Online Exhibition: Japanese Food Culture: History and Mystery: Transformation of Japanese Food


It is well known that Japan modernized and developed rapidly during the Meiji Period (1868-1912). Rapid Westernization changed Japanese diet with the introduction of new foods. Unfamiliar food ingredients and new cooking styles were introduced and adapted to suit the Japanese taste. The British Navy introduced curry and rice (originated from India), which became karē raisu, one of the most popular dishes in Japan. Katsu” of tonkatsu, breaded and deep-fried pork, is originated in the French word croquette. Rāmen and gyōza (often pan-fried) were originated in China, and though both being Chūka (Chinese) cuisine, both are localized and distinctive from the original.   

Even before the Meiji period, Japanese culinary culture had received foreign influences, though it was regionally limited. Nagasaki in Kyushu Region maintained trading with a few countries, such as the Netherlands and China. Through communication with the Dutch, generally called Nanban-jin, the people of Nagasaki developed heavily Dutch influenced food culture, known as Nanban ryōri. Another example is fucha ryōri, a type of Buddhist vegan food, originated in China.  

Japanese cuisine has developed uniquely while adapting foreign ingredients and cooking style. Now the variety of Japanese foods, including washoku, yōshoku and chūka, have gained popularity outside of Japan. Japanese food has become globalized. The variety of Japanese cookbooks are readily available. Local Japanese restaurants provide the variety of popular foods in Japan. One of the standard types of sushi is the California roll (avocado with imitation crab meat) which was invented outside of Japan. It may be unauthentic localization, but Japanese culinary culture itself has evolved while localizing foreign food, another transformation of Japanese cuisine. Someday, you may find deep fried sushi with rainbow sauce in a restaurant in Japan. 

Nihon ryōri hiden shūsei : genten gendaigoyaku, 1985

This set collects more than 80 cookbooks originally produced before and during the Edo Period (1603-1868) in modern translation. The featured volume is number 12 of this collection. The featured picture is "fucha ryōri (fusha food)," served at Manpukji of Kyoto, which established the Ōbaku school of Zen Buddhism. "Fucha ryōri" is a type of vegetarian food, originated in China. In this style, food is not served individually. Rather, four people take seat in a large rectangle-shaped table, and the food is served in a big plate to share.

Nagasaki Bugyō no okondate: Nanban tabemono hyakka, 2011

While Tokugawa Shogunate limited its commercial relations with foreign countries during the Edo period (1603-1867), the government had the Magistrate of Nagasaki, Kyushu Region, manage trading with a few countries, such as the Netherlands and China. Chinese and Dutch businessmen lived on the artificial island called dejima, founded just outside of Nagasaki. Through communication with the Dutch, generally called Nanban-jin, the people of Nagasaki developed heavily Dutch influenced food culture, known as Nanban ryōri. This book focuses on the food culture in Nagasaki and its diffusion to other areas.

Ryōri no tetsujin taizen (Allez! cuisine Battez des chefs de fer dans le monde), 2000

An official guide book of the famous TV cooking program, Ryōri no tetsujin, also known as Iron Chef. In this elaboration and entertaining timed cooking battle, a guest chef challenges one of the "iron chefs" to cook a course meal using a specific theme ingredient. This TV program was aired by the Food Network in the US. Its popularity led to the creation of an American adaptation, Iron Chef America. Although started as a niche entertainment program, Iron Chef shed light on chefs, who were usually invisible in the restaurants, and cultivated interests in food and cooking. The featured pages show the picture of the "Kitchen Stadium," where two chefs battle against each other.

Nihon no yōshoku: yōshoku kara himotoku Nihon no rekishi to bunka (Japanized Western Cuisine), 2018

Many famous foods, considered as "Japanese food," originated in foreign countries. Such examples include tonkatsu (deep fried pork), omuraisu (omelette made with rice and scrambled eggs). These are called yōshoku, Western-influenced Japanese cuisine. They have evolved in Japan and some of them have become so distinguishably different from the originals. This book introduces the development of yōshoku in Japan. The featured pages show the original food and its Japanese version. The pictures on the left page compares the original Russian borscht and pirozhki and their Japanese versions. Those on the right page show karē (curry) and nikujaga (stewed meat and potatoes), both or which were developed from the British Navy.

Kyōen gaikō: wain to ryōri de sekai wa mawaru, 2012

The Congress dances a lot. And the Congress eats a lot as well, even though it does not progress. Food is an important tool for politics and diplomacy. This book focuses on banquet dinners for state guests and summit meetings and discusses the importance of dinner diplomacy. The featured pages are the pictures of the banquet dinner at the 26th G8 Summit, aka Kyushu-Okinawa Summit 2000. Okinawa's traditional ingredients and cooking technique were used in this French-style course menu.

Washoku to Nihonshu, vol. 10, 2018

The word sake or saké is already recognized as Japanese rice wine; it is not so unusual to find the lines of sake bottles in local liquor shops. This booklet, part of the series which introduces traditional dietary cultures of Japan, discusses sake in a variety of aspects: its regional uniqueness, its use of rituals, its brewing process, its health utility, etc.

Nanban ryōri no rūtsu o motomete, 1999

This book focuses on "Nanban ryōri," Western-influenced food developed in the Edo period Japan. The author made in-depth examination of Nanban ryōri and traced their origins. She visited Portugal and other places such as Goa, Malacca and Macao, where the Portuguese sailors used as ports of call. And she finds Créole cooking, an early example of the globalization of food culture.

Washoku no Eigo hyōgen jiten (The Comprehensive Guide to Washoku in Japanese and English), 2016

Responding to the high interest in Japanese food, this book introduces Japanese food and food culture in English.

Washoku: Nihon no shizen, hitobito no chie : tokubetsuten : kōshiki gaido bukku (Special Exhibition Washoku: Nature and Culture in Japanese Cuisine : More Delicious with More Knowledge), 2020

Catalog of an exhibition hosted at the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, March 14-June 14, 2020 (but canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic). This catalog not only surveys the history and development of Japanese food and food culture but also takes a geographical approach to examine the uniqueness of Japanese food ingredients and seasoning.

Yokohama yōshoku bunka kotohajime, 1999

After concluding the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the US in 1868, the Japanese Government opened the ports of Hakodate, Yokohama, and other cities for foreign trading. This book focuses on the City of Yokohama and traces the roots of yōshoku (Western oriented food) and yōshu (Western originated liqueurs). The featured illustration, created by Utagawa Yoshikazu, depicts two Americans baking bread with a kiln.