In the past, a meal served in Japan was an experience. This included classic furniture, ceremonial processes and expected manners. Sitting down to eat in a traditional Japanese household used to be a cultural event. These days, Westernization has begun to eat away at time-honored dining customs. Here are some food practices that can bring back an authentic Japanese flair.
The traditions that surround Japanese food and dining culture have been fading as Western traditions become popular. However, from seating styles to classic cuisine, there are many ways to preserve this rich cultural history.
Today’s Japanese families can mostly be found sitting at tall, Americanized tables. However, there are still many traditionalists who sit on cushions at low tables like their ancestors before them. Chabudai tables, typically round and about 12 inches high, are usually found in classic tatami rooms. This family style of dining is a wonderful way to bond over a good meal with good company. It encourages sharing large plates of food as opposed to individual portions. Many popular shopping sites sell beautiful Chabudai sets for the home, making it easy to continue this comforting tradition. If you do find yourself at a Chabudai table, be sure to remove your shoes or slippers and only step on your own cushion.
Traditional table manners seem to be going extinct in all parts of the world as time moves into a new modern age. Luckily, Japanese households still closely follow many table manners. If you find yourself dining with a Japanese family, you’ll want to be sure to honor their food customs. For example, do not point with your chopsticks, be sure to lift your bowl to eat noodles or drink your miso and leave no grain of rice behind. This shows that you are grateful for your meal! It is also polite to say “Itadakimasu!” (I gratefully receive) before you begin, and “Gochisōsama deshita!” (thank you for the feast) once you’re full.
The availability of American fast food and the Westernization of traditional dishes like sushi have left classic Japanese cuisine behind. If you find yourself in Japan or would like to cook an authentic Japanese meal for friends, you’ll want to broaden your horizons beyond the familiar foods. While things like teriyaki chicken and ramen noodles are common commodities in the States, you’ll need to think outside the bento box. Because of the history of the country, traditional Japanese food consisted of less meat and simple dishes. To replicate this experience, serve a bowl of soup, a small bowl of rice and two bowls of vegetables. This style of dining is called ichiju-sansai.
It isn’t hard to go back to the roots of Japanese dining traditions if you are open to trying something a little new. The availability of authentic items like Chabudai sets can make dining in true Japanese style a delight. It could even bring you closer together with your friends or family. By subscribing to traditional table etiquette and serving dishes that more closely resemble the country’s heritage, classic Japanese dining culture can be carried on for generations to come.