Mar(k): Travel, Hiking, and "Doing Good"

musings on our life of travel and volunteering

A note on Japanese Food Culture

with 5 comments

We are currently enjoying a month in Japan, taking in the amazing shrines, soaking in onsens, admiring Mount Fuji, and chasing the cherry blossoms. But one of the most enjoyable parts of our holiday in Japan has been enjoying the amazing diversity of food here. Virtually every region has its specialty, and we haven’t had a bad meal yet.


Although we have had a few large meals (pictured), even here you can see that the individual portion sizes are quite modest. Each meal has a lovely blend of the various tastes: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and that most ubiquitous of Japanese flavours: umami. Each small dish is savoured, and with the enjoyment of these diverse tastes, you don’t need a lot to fully appreciate the dishes themselves.

This strikes me to be in marked contrast to many Western cultures, (and I am thinking North America here in particular), where I am always horrified at the portion sizes. Its not rocket science to see the correlation between portion size and obesity. And I do wonder about the lack of varied tastes in so much Western cuisine (the major tastes leaping to mind are sugar, salt and fat).

Other things that perhaps contribute to the overall healthier diet in Japan include the following:

  • Soft drinks are not widely available. Vending machines are everywhere, but fizzy drinks do not feature largely. Common cold drinks are iced teas, most served without any sugar.
  • Meals are largely based around vegetables (again, refer to the picture). When animal protein is served, the focus is on fish and seafood, rather than meats. But even when meat is served, portions stay in control. Tofu and soy are widely consumed. Fermented products are commonly eaten. Breads and pasta are not widely consumed. Rice and noodles feature regularly.
  • Presentation of each dish is as important as the taste of the dish itself. Some of the dishes are truly like works of art. Balance, harmony and simplicity is demonstrated in both the tastes and the presentation of the meal.

It has been a joy thus far sampling the wide variety of foods and tastes in this most magnificent country. Highly recommended destination for the foodie.


Written by Mar(k)

April 23, 2017 at 8:26 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Ahh this is a good post- it’s crazy how different cultures serve and eat food! I’m going to Japan in 3 weeks and I am a vegetarian so I was a bit concerned, but this has been reassuring so thank you 🙂

    Becca Gouldbourne

    April 23, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    • Have a great trip Becca! We have been loving the food, but it takes a fair bit of diligence to find “true” vegetarian or vegan food. The dashi (broth) used in most dishes is fish stock based. Even if the dish is otherwise vegetarian. But once you find the true veggie stuff, the tastes are sensational! Oishi (delicious!!!)


      April 23, 2017 at 8:47 pm

      • Thanks so much, you too! 🙂 ahh yes I completely forgot about the stock and stuff! I will have to watch out for that, thanks for your help! I can’t wait 🙂

        Becca Gouldbourne

        April 23, 2017 at 9:21 pm

      • Enjoy! And if you are planning on visiting the Akihabara area (electric town), we can definitely recommend this place! Amazing “temple” (read: vegan) food. Right near the train station.


        April 24, 2017 at 8:10 am

      • Ahhh that’s amazing thanks so much!! I’ll definitely give that a try 🙂 can’t wait!

        Becca Gouldbourne

        April 24, 2017 at 3:02 pm

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