Washoku: What Does It Mean In Japanese Cuisine?

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Washoku is a Japanese word that means “Japanese-style cooking.” But what does that mean?

It’s not just the food, but the entire experience that distinguishes washoku from other types of cuisine. The word combines “wa,” which means “harmony” or “peace,” and “shoku,” which means “food.” So, the word “washoku” means “Japanese-style food that brings peace and harmony.”

In this article, I’ll explore the meaning of washoku, its cultural significance, and how it differs from other types of cuisine.

What is Washoku

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What is Umami?

The Taste of Deliciousness

Have you ever tasted something that was so good, you just couldn’t put your finger on what made it so delicious? Well, that’s the power of umami! Umami is one of the five basic tastes, and it’s a key component of washoku, or Japanese cuisine. It was discovered in 1908 by Professor Kikunae Ikeda, and it’s been tantalizing taste buds ever since.

What Makes Umami So Special?

Umami is a combination of amino acids, nucleotides, and minerals like sodium and potassium. It’s also found in foods that have been ripened or fermented, like soy sauce or cheese. In washoku, umami is often found in simple ingredients like dried shiitake mushrooms, which are commonly used in broths. Dashi, or broth, is usually made with konbu seaweed, which is packed with L-glutamate, and dried bonito flakes or katsuobushi, as well as dried sardines or niboshi.

Taste the Umami

Ready to experience the umami? Washoku is the perfect way to get your fill of this delicious flavor. With just a few ingredients, you can make a meal that’s packed with umami. So, go ahead and indulge in the taste of deliciousness!

Celebrating the Flavors of the Four Seasons with Washoku

The Art of Japanese Cuisine

Washoku is a traditional Japanese cuisine that celebrates the flavors of the four seasons: summer, autumn, winter, and spring. It’s an art form that takes into account the best ingredients for each season and changes the menu accordingly. So, no matter what time of year it is, you can expect something fresh and delicious!

A Taste of the Seasons

When it comes to Washoku, each season has its own specialties. For example, in Japan, winter is the time for mandarins and summer is the time for pickled cucumbers. So, if you’re looking for a unique culinary experience, Washoku is the way to go!

A Feast for All Seasons

Washoku is a great way to experience the flavors of the four seasons. Whether you’re looking for a light summer dish or a hearty winter meal, Washoku has something for everyone. So, why not give it a try and see what the four seasons have to offer?

Taste the Traditional Japanese Cuisine

What is Washoku?

Washoku is a traditional Japanese cuisine that is known for its unique flavors and seasonal variations. It’s a great way to explore the abundance of delicious dishes that Japan has to offer!

Popular Dishes

Here are some of the most popular dishes you can find in Japan:

  • Agedashi dofu (揚げ出し豆腐): deep-fried silken tofu served in hot broth.
  • Gyudon (牛丼): rice bowl topped with seasoned beef and onions.
  • Kimpira gobo (きんぴらごぼう): stir-fried carrots and burdock root in sesame oil and soy sauce.
  • Nikujyaga (肉じゃが): stewed beef with potatoes, carrots and onions.
  • Oden (おでん): fish cakes, eggs, daikon radish, konnyaku (こんにゃく) and various ingredients stewed.
  • Oyakodon (親子丼): rice bowl with chicken and egg.
  • Tenpura (天ぷら): deep-fried vegetables or seafood in a light batter.
  • Tonjiru (豚汁): miso-based soup with pork and vegetables.
  • Tonkatsu (豚カツ): deep-fried breaded cutlet of pork.
  • Shabu-shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ): hot pot with thinly sliced meat, vegetables, tofu, cooked in broth then dipped in soy or sesame-based sauce.
  • Soba (蕎麦): buckwheat noodles, served cold or hot with various optional toppings.
  • Sukiyaki (すき焼き): thinly sliced meat and vegetables cooked in sweet broth, dipped in raw egg.
  • Yakitori (焼き鳥): barbecued chicken skewers.

Experience the Deliciousness

If you’re looking to experience the deliciousness of traditional Japanese cuisine, then you’ve come to the right place! From deep-fried silken tofu to barbecued chicken skewers, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. And if you want to take it to the next level and learn to make these dishes yourself, there are plenty of cooking classes available to help you get started. So what are you waiting for? Get ready to explore the deliciousness of traditional Japanese cuisine!

Essential Japanese Pantry Staples

The Basics

If you’re looking to get your Japanese cooking game on point, you’ll need to stock up on some essential pantry staples. Here’s a quick list of the basics you’ll need to get started:

  • Sake, or nihonshu (日本酒): Aka “rice wine,” this is a must-have for any Japanese dish.
  • Mirin (味醂): This sweet rice wine is great for adding a touch of sweetness to your dishes.
  • Rice vinegar, or su (酢): This is the perfect way to add a bit of tangy flavor to your recipes.
  • Bonito flakes, or katsuobushi: These dried fish flakes are a key ingredient in many Japanese dishes.
  • Konbu (昆布): This type of seaweed is essential for making dashi, a type of Japanese broth.

The Fun Part

Once you’ve got your pantry stocked with the basics, it’s time to start having some fun. You can mix and match these ingredients to create a variety of delicious Japanese dishes. Plus, you can always add in some seasonal veggies and meats/fish to make your recipes even more interesting. So grab your chopsticks and get cooking!

Exploring the Different Types of Washoku Traditional Japanese Cuisine

Shojin Ryori

This type of Washoku is a real treat for vegetarians and vegans alike! It was popularized by Zen Buddhism in the 13th century and has been a staple in the Japanese diet ever since. So, if you’re looking for a meat-free meal, you know where to go! Here’s a tip: the best vegetarian restaurants in Tokyo can be found in the city’s top 10 spots.

Honzen Ryori

This type of Washoku has a special place in Japanese culture. It was first developed to serve the warrior class in the 14th-16th centuries and is still served in some restaurants today. It’s a formal affair, so don’t forget to dress up!

Kaiseki Ryori

This type of Washoku is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there’s the 会席料理, which is a tray of dishes served at a gathering or banquet. On the other hand, there’s the 懐石料理, which is served before a tea ceremony. Both are delicious, but the latter is especially yummy if you’re looking for a snack before the ceremony.

So, if you’re looking to explore the different types of Washoku traditional Japanese cuisine, you now know where to start! Bon appétit!

What is Washoku? A Guide to Japan’s Unique Cuisine

The Basics of Washoku

Washoku is Japan’s unique culinary identity, and it’s all about achieving harmony – in the pairing of ingredients, the creation of a harmonious eating experience, and the kanji for washoku: 和 (wameaning ‘Japan’ or ‘harmony’) and 食 (shokumeaning ‘food’ or ‘to eat’).

Washoku stands out from other types of cuisine in Japan, like yoshoku (Western-style food) and chuka-ryori (Chinese food), for a few reasons:

  • It celebrates the four seasons, with dishes that reflect the local ingredients of each season, from tender young buds in spring to root vegetables in winter.
  • Rice is the staple, usually accompanied by fish, seafood, and seaweed.
  • It focuses on balance, with preparation techniques that bring out the natural flavors of ingredients.
  • The structure of a washoku meal follows the principle of “ichi ju san sai”, or “one soup, three side dishes”.

The Aesthetics of Washoku

Washoku isn’t just about the food, it’s also about the aesthetics of the meal. From the plating of the dishes to the use of traditional Japanese lacquerware, it’s all part of the experience. And let’s not forget the hospitality – when you eat washoku, you’ll hear people say “itadakimasu” before eating and “gochisosama deshita” after a meal in thanks.

Celebrating Washoku

The start of the new year is a great time to celebrate washoku, with the gorgeous New Year’s meal called “osechi ryori”. Every ingredient has special symbolism, and the colors and flavors are a feast for the senses.

So if you’re looking for a unique culinary experience, why not give washoku a try? You’ll get to enjoy the flavors of the seasons, the balance of ingredients, and the aesthetics of the meal. Plus, you’ll get to experience the traditional hospitality that comes with it. Bon appétit!

Exploring the Evolution of Japanese Cuisine

The Early Days

Back in the day, Japan was a pretty different place. Buddhism and Shinto beliefs were all the rage, and meat was a big no-no. Plus, with the country’s limited geography, cows and horses weren’t exactly a common sight. But don’t worry, there was still plenty of grub to go around – fish was a staple, and noodles and utensils were imported from China and Korea.

The 16th Century and Beyond

Fast-forward to the 16th century and Japan was finally starting to get a taste of the outside world. European countries were making their presence known, and with them came a whole new range of flavors and customs. Japanese cuisine was forever changed, and the culture we know today was born.

The Final Verdict

So there you have it – the evolution of Japanese cuisine in a nutshell. From its humble beginnings to its current status as a global powerhouse, it’s been quite the journey. And while the food may have changed over the years, one thing’s for sure – it’s still as delicious as ever!

Delicious Dishes of Washoku: A Guide to Traditional Japanese Cuisine

Tempura: Deep-Fried Goodness

When it comes to Washoku, tempura is one of the most popular dishes. It’s a mix of deep-fried ingredients that changes depending on the season. In the Kanto region, you’ll find tempura made with seafood and vegetables, while in the Kansai region, they usually use vegetables that are dipped in salt instead of soy sauce. No matter which region you’re in, tempura is always a delicious treat!

Tsukemono: Pickled Perfection

Tsukemono is a side dish that goes with almost any Washoku meal. It’s made with pickled vegetables and there are so many kinds to choose from! The most popular way to make tsukemono is to preserve it in salt, but you can also use sugar, vinegar, or even soy sauce. Cucumber, radish, and cabbage are the most popular vegetables used to make tsukemono because of their crunchy texture.

Yakizakana: Grilled to Perfection

Yakizakana is a classic Washoku dish that’s grilled to perfection. It’s usually made with fish, but you can also find it with other meats like chicken or beef. The fish is marinated in a special sauce and then grilled over charcoal or a gas flame. The result is a juicy, flavorful dish that’s sure to satisfy your taste buds!


Nimono is a traditional Japanese cooking technique that’s still popular in everyday home cooking. This rustic preparation features meat or fish and vegetables simmered slowly in a broth. Popular nimono dishes include:

  • Nikujaga – Japan’s take on meat and potatoes
  • Kabocha no nimono – Japanese pumpkin simmered in soy sauce and dashi broth
  • Buri daikon – a winter stew of wild yellowtail and daikon radish simmered in dashi broth

Salads and Vegetable Dishes

Washoku cuisine has a wide variety of side dishes that allow you to sample many different flavors and textures at the same time. These include dishes like:

  • Goma-ae – a type of cold salad that’s lightly tossed in sesame dressing before serving
  • Shiro-ae – mashed tofu
  • Ohitashi – blanched green vegetables such as komatsuna (a native Japanese mustard spinach) dressed lightly in dashi, soy sauce, and mirin and garnished with bonito fish flakes

Japanese Pickles

Japanese pickles, known as tsukemono, are an essential part of every traditional Japanese meal. They are made from cucumber, radish, cabbage, and other vegetables and provide a contrasting crunchy texture as well as healthy nutrients and probiotic cultures. There are various traditional pickling methods that are used for both vegetables and fish, such as pickling in salt (shiozuke), vinegar (su-zuke), soy sauce (shoyu-zuke), miso soybean paste (miso-zuke), rice bran (nuka-zuke), and sake lees (kasu-zuke).

Sushi and Sashimi

Sashimi, or thinly sliced raw fish, has been a part of Japanese cuisine since around 500 BCE. In the centuries before modern refrigeration, fish that wasn’t eaten raw was preserved by fermenting it over rice. The rice was discarded after fermentation was complete, but gradually this rice came to be eaten with the preserved fish, which later became modern sushi.

Grilled Fish (Yakizakana)

Yakizakana is a dish of cooked fish that’s often served as the main protein in a washoku meal. Fish can be cooked in a variety of ways, such as salt and grilled over charcoal (sakana no shioyaki), teriyaki style with a soy sauce glaze, saikyo-yaki style marinated in saikyo miso, and mirin-zuke style marinated in mirin (sweetened rice wine) before grilling. Popular fish for yakizakana include saba (mackerel) and salmon.

Soba and Udon Noodles

Soba and udon are two of the main noodle dishes in Japan. Soba are long, thin noodles made with buckwheat flour that are very healthy, while udon are white flour noodles that are thick and chewy. They can be served in a hot broth or chilled “zaru” style, drained on a basket with a cold dipping sauce.

Tofu Dishes

Tofu has historically been an important part of the Japanese diet due to the traditional Buddhist strictures against eating meat. It can be prepared in a variety of ways, such as deep fried and served in dashi broth for the dish “agedashi tofu”, simmered simply in water and eaten with soy sauce or ponzu dressing in “yudofu”, or glazed with miso and grilled “dengaku” style.


Kaiseki is the pinnacle of washoku cuisine. It’s a traditional banquet meal comprised of small dishes masterfully prepared and served course by course. It’s a luxurious experience that takes the main principles of washoku and elevates them to fine dining.

Exploring Japan’s Cuisine: A Nature-Defined Delicacy

The Geography of Japan

Japan is a nation of 3,500 islands, with over 18,000 miles of coastline. 70% of it is mountainous, and this terrain has had a huge impact on the development of Japanese culture, including its cuisine. This geography has led to regional variations in dishes, and a strong appreciation of nature – which is a core element of washoku.

Seasonality and Locality

Washoku is all about expressing gratitude for food, and respect for nature and the changing of the seasons. During these periods of change, or shun-season, seasonal produce is most prized. This is because it’s at its peak freshness, and is seen as the perfect expression of nature’s bounty.


The idea of harmony is central to washoku. It’s about harmony within the body, as you’re consuming food at its peak flavor and nutritional value. It’s also about harmony with nature itself, the source of our food. This is why traditional washoku focuses on the simple preparation of ingredients, to maximize their natural flavors.

UNESCO Recognition

In 2013, UNESCO recognized washoku as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. They said it was a “social practice based on a set of skills, knowledge, practice, and traditions related to the production, processing, preparation and consumption of food.[and] respect for nature that is closely related to the sustainable use of natural resources.”


Washoku Vs Yoshoku

Washoku and yoshoku are two different types of Japanese cuisine. Washoku is the traditional Japanese food that has been around for centuries, while yoshoku is a style of Western-influenced cooking that originated during the Meiji Restoration. Washoku is usually served with chopsticks and a bowl of rice, while yoshoku is eaten with a spoon and can be served with bread or rice. Washoku is usually written in hiragana, while yoshoku is written in katakana. Washoku is typically made with fish, vegetables, and other ingredients that are native to Japan, while yoshoku dishes are often Japanized forms of European dishes, such as curry and katsu. Both types of cuisine are delicious, but if you’re looking for a more traditional Japanese experience, then washoku is the way to go.

Washoku Vs Teishoku

Washoku is the traditional Japanese cuisine that was registered in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. It’s all about using fresh ingredients and cooking techniques that best suit each ingredient. You get a healthy and balanced meal with one soup and three dishes. Plus, it’s low in animal fat, so it’s great for your health. On top of that, you get to enjoy seasonal delicacies that are decorated with flowers, leaves, and pottery. It’s a way for the Japanese to appreciate nature and their culture.

On the other hand, Teishoku is a more modern way of enjoying Japanese cuisine. It’s a full-course meal that’s served with sake. You get to enjoy dishes like sakizuke (appetizer), oshinogi (middle dish), wanmono (soup or boiled dish), mukouzuke (sashimi or raw fish), yakimono (grilled dish), takiawase (stew), rice and konomono (pickles), and lastly kanmi (sweets). The umami flavor is key here, and it’s created by using ingredients like dried kombu (kelp), bonito flakes, dried sardines, ago (flying fish), and dried shiitake mushrooms. So, if you’re looking for a more modern take on Japanese cuisine, Teishoku is the way to go.


Washoku is an amazing way to experience Japanese cuisine and culture. From the different dishes to the unique way of presenting them, it’s a great way to explore the country’s culinary traditions. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned sushi connoisseur, you’ll find something to enjoy. Plus, don’t forget to brush up on your chopstick etiquette – it’s a MUST! So, don’t be afraid to take the plunge and explore Washoku – you won’t regret it! And remember, “Washoku” is just a fancy way of saying “YUMMY!”

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.