The traditional Japanese diet includes fish, rice, vegetables, soya products and seaweed. Rice is served with every meal. Fish and soybean products are the main sources of protein. Soybeans are used in soya sauce, tofu (beancurd) and miso (a soya paste used in soups). Sometimes soba (brown buckwheat) noodles are eaten instead of rice. 

The best-known styles of Japanese food are sashimi, sushi, tempura and sukiyaki. Sashimi is sliced raw fish eaten with wasabi (a green, hot horseradish paste) and soya sauce. Sushi is raw fish and rice wrapped in seaweed, cut into small round pieces and dipped in soya sauce and wasabi. Tempura consists of vegetables or seafood coated in a light batter and deep-fried until crisp. Sukiyaki is tofu, beef or fish and vegetables cooked together at the table. 

Although many Japanese families now eat a North-American-style breakfast of cereal, toast, milk and juice, the traditional breakfast is white rice, cooked fish, vegetables, miso soup and umeboshi (salty pickled plums). Workers and students have o-hiru (lunch) at noon. They may eat bento (a packed lunch) which usually includes rice, vegetables and umeboshi, or go to a restaurant for sushi.

 Yu shoku (dinner) is a time for parents and children to eat together. The meal may be accompanied by green tea or sake, a wine made from fermented rice and served warm in small cups. Before a meal the Japanese say Itadokimasu (I receive), and at the end they say Gochiso-sama-deshita (It was a magnificent feast). 

  Did you know?
The ritual of the tea ceremony, cha no yu, is 600 years old. Both guests and host follow special rules of etiquette. The aim of the ceremony is to achieve a feeling of peacefulness.
Food is flavoured with spices called yakumi (yaku means medicine and mi means taste). Food presentation is an art. Chefs pride themselves on making the food look beautiful on the plate.

 Since the Second World War, the Japanese diet has changed to include eggs, dairy products, meat, bread, beef and chicken. Because of the change in diet, children are growing taller. Today, Japanese enjoy all kinds of food, including North American favourites such as pizza and hamburgers.

  Kuri Kinton (Golden Chestnuts)

 12 fresh or canned chestnuts
225 g sweet potatoes, peeled, washed and cut into 1-cm slices
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp toasted black sesame seeds (optional)


 Fresh chestnuts must be soaked overnight and peeled. Place chestnuts in a saucepan with enough water to cover. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until soft. Soak sweet potatoes in water for 30 minutes, then cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Drain, season with sugar and salt, and mash. Mix the chestnuts into the sweet potatoes and add more sugar and salt if needed. Take portions of the mixture and make them into balls the size of chestnuts. Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.

  Did you know?
The globe fish, fugu, is a delicacy in Japan, although it is highly poisonous. The chef must not puncture the glands of the fish during preparation, because the glands contain poison. Every year, about 200 Japanese people die from eating improperly prepared fugu.