The Transformation of Japanese Cuisine in Changing Seasons
In 2013, washoku (Japanese cuisine) was registered in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list as a unique culinary culture that has been handed down from generation to generation.
Japan’s area extends from north to south in a long mountainous landmass with few flat plains. Blessed with vibrant nature and distinctly changing seasons, Japan’s cuisine relishes the natural flavours of fresh produce, while refining the cooking techniques best suited for each ingredient.
Low in animal fat, Japanese cuisine features the ingenious use of umami flavour in cooking. This savoury flavour is derived from seafood and plants and is considered one of the five basic tastes along with sweetness, sourness, bitterness and saltiness. Washoku meals often consist of 'one soup and three dishes' (ichiju-sansai), providing nutrional balance. Japanese cuisine embodies seasonal delicacies that visibly appear on dishes, vessels, and also in the way foods are arranged or decorated. Osechi ryori (ryori simply meaning “cooking”), refers to Japanese New Year dishes, and mochi (rice cakes) are very closely associated with the year's end. For the Japanese, food is not merely a nutrition source, but something that has dialogues with nature, ingenuity handed down for generations, and is at the very heart of their culture.