Washoku is a cultural landmark of Japan, from its traditional tastes to its respectful ceremony. Whether you go out to eat or try some new cooking techniques, washoku can be enjoyed with friends and family wherever you are.

Beyond its long and fascinating background, the country of Japan is also home to a rich cultural history. Nowhere is this more apparent than in washoku, or its food culture. Read on to find out more about this unique tradition, listed by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

What Is Washoku?

Washoku as a concept consists not only of the traditional cuisine of Japan, but also the beautiful presentation and preparation of food. Subscribing to the idea of kaiseki, or hospitality through cuisine, washoku is similar to a tea ceremony: respectful, beautiful and appreciative. Rather than relating to a single dish, washoku can be anything from a traditional dish to a full-blown meal. The defining factor is how they serve the meal and what it consists of, with respect for nature and tradition. In general, you can expect to find a few key components when eating washoku: steamed rice, pickled vegetables, soup and a few main dishes such as fish or tofu.

Why Is It Special?

Washoku is more than just Japanese food. It is a 400-year-old tradition related deeply to the Japanese experience, from the seasons to its people’s health and well-being. Chefs usually locally-source ingredients, meaning they are in-season. Dishes are generally good for you, with a proper seasoning and without too much dairy or unhealthy oils. Finally, the food comes on traditional tableware, with special attention to creating a beautiful presentation.

Where Can I Find Washoku?

You don’t need to travel abroad to experience washoku. This unique cuisine can be found in many local restaurants, such as Naoki in Chelsea, New York. Of course, you may also want to try your hand at healthy Japanese recipes and make your own. In that case, many online videos can walk you through the process.