Stretching from north to south and surrounded by the sea, Japan's culinary culture has developed based on the four seasons and is centered on savoring the seasonal blessings of the foods of the fields, mountains, and sea.
From ancient times, the Japanese have valued seasonality as an important part of daily life and have referred to various calendars as a way to enrich their lives. Calendars, such as nijushisekki (24 solar terms) which indicate different stages of the seasons such as risshun (start of spring), geshi (summer solstice), and shunbun (autumnal equinox), and shichijuniko (72 pentads) that express more subtle seasonal shifts is deeply related to the Japanese food culture, used as a guide to follow the seasons and to practice agriculture.
In "Teishoku of the Seasons," we'll be sharing the appeal of enjoying seasonality through the seasonal foods used in teishoku, an everyday meal for the Japanese, as well as introducing the relationship between the ancient calendars (handed down to present day) and the food culture.
Mizu-nasu eggplant can be eaten raw, and complements beef wonderfully.
Enjoy with a light dressing that uses Japanese mustard to give it a little bite.
Mizu-nasu eggplant is becoming increasingly popular, so please do try making this dish if you find some! Use less beef if you plan to make this dish as a side.
Kuzu-hiki is a kind of soup thickened with kudzu starch that is often eaten in Kyoto. The addition of ginger encourages perspiration, which helps you feel a bit cooler after you eat one of these soups.
The hamo (pike eel) of Kyoto are delicious during the summer. We cooked the skin with sauce and shredded it into thin strips, mixing it with cucumber to make a vinegared dish (sunomono). Enjoy the contrast of textures of the hamokawa and cucumber.
We mixed small fish and umeboshi in with some freshly-cooked rice. The rich taste of the fish and the sourness of the umeboshi pair together to make this a wonderfully refreshing rice dish for the summer.
Every July, the Gion Festival fills the streets of Kyoto with color. The festival is one of the major festivals of the Japanese seasonal calendar, and takes place at Yasaka Shrine in eastern Kyoto. The Gion Festival has a history over a thousand years, and can be traced back to 869.
During the Yamahoko Junko parade, one of the biggest highlights of the Gion Festival, people march with floats called yamahoko that come in various shapes and sizes and are particular to individual neighborhoods of the city.
The parade takes place twice: once for the sakimatsuri on July 17, and once for the atomatsuri on July 24.
The Gion Festival is also sometimes called the Hamo Festival. People traditionally say that hamo acquires a richer flavor after it drinks the rain during Japan’s rainy season. Hamo are at their fattiest state during the time of the Gion Festival, right after the end of the rainy season, and the fish is a key feature of seasonal summer food in Kyoto. Dishes like hamo otoshi (parboiled hamo) with shredded dried plum, hamo teriyaki, and hamo sushi are classic features of Kyoto’s hamo cuisine.
orn as the eldest daughter of the grand master of Mushanokoji-senke, one of the three main schools of Japanese tea ceremony. Goto studied ceramics as an art history major at Doshisha University. Her dishes, based on kaiseki-ryori which she received training from her mother, a leading pioneer of chakaiseki-ryori (a traditional meal served to guests before a tea ceremony), incorporates different ingredients and cooking styles she encountered from her frequent visits abroad. Her dishes, arranged for the contemporary household, embody the culinary culture and soul of Japan.
—Vice President to Washoku Japan.
photograph provided by
The Rice Stable Supply Support Organization.
Every sixth months, on June 30 and December 31, oharae cleansing rituals take place at shrines to purge sin and impurity. At the summer purification ritual (nagoshi no harae) that takes place on June 30, people purify their minds and bodies by passing through a ring made from cogon grass. Nagoshi gohan is a recently-created dish for this event, based on traditions of the summer purification ritual.
This rice-bowl dish takes inspiration from the story of how Somin Shorai—a kami of purification, who inspired the grass ring tradition—offered the kami Susano a bowl of millet rice. The rice for this new dish, mixed with cereals and grains, contains millet and adzuki beans (which are traditionally said to drive away malevolence), and is topped with a thick, round piece of vegetable tempura made using green and red seasonal vegetables (with the green color representing the grass ring, and the red as an auspicious color that also drives away malevolence), served with a grated ginger sauce. Ginger, too, is said to ward off disease and misfortune.
During the summer purification, a large ring made from cogon grass and straw is installed in the shrine. By passing through the ring three times in the correct manner, people cleanse their minds and bodies of impurity and pray for good health.
Akasaka Hikawa Shrine.
When passing through the grass ring, people chant the following prayer:
Image provided by The Rice Stable Supply Support Organization.