Food culture in Japan

Food plays a crucial role in shaping Japanese culture. Japanese cuisine is closely related to nature, taking inspiration from the four seasons as well as from the rich selection of edible ingredients the land and the sea have to offer. Through food, students will be able to learn about many facets of Japan including its climate and landscape, technologies, and even the life values and religious beliefs of Japanese people.

restaurantTaste the seasons

Traditional Japanese cuisine, or “washoku”, revolves around the concept of seasonality. Japan has four distinct seasons—spring, summer, autumn and winter—each with its own unique offerings of fruits, vegetables, seafoods and more. Washoku is about appreciating those seasonal foods and connecting with mother nature in the process. Traditional Japanese cuisine uses locally sourced fresh ingredients and utilizes special cooking techniques and utensils to bring out the natural flavors. Presentation is also key. Different dishes are served on or in complimentary types of tableware, varying in shape, size, color and pattern. Washoku is more than just a type of cuisine, it’s an art form. In 2013, UNESCO added washoku to its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Washoku
Washoku

supervised_user_circleFood and family traditions

Food is an integral part of Japanese culture. Most Japanese households have their own set of traditions and rituals when it comes to dining, both for special occasions and for everyday meals. One such example is “miso shiru”, or miso soup, an iconic Japanese dish. Although miso soup is basically made from only three simple ingredients—kombu (a type of seaweed), bonito (a kind of fish) flakes, and miso paste—the flavour of the finished product will vary depending on the cooking method, cooking time, and the ingredients used (e.g. red, white, or yellow miso), and every household has their own family recipe.

Bara sushi
Seafood clear soup

local_diningCelebration of food

To celebrate food and nature, many regions hold festivals and other events centered around local delicacies for which they are famous. At the beginning of each new planting season, many shrines hold “Otauematsuri” festivals to honor the rice fields and to pray for a bountiful harvest. Otauematsuri usually includes a religious ceremony where food is served to the gods and a rice-planting ritual. Aside from observing the rituals, students can also enjoy traditional Japanese performances while eating local delicacies.These events not only allow educational travel students to have the opportunity to enjoy delicious food, but they also remind students to appreciate nature and the foods it provides humans, and to admire the beauty of different seasons.

Takayama matsuri festival
Niigata rice field

shopping_basketFood processing and preservation

Japanese cuisine is centered around fresh, seasonal food. Rigorous food safety management helps food stay fresh even after being delivered to local markets or restaurants, making sure almost nothing goes to waste. Highly advanced food preservation methods can let consumers enjoy delicious food at a later date and a number of different food preservation methods (e.g. pickling, sugaring, canning, etc) add flavor to Japanese cuisine. The Japanese food industry strives to constantly refine and improve its food processing and preservation techniques in order to provide an even wider selection of food to more people.

From farm to table

Become a farmer or fisherman for a day and harvest or catch your own food. Observe how Japanese culture is deeply connected to the land and the sea. Learn how to prepare food in a way that highlights their natural taste. Learn to appreciate the effort people put into every single dish on the dining table.

Kyo yasai vegetables

directions_walkFruit picking in fruit paradise

Orange picking

Japan's distinctive seasons and varied terrain are perfect for growing diverse range of fruits. Thanks to the dedication of Japanese farmers and researchers, Japan is known for producing premium quality fruits that not only taste great but also look amazing. There are many varieties available for every kind of fruit.
Many regions in Japan offer fruit picking experiences. Orchards and farms offer students the chance to be a farmer for a day, picking and eating fruits while observing how orchards operate in Japan.

Tourist Spot

You could go pick apples in Aomori, the biggest producer of apples in Japan.

Apples in Aomori

You could go to Tochigi and enjoy juicy, sweet strawberries.

Strawberry

You could visit Okayama and try Muscat of Alexandria, a fragrant, flavorful variety of grapes that can be used to make wine.

directions_walkFishing & seafood culture

Seafood market

Japan is one of the top 3 fishing countries in the world. Being a island nation, various cold and warm currents pass by Japan, bringing bountiful yields to Japanese fishing fleets and helping build a rich seafood culture that is unique to Japan. For instance, the consumption of fresh raw fish ("sashimi") or raw fish with seasoned rice ("sushi") is a major part of Japanese cuisine. Through partaking in fishing experiences or visiting fish markets, students will be able to learn about how Japan's seafood culture was formed.

Many fishing villages in Japan offer fishing experiences. Students will have the chance to work alongside experienced fishermen and try different types of fishing, including set net, offshore fishing, and fish farming. Visitors may enjoy the fish they’ve caught in many delicous ways. Fishing experience opportunities can be found in Aichi, Fukui, and Nagasaki and a number of other regions.

Tourist Spot

In Aichi prefecture, you can eat seasonal seafood such as clams in spring and fugu in winter.

Aichi Prefectural Government open_in_new

Fishing industry is flourished in Fukui prefecture, which is located in Japan Sea, and it is widely known that you can get delicious squid and crab there.

Fukui Tourism Guide open_in_new
Echizen crab
Echizen crab

The charming village of Ine is home to distinctive boathouses that line the bay, offering you a historical perspective.

Ine Tourist Information Official Website open_in_new
Fishing villages in Inenofunaya (Kyoto)
Fishing villages in Inenofunaya (Kyoto)

Nagasaki Prefecture is located in Kyushu area, and it has around 4,179km long coastline including islands and peninsula. It has one of the largest catch in Japan, and the rich coastline allows you to eat various types of seafood.

Discover Nagasaki open_in_new
Nagasaki
Nagasaki

directions_walkFarmstay experience

farmstay

Japan’s climate and terrain vary from region to region, giving rise to many different forms of farming. Students can visit or stay at local farms and experience how local farmers grow delicious foods that have shaped Japan’s washoku culture. Leave behind the noisy hustle and bustle of big cities and enjoy the serenity and simplicity of the countryside for a day or two. Stay at a local farm in Japan and learn from farmers with decades of experience. Enjoy local cuisine prepared with freshly harvested food. Reconnect with nature. Farmstay experiences are offered in Wakayama, Fukuoka and other regions.

Tourist Spot

Variety of vegetables and fruits can be harvested in highland, Nagano prefecture, and you can do many agricultural experience. Wasabi farm experience is popular among them.

Nagano prefecture open_in_new
Wasabi farm in Nagano

Wakayama has the top-level of fruits harvest in Japan, and fruits picking takes place in many places. You can experience such as tangerine and peach picking.

Visit Wakayama open_in_new
Farmstay

Fukuoka, the gateway of Kyushu area, is famous for Fukuoka brand products such as rice, vegetables, and fruits. There are plenty farms for agricultural experience.

Fruit Hunting [Kyushu Tourism Promotion Organization] open_in_new

Experience Japanese food culture

Learn about washoku, traditional Japanese cuisine that is not just about the food itself, but also about seasonal changes, religion, nature, and social practices. Learn about the health benefits of Japanese cuisine and get hands-on experience making Japanese dishes.

directions_walkUbiquitous udon

Udon

Udon is a kind of noodle commonly found in Japanese cuisine. Udon is thick noodles made from wheat, usually of a certain length. How udon is made varies between regions. Regions famous for their udon include Kagawa, which produces Sanuki udon, and Akita, which produces Inaniwa udon.

Tourist Spot

Sanuki udon is one of the most famous types of udon. Students can visit udon factories in Kagawa and see how this household staple is made and even try their hand at making their own udon.

Kagawa udon school open_in_new

directions_walkShojin ryori

Shojin ryori

Shojin ryori is a type of cuisine that has its roots in Buddhism. Following the belief's tradition forbiding the killing living creatures, shojin ryori is a vegetarian cuisine that prohibits the use of meat, seafood, and certain vegetables (e.g. scallions and garlic). The core concept of shojin ryori is to consume the most basic forms of food and reflect on the meaning of life.

Tourist Spot

Koyasan, Wakayama is where the famous Japanese Buddhist monk Kobo-Daishi founded the Shingon (literally “True Word”) school of Esoteric Buddhism. Students can try Shojin ryori in Koyasan and learn about Buddhism in Japan.

Koyasan open_in_new
Koyasan Ekoin temple

directions_walkSchool lunches

Lunchtime

School lunches are a part of every Japanese person's childhood. Even if you aren’t Japanese, you’ve probably seen Japan’s school lunches depicted in anime (Japanese cartoons) or TV dramas. School lunches in Japan are known for being nutritious, flavorsome and fulfilling, satisfying all the needs of growing children and teens. Schools in Japan are dedicated to providing healthy, fulfilling meals to their students. Educational travel participants may dine with Japanese students and learn about how Japanese people lead long and healthy lives.

School Exchange

Aomori (Apples) Tochigi (Strawberries) Okayama (Grapes) Aichi Prefecture Fukui Prefecture Ine (Kyoto) Nagasaki Prefecture Nagano Prefecture Wakayama Prefecture Fukuoka Prefecture Make your own Sanuki udon Koyasan
directions_walk Fruit picking in fruit paradise
directions_walk Fishing & seafood culture
directions_walk Farmstay experience
directions_walk Ubiquitous udon
directions_walk Shojin ryori
directions_walk School lunches