Gourmet Trips

A Primer in Washoku 和食

Japanese cuisine has been accepted all around the world for its elegance and deliciousness, and what better place than Kyoto to enjoy Washoku in its entirety. Three things you need to eat at Kyoto – matcha sweets, soba and tofu. And at Yoshiya Arashiyama, you can get all three under one roof. And did I say they are Halal-certified?


Traditional Japanese food is collectively known as washoku. (literally, “food of Japan”). It has drawn a great deal of attention from all over the world for being healthy and delicious, and has been registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Washoku is simultaneously both simple yet complicated, plain yet sophisticated. It is salty, sweet, sour, slightly bitter and full of umami flavors, and equal emphasis is placed on beautiful presentation.

Washoku is written in kanji characters as 和食. The first character, 和 (wa), which means Japan or Japanese, also represents harmony, and the second character 食 (shoku) means food or to eat. Wa is considered to be the most traditional, indigenous, and important value in Japanese culture. As the name implies, washoku blends each ingredient in a harmonious fashion and satisfies all of your senses.


Given that much of Japan has four very distinct seasons, seasonality plays a very important role in much of Japanese culture, and washoku is no exception. The peak season of a particular ingredient is called its shun (旬) and the shun of popular foods are passionately anticipated each year. The importance of shun extends far beyond fruits and vegetables; fish holds a supremely important position in the cuisine of Japan, as might be expected from being a long archipelago surrounded by the sea on all sides.

Living in a country blessed with four seasons and an abundance of bounty from the sea and soil, the Japanese people have always deeply valued nature and have developed a very distinctive culture and lifestyle. One of the most prized aspects of this culture is washoku, which revolves around respect for this natural bounty and preparing it in a way that maximizes the natural flavor of the ingredients as much as possible.

Washoku is rich in variety, from everyday dishes to traditional full-course meals. By taking a careful look at it, you can learn about the rich diversity of ingredients, broad variety of local culinary traditions, superb cooking tools, food preservation techniques, and the use of distinct Japanese dashi (broth).


Quintessential washoku is made up of four elements: cooked rice, which serves as the staple food; soups and side dishes to make the rice more palatable, and tsukemono (Japanese pickles). This typical and simple format is expressed in the term ichiju-sansai (“a bowl of soup and three side dishes”) as follows.

花かんざし Hana Kanzashi

– A bowl of plain steamed rice
– A small plate of tsukemono (pickled seasonal vegetables) .
– A bowl of ju (soup), which contains vegetables or tofu and uses the broth of kombu kelp or shavings of dried bonito; miso and salt are added for flavor
– Three sai (main/side dishes), which are cooked fish, tofu, vegetables with dressing, etc.

Tofu Main Dish

The main dish was the specialty of Kyoto – tofu served in Kami-nabe. In Japanese, ‘Kami’ (紙) means ‘Paper’ and ‘Nabe’ (鍋) means ‘Pot’. Simple. Just a simple dash stock with fresh tofu from Arashiyama. The silken tofu used was different from those other variants of tofu served in the side dishes. Here, it was soft, almost like a custard. Very delicate taste of the spring water used with a lighter than usual soybean taste (lighter than the ones that were factory and machine made). To this you were given a yuzu sauce that you can add scallions and spicy radish mash for taste.

Tofu Side dishes

Since rice and pickles are always included, they are omitted from the term. Among the three side dishes, one corresponds to the main dish and the other two correspond to smaller side dishes. And here, you got a fresh yuba (tofu skin) 湯葉 and a cold tofu 冷奴 with simple dash of wasabi. You were free to add as much or as little soy sauce.

Tensoba Set

The Tensoba set was also served in the same Washoku principle, with the main dish of Tempura served on rice, and there’s a portion of zaru soba. This soba was not as good as the ones from Yoshimura. In fact, it was mushy and worse than what I prepared at home.

Matcha Mochi

Matcha Mochi is the traditional japanese rice cake, mochi, covered in powdered green tea, matcha. The bitterness of the matcha powder was balanced by the ultra sweet mochi. The small portion of mochi was a perfect end to a good meal.

There were better examples of soba and matcha sweets available in Kyoto. You can always visit the famous ones at Gion for matcha sweets, and there’s Yoshimura a block away from Yoshiya. Also, the place to have tofu is also down the road called Shoraian 松籟庵. But when you are stuck for time and wanted a quick fix of all three at reasonable price that equal its quality, Yoshiya will do. The meal costed USD 20 per person, service was efficient and quick, the place was clean. You are in and out in an hour. Go and see the scenery of Arashiyama, that’s why you are here.

Yoshiya (良弥 嵐山本店)
31-1 Sagatenryuji Tsukurimichicho Ukyo-ku Kyoto Kyoto
京都府 京都市右京区 嵯峨天龍寺造路町 31-1

Tel : 075-871-0448 (+81-75-871-0448)


Date visited : Dec 2017

0 comments on “A Primer in Washoku 和食

Leave a Reply