The abundance of gastronomical delights in Japan has earned them a spot in United Nation’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. From the usual favorites such as sushi, tempura, and ramen to the traditional sweets like wagashi and taiyaki, everyone around the world simply can’t get enough of what Japanese cuisine has to offer.
Its growing popularity has even reached many places around the world including the Philippines, where Japanese cuisine currently ranks as the fifth most searched cuisine by Filipinos on Google.
Google Arts & Culture has collaborated with 20 partners including the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to bring to life a digital exhibit called Meshiagare! Flavors of Japan. This online gallery peeks into the roots and deep traditions behind Japan’s most celebrated and world-renowned dishes.
After Spain: An Open Kitchen and Come Chop Belleful: Taste of Nigeria, Meshiagare! Flavors of Japan is the third Google Arts & Culture exhibit that is dedicated solely to a country’s unique cuisine. Meanwhile, this is the second project that features Japanese culture, following Made in Japan which was launched in 2016 and highlighted the nation’s craftsmanship.
Here are just some of the features you can enjoy on this online exhibit:
History and Significance of Japanese Cuisine
Did you know that Japanese cuisine was once strictly vegetarian? That happened when Buddhism was introduced to the country in 300 BC. Back then it was forbidden for anyone to consume animals. You can read about the origins of sake, tea, and the ubiquitous rice in Japanese dishes in this exhibit.
The Enduring Legacy of Edo Period
Those visiting the digital exhibit can look back at the Edo period and discover how the flavors and colors of modern Japanese food came to be.
Edo is the old name of Tokyo, and it also marks the most peaceful period in Japan, encompassing 260 years. Edo was one of the largest cities in the world that time. It is during the Edo period that the basics of Japanese home-cooking: ‘Ichi ju sansei [one soup and three dishes]’ was established.
The Secret Yet Important Element of Umami
Ever heard of Dashi? It is the secret ingredient used in practically all Japanese savory dishes. It is responsible for worldwide acceptance of umami as the fifth basic taste of food (salty, sweet, bitter and sour were the basic tastes prior.) Learn the ingredients of Dashi here.
You can read about the origins of Japan’s favorite drink—sake! Aside from learning how sake is made, you can also read about the oldest brewery in Japan.
Building a Bento Box
We’re endlessly fascinated with these handy yet intricately arranged box of goodies. With these series of videos, you too can have beautifully arranged food in your lunch box!
These wonderful sights have become iconic and a tourist favorite in Japan. People would schedule their trip around seasons when they would bloom. Cherry blossoms are also celebrated in Japan’s food, making them ingredients in the country’s sweets.
Japan is also known for the use of nature’s bounty and serving them fresh off the environment. This is best exemplified in their fish dishes. Whether it’s sushi or simply salted and grilled, the Japanese minimalist approach has certainly given us wondrous delicacies.
Learn more about the bar-hopping culture of Shinjuku with an exciting walkthrough of the historic Golden Gai District. They can even take a virtual trip to Toyosu Market, one of the largest fish markets in the world where tourists can get a chance to witness a live tuna auction.
More than the interesting sights, the exhibit also offers insights to the origins and evolution of global favorites sushi and ramen. Know more about the art of Japanese tea and watch how the elders practice a traditional tea ceremony.
The exhibit is accessible in Google Arts & Culture website and in the app that is available for download on the Play Store or the App Store.