Washoku: UNESCO cultural heritage. The 4 basic points of traditional Japanese cuisine.

Traditional Japanese cuisine (washoku) is a UNESCO cultural heritage.

Here are the 4 key points that according to Japan characterizes that mainly.

ANAGO Hitsumabushi (Matsudo, Chiba, Japan)
t-mizo su Flickr

1. The diversity and freshness of the ingredients, and the respect for their flavors.

Thanks to the geographical extension from north to south of the archipelago, Japan is characterized by an extensive mountainous part and by the strong influence of its proximity to the sea.

The rich and varied natural environment has favored the development of a great diversity among the many regional cuisines, each strongly rooted in its own territory and in the use of its own ingredients. The evolution of cooking techniques and tools over time has allowed to make the most of every available raw material.

washoku ootoya

2. The nutritional balance and the perfect healthy diet resulting from it.

The classic style of a Japanese meal, which involves the consumption of more foods in smaller quantities complementary to each other, combined with rice, soup and pickles, is considered as the ideal with special regard to the nutritional aspect.

Furthermore, by focusing on the exaltation of the umami (the fifth taste), it allows to detach itself from the excessive use of animal fats. This makes the Japanese the longest living people on the planet, as well as preventing obesity.

What is l’umami?

Considered as the fifth flavor (after sweet, salty, bitter and sour) it has recently begun to turn as a word even in the West, although in Japan it has always been the basis of cooking. It is the sensation of savoury that a food causes in our mouth. Easily confused with saltiness, it is different and chemically linked to sodium glutamate (but not only).
The kelp seaweed (konbu) possesses that in large quantities, for this reason it is the basic ingredient of most Japanese broths/soups. To give flavor. In any case the umami and the molecules connected to it are abundantly present even in fish, meat, cheese and so on.
To make it simple, when you taste something and feel like “it has no taste”, that is given just by a low presence of umami.

Japanese cuisine, Washoku: 和食
Nullumayulife su Flickr

3. The exaltation of the beauty of nature and the cycle of the seasons.

In addition to the great importance given to making the most of seasonal ingredients, nature is also celebrated visually in every dish.

Whether through the use of flowers or leaves, or even glasses, bowls, plates and other utensils that changing in relation to the season reflect its beauty directly on the table.

David Z. su Flickr

4. The close relationship with the various annual festivities.

The japanese culinary culture is linked to all the various holidays, festivals and events that are repeated cyclically every year.

By sharing with others the wonders that nature offers us in the form of food, the bond with the family and with one’s own land is strengthened.

天文館むじゃき su Flickr

Points taken from the Japanese Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Agriculture website and translated for GiappoGourmet.

If you are spending some time in Tokyo and want to try a restaurant that serves traditional cuisine, even in a light and fun way, go see the Washoku category by clicking here.


Michele La Rosa, sommelier living in Tokyo with a passion for ukiyo-e art, kokeshi, ghibli studio films. Lover of Yokohama ramen, natto and washoku in general, his favorite beverages are the junmai dry sakè, the yuzu-shu and the barley shochu. By the way what he can't live without is, after all, the simple Asahi Super Dry.