Pantry Essentials for Japanese Home Cooking – Part 2

A pack of Korean konbu.

In the previous post Pantry Essentials for Japanese Home Cooking – Part 1, I explained the traditional fundamental seasonings of Japanese cooking – sugar, salt, vinegar, soy sauce, and miso (SaShiSuSeSo). Here in Part 2, I listed the remaining essential pantry items that will make your Japanese dishes more authentic.

I also included nice-to-have items that I sometimes use in my recipes. In the section Wrapping Up at the very end of this post, I listed all the pantry items that I included in both part 1 and Part 2 of Pantry Essentials for Japanese Home Cooking. Each item has a hyperlink so that you can jump to the article of the item easily.

Today’s post is quite long but I hope the contents are useful to everyone.

Japanese rice

Rice is the staple crop of Japan. It is a short grain rice that’s stickier than most, with a subtly sweet taste. That stickiness makes it ideal for scooping up with chopsticks, for bento (Japanese lunch boxes), and for shaping into Onigiri (Japanese Rice Ball).

There are many types of rice available in Japan, and the majority of Japanese people eat two types of rice.

Uruchimai (粳米) – this is the normal Japanese short grain rice that people eat every day or use to make vinegared rice for sushi. Japanese people simply call it ‘okome’ (お米), which means rice.

Mochigome (餅米) – sticky rice or glutenous rice that is used to make Rice with Azuki Beans (Osekihan), mixed rice (takikomi gohan) and rice cake (omochi). Mochigome grain is whiter than that of uruchimai (see the middle and right photos below comparing the difference).

…continue reading

    

10 Japanese Movie Directors Who Have Shaped Japan’s Cinema 

Japanese cinema is often lauded as bringing to life some of the most fantastical and bizarre, but also relatable and thought-provoking works. Coming into prominence around the world in the mid-1900s, many Japanese movie directors have made a name for themselves with seemingly controversial and/or extraordinary techniques that deviate vastly from the recognised western storytelling.

The wide range of Japanese movies means that there is always the perfect choice for all situations: whether you’re in for an effortless viewing on a lazy Sunday afternoon, or keen for an over-the-top action/horror thriller that will leave you feeling all kinds of squeamish.

10 Popular Japanese Movie Directors You Should Know

We’ve listed below 10 Japanese movie directors who have shaped Japan’s cinema experience, with some prime examples of their work for you to watch.

  1. Hayao Miyazaki
  2. Takeshi Kitano
  3. Takeshi Miike
  4. Akira Kurosawa
  5. Hideaki Anno
  6. Kon Ichikawa
  7. Hirokazu Kore-eda
  8. Nagashi Oshima
  9. Koji Wakamatsu
  10. Kenji Mizoguchi

Let’s discover each of them in more details below.

1. Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki is synonymous with Japanese cinema. Thanks to his stunning visuals and captivatingly unique storytelling, anime has become one of the most recognised and respectable artforms in the cinematic world.

Hayao has directed many animations in his lifetime but his crown jewel would be ‘Spirited Away’, a 2001 film about a young girl involved in a fantasy dream which broke the previous box-record held by ‘Titanic’ and even won an Oscar.



His studio, from which the likes of Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle also come from, is known for its unique strong and meditative protagonists and passive, often misunderstood villains.

2. Takeshi Kitano

Best Japanese Directors - Takeshi Kitano

Also known as one half of the nationally recognised ‘Two Beat Duo’, Takeshi Kitano is a renowned …continue reading

    

Which Water is Best for Green Tea?

Pouring green tea at optimal temperature

Optimal Water for Japanese Green Tea

Immerse the leaves in hot water to brew tea. The heated water extracts the compounds of the tea leaf. The aroma and flavor that give green tea its unique essence.

During harvesting and processing Japanese green tea leaves are dried. Unlike black tea Japanese green tea is not fermented during processing.

Does your area have hard water or soft water? The water from your tap could be hard water or soft. Here is a website that has a hard or soft water map of the USA.

Soft water is best. Hard water contains a higher concentration of minerals. Minerals can interfere with essential components of green tea and negatively effect the taste.

Use distilled, purified or bottled water if you live in an area with hard water. Or use a water softener filtration system.

Temperature is important in brewing Japanese green tea

Here is a guide to the optimal temperature to use for each tea type at our shop. These are suggestions, not rules.

This guide also illustrates traditional cooling methods if you do not use an electronic kettle.

Please check out our Brewing & Preparation page also.

Green tea mug

Enjoy a delicious cup of Japanese green tea today!

…continue reading

    

Pantry Essentials for Japanese Home Cooking – Part 1

Collection of some pantry essentials for Japanese home cooking.

Japanese food has many specialised ingredients unique to the cuisine. Some ingredients are repeatedly used in my recipes. I thought it might be of help to you if I posted my Pantry Essentials for Japanese Home Cooking, explaining each item in detail with the brands I use and some photos.

If you have these in your cupboard, you’re well placed to cook delicious Japanese dishes. I tried to include all the items in the photo above plus some more in one post, but the post became too long. So today, I will post Part 1 of Pantry Essentials for Japanese Home Cooking. Part 2 will be posted next week.

The most fundamental Seasonings – SaShiSuSeSo

Apart from dashi stock, the most basic seasonings used in Japanese cooking are expressed as ‘SaShiSuSeSo’ (さしすせそ), which represents Sa (とう, sugar), Shio (お, salt), Su (, vinegar), Syōyu/Seiu (しょうゆ/いう, soy sauce), miso (み, miso). In old days, shyōyu was phonetically written as ‘せいう’ for the sound ‘shōyu‘.

The sequence of these letters also represents the order in which you add them when cooking dishes. Sugar does not penetrate into the ingredients as fast as others, so you add sugar first. Soy sauce and miso are the last ingredients so that you won’t lose the flavour of these ingredients.

Most basic seasonings used in Japanese home cooking - SaShiSuSeSo.

You might wonder why sake and mirin are not included in this list. They are classified as the seasonings that add a depth to the flavour. You will find more information about sake and mirin next week in Part 2 of my Pantry Essentials

Sugar

Just like in other countries, there are many varieties of sugar used in Japan. But I listed only a few that …continue reading

    

Autumn Foliage Forecast 2021 Japan – When and Where To See Autumn Leaves

Autumn Foliage Forecast Japan 2021 Momiji

Autumn Foliage Forecast 2021 Japan – It’s this time of the year again! Autumn is one of the most beautiful season in Japan and it’s personally my favourite. The leaves on the trees will slowly turn yellow, orange or red, giving a colourful look to the amazing natural landscapes of Japan.

As you may know, Autumn foliage is largely influenced by weather and this natural phenomenon doesn’t happen at the same time in all the country.

The Japan Meteorological Corporation recently released its second Autumn foliage forecast 2021. These dates are basically the best viewing dates of Autumn leaves for each region in Japan.

During the Koyo season, you will be able to see 2 popular Autumn leaves: the red Momiji (maple trees) and the yellow Ginkgo. The viewing dates for these 2 categories of leaves are slightly different as you will see in the maps below.

2021 Best Viewing Dates for Momiji in Japan

For the Momiji, the red maple leaves, the best time to see them will be early November (11/4) in Sapporo, Hokkaido. To view them in Tokyo, you will have to wait until the end of November. For Osaka and Kyoto, the best time to view Momiji in 2021 will be early December.

Autumn Foliage Forecast Map Japan 2021 Momiji

2021 Best Viewing Dates for Ginkgo in Japan

Autumn Foliage Forecast Japan 2021 Ginkgo

As you can see, the best viewing dates for Gingko leaves are a bit different from the …continue reading

    

Lantern Dinner – A New Concept To Dine Safely During The Pandemic

Lantern Dinner Hoshinoya Resorts 2

Today, there’s no more debate about the value of the use of facial masks to protect yourself (and others) against the COVID-19 virus. Even before the current pandemic, a lot of Japanese people use to wear a mask, specially in public transport, when they feel sick.

As you probably know, the state of emergency in Japan has recently been lifted and people are starting to go out more and more as the number of new cases hit record low levels.

One of the remaining challenge people face went they go out for dinner is to keep wearing a mask when they eat or drink. Some just put off the mask when they are seated. Others keep the mask all night long and put it on and off when they eat or drink.

To make the life of people easier, the famous luxury hotel chain Hoshinoya came up with a new concept: the lantern dinners!

As you can see, they equipped their dinning rooms with lantern-type partitions to isolate each individual. With this set up, people can see the face of each others as they don’t need to wear a mask anymore.

To make it even easier to see the face of the people at your table, they added a small light on top of the lantern. It’s also a great way to better see your food.

Lantern Dinner Hoshinoya Resorts 3

Hoshinoya said that they used lantern-shaped partition because they are already an important part of Japanese culture. People will feel familiar with the design of these new equipments as they will remind them Japanese traditions.

These lanterns were actually produced by Kojima Shoten in …continue reading

    

Minami Takahashi Accuses Husband of Not Brushing His Teeth

Former AKB48 member Minami Takahashi appeared on the NTV variety show “Odoru! Sanma Hoden!!” on October 12, and she had some things to say about her husband who is 15 years older than her.

Minami married her husband, a man who works for an IT company, on May 1, 2019, the first day of the Reiwa era.

“I think to myself that I’ve never seen him brush his teeth since we started dating”, Minami said. Her husband would say he was brushing his teeth, when in reality he was just standing in front of the sink with the water running, so that it appeared he was brushing his teeth.

When she asked him if he brushed his teeth when he returned to the living room, he lied and said that he had. This caused the show’s studio to burst out in laughter.

Minami has said “toothpaste” and “go to the dentist” repeatedly to her husband, to no avail. He now has several cavities.

About three months ago, he would groan with pain about not being able to sleep due to the advanced state of his tooth decay. Minami confessed, “I kiss him because we’re married, but I really don’t like it anymore!!”

Minami never had a cavity before, but recently discovered that she has one, which really upset her.

Source

Source

…continue reading

    

This prize-winning poiré is sustainably made from Hosui pears grown in Chiba Prefecture

Source: grapee.jp

Chiba no Megumi “Nashi Sparkling Wine”

Chiba Kenshu Hanbai Co., Ltd. 千葉県酒類販売株式会社, a general trading company of alcoholic beverages and food products based in Chiba Prefecture, will be selling its popular “Nashi Sparkling Wine” (nashi 梨 meaning Asian pear) from the “Chiba no Megumi” 千葉のめぐ実 series in a “renewed” form with a new package. Advanced sales begin today, October 14th, and general sales will begin on October 28th, 2021.

Chiba Prefecture is the number one pear-producing prefecture in Japan since it offers an ideal environment in terms of both soil and climate conditions.

Poiré (pear sparkling wine) made from 100% Asian pears cultivated in Japan is extremely rare. This poiré is made from Hosui Asian pears from Kamagaya, a famous pear-growing area in Chiba Prefecture, which has an ideal environment in terms of both soil and climate conditions.

Chiba no Megumi “Nashi Sparkling Wine” lets you appreciate the great taste of Hosui pears, prized for their subtle sweetness and refreshing mild tartness. It comes as no surprise that it’s one of the company’s best-selling products that sells out every year.

New look, same great taste

Chiba no Megumi “Sparkling Wine” now comes in a special festive bottle perfect for special occasions.



“Chiba no Megumi” series

In 2002, Chiba Prefecture began developing original products that using 100% ingredients grown and produced in Chiba. Taking a hint from the name of the prefecture which is written 千葉 (a thousand leaves), they developed the catchphrase: sensan senshō 千産千消 “thousands of products for thousands of consumers.”

Inspired by this initiative, Chiba Kenshu Hanbai Co., Ltd. created the “Chiba no Megumi” series of original products using fresh fruit and produce harvested in Chiba Prefecture.


An award-winning wine

Chiba no Megumi “Nashi …continue reading

    

Sake vs Soju vs Shochu – What’s The Difference?

Traditional Japanese Sake Set 1

Sake vs Soju vs Shochu – As tourism in Asia becomes more and more popular, this invariably means that the interest in the food and drinks part of the culture will also grow correspondingly. It’s always been a known fact that people connect with others over food and drinks more easily than any other parts of their culture, and this is the same with anyone visiting Asian countries.

Amongst the chief popular drinks items to come from Asian countries, there are none more popular than the globally known sake, shochu, and soju. Each of these drinks are distinct in their own right, and yet they’re commonly placed in the same category by those not quite sure of their make-up and materials.

Sake and shochu are originally produced in Japan, whereas soju, one of the most top-selling liquors in the world by volume, is originally from Korea.

Each of these drinks are created in different ways, and thus the results are three completely different tasting yet equally enjoyable drinks.

Their differences lay in their base ingredient, method of distil or fermentation, length of distil or fermentation, and, most importantly, how they’re meant to be enjoyed.

We’ve listed below some basic information regarding each type of drink as well as how you can maximise your enjoyment of each drink.

Let the battle between Sake vs Soju vs Shochu starts!

What is Sake?

Sake Japan barrel 1

At its core, sake is a brewed alcoholic beverage made from fermented Japanese rice. It is not, however, a rice wine as most people mistaken it for.

The production process of sake starts with polishing rice grains, i.e., removing the outer layer of each grain until only the starchy core remains. The next step is fermenting rice for …continue reading

    

Photographer shows that Kyoto’s non-major attractions are just as gorgeous with stunning autumn shots

Source: grapee.jp

Japanese photographer Usadanu (@usalica) is known for capturing breathtaking photography around the Kyoto area, particularly in shots that display its natural beauty throughout its very distinct seasons.

That means Usadanu and his camera are pretty busy in the fall, when koyo, brilliantly colored foliage, paint the already gorgeous city vibrant shades of red, yellow, and orange. While many across Japan travel to Kyoto’s major attractions such as Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Arashiyama, and Bishamon-do Temple to witness the colorful leaves, it’s sometimes in the more nondescript areas that one can find some truly beautiful fall scenery.

Usadanu showed just that, once again turning heads with a recent set of stunning photos he took of a fall leaf covered river in Kyoto.

Source: @usalica
Source: @usalica
Source: @usalica

燃え上がるような紅葉の川 pic.twitter.com/WPYnxq1TMx

— うさだぬ-『極彩色の京都』写真集・カレンダー発売中 (@usalica) September 27, 2021

The photos almost look like an oil painting with powerful layers of paint to create vividness and depth of color, and really show that some of Kyoto’s most beautiful scenery can be found away from the major tourist areas.

Of course, Kyoto changes its expression through out the seasons. Usadanu captures not only autumn, but also cherry blossoms in spring, snowy landscapes in winter, and other scenes of Kyoto that even the locals don’t know about, with a photo book and calendar that show off many wonderful shots.

Be sure to follow Usadanu on Twitter for even more splendid photography of Kyoto!

Source: @usalica
Source: @usalica

この度『極彩色の京都』写真集とカレンダーを出版させて頂くことになりました!
僕がこれまで全力で撮影してきた京都写真の中でも選りすぐりの写真を選んで載せました。

また、今回は全ての撮影地の名前を記載しています!

僕の京都写真家として初めての出版です。
どうぞお手に取ってみてください! pic.twitter.com/L46Zu1lNIQ

— うさだぬ-『極彩色の京都』写真集・カレンダー発売中 (@usalica) September 11, 2021

…continue reading