created one of his last rock gardens.

This inner contemplation and calm can lead to a fresh outlook and clear mind. Like a restorative balm, Zen gardening is an antidote to stresses of modern living.
The gardens are a means to discover the sources and strengths of our natural humanity which, according to Zen teaching, is poised, calm, sincere and capable of facing all matters in life with calmness and perfect composure.

2, Schichimi Macaroon

Shichimi is distinguished from ichimi tōgarashi (一味唐辛子), which is simply ground red chili pepper, and means literally “one flavor chili pepper” (ichimeaning “one”).

A typical blend may contain:

Near the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in the Northwest section of Kyoto lies Chobunya, the only shop in the city where you can get your shichimi togarashi (seven spice powder) blended just the way you like it. Shichimi togarashi may have originated from China but developed over the years into a uniquely Japanese condiment.

It dates back at least to the 17th century, when it was produced by herb dealers in Edo, current day Tokyo, and sometimes it is referred to as Yagenbori(Japanese: , from the name of the original place of production). Most shichimi sold today come from one of three kinds, sold near temples: Yagenbori (やげん堀?) sold near Sensō-ji, Shichimiya (七味家?) sold near Kiyomizu-dera, and Yawataya Isogorō (八幡屋磯五郎?) sold near Zenkō-ji.

It is more fragrant and herbal than hot and spicy, the depth of flavor comes from the seven (or more) different ingredients, typically: dried red chili pepper, roasted black and white sesame seeds, dried ground orange (citron), hemp seeds, poppy seeds, dried seaweed and my personal favorite,sansho peppercorns.

Japanese food is not typically spicy, and Kyoto cuisine is even less so. Shichimi togarashi is used as an accent to add a little kick to certain foods and is usually found at the table, in small bamboo containers, instead of in the kitchen. At home, it’s a nice condiment to have on hand: Try a sprinkling some on a steaming bowl of udon noodles, or atop a skewer of yakitori. A little of this deeply aromatic spice is all you really need.

Here you can see the blending in action. Upon walking in to these kind of shops, one is enveloped by the aroma of yuzu and pepper. The seven ingredients were contained in rectangular containers with transparent lids to show their colorful display.

There is a recommended standard mix, but customers can specify a little more sansho, red pepper or any favorite ingredient to taste. The  Kyoto’s blend is typically less spicy than togarashi found in other regions.

3, Choux Pastry with a almond and red miso crust filled with Tamagozake flavoured white bean

This dessert is inspired by Japanese Wagashi principles.

Wagashi are delicious traditional Japanese confectionaries that embody the four seasons and masterfully fashioned by artisans – a skill that has been passed on from generation to generation – to represent various motifs of nature and come in all colours and shapes and are a feast for the eyes as they are for the mouth…

The main ingredients used are beans, grains, sesame seeds, potatoes, various fruits and nuts, and sugar.  They are low in calories and high in vegetable protein and therefore very healthful.  This is principally why the Japanese have been enjoying Wagashi for centuries and the reason so many health-conscious Westerners are now progressively including them into their diets.

These flavoursome edible works of art can be eaten between meals, as a dessert and when drinking tea.  As a matter of fact, they were traditionally served during the tea ceremony, known as Chanoyu, to sweeten the palate which would counteract the bitter taste of matcha, a powdered tea whisked with hot water to make an earthy-tasting froth-like beverage.  Furthermore, it was through the popularity of the tea ceremony that a large number of Wagashi became available, and over the years, they gradually developed into the exquisite confectionaries loved by many today.

4, A new interpretation of Tart Tatin

You can read all about this in my article about the egg of Dali and the Tatin sisters