Japanese food has developed over the centuries as a result of many political and social changes that have occurred throughout the country. The style of food changed during the Shogunate period and again in the early 20th century following the introduction of Western and non-Japanese cultures.
Japanese cuisine is based on combining staple foods, typically rice or noodles, with a soup and okazu dishes made from fish, meat, vegetable or tofu to add flavor to the staple food. These are typically flavored with dashi, miso, and soy sauce and are usually low in fat and high in salt.
A standard Japanese meal generally consists of several different okazu accompanying a bowl of cooked white Japanese rice, a bowl of soup and some tsukemono (pickles).
Different cooking techniques are applied to each okazu dishes; they may be raw (sashimi), grilled, simmered, steamed, deep-fried, vinegared, or dressed. As island nation, the Japanese eat a lot of seafood and meat-eating was rare until fairly recently due to restrictions of Buddhism.
Known for its seasonality of food, aspect and quality of ingredients, Japanese cuisine is rapidly becoming a trend worldwide. White rice and soybeans are the main ingredients found in most dishes. According to the Michelin Guide, Tokyo is the leading ‘starred city’, with over 150 top-ranked restaurants, as opposed to Paris and London that have around 148 each.
Noodles. An essential part of Japanese cuisine usually as an alternative to a rice-based meal. Soba (thin, gray-brown buckwheat noodles) and udon (thick wheat noodles) are the main traditional noodles; served hot or cold with soy-dashi flavorings. Chinese ramen noodles have also become popular.
Rice. Since its cultivation in Japan about 2000 years ago, rice has been Japan's most important crop. Its fundamental importance is reflected in the facts that rice was once used as a currency. Japanese rice is short grain and becomes sticky when cooked.
A second major rice variety used in Japan is mochi rice. Cooked mochi rice is more sticky than conventional Japanese rice, and it is commonly used for sekihan (cooked mochi rice with red beans), or for pounding into rice cakes.