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Japanese Dining History and Foods of Izakaya and Japanese Table Manners

Japanese cuisine has developed over two hundred years and influenced by both China and Korea. In Asia, rice has been the major staple food in many countries. However, in Japan, rice has also been used to brew sake, a traditional alcohol drink which always appears in every kinds of Japanese restaurant today, such as Izakaya. Traditionally, a meal contains a bowl of rice and seasoned side dishes for each one person. (Naomichi Ishige 2000) However, in Izakaya type restaurant, people sharing food is a unique izakaya tradition. Japanese cuisine first became to a distinctive style of cookery in Nara and Heian eras.

In Kamakura eras, Japanese cuisine was influenced by Chinese Buddhist-inspired and developed vegetarian cuisine in Japanese dining history. Until Muromachi eras, Japanese formal cuisine had been developed by aristocratic/ samurai culture. (Authentic Japanese Food) Traditionally, the feature of Japanese food is fresh, healthy, and low fat. Of course, good looking of foods has been considered as most important part in Japanese culture. (Kavita Mehta 2005). An izakaya is a Japanese drinking establishment where serves foods and drinks, which is also called “sake bar. Izakaya is very casual bar/ restaurant for after-work relaxation and an opportunity to unwind after a busy day. The Japanese always have variety of food choices from the land to the sea. The most famous of Japanese eating culture is sushi which is raw fish on the top of rice. There are many other different kinds of foods in Japanese cuisine such as yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), agedashi tofu (deep fried tofu with soy sauce and chopped spring onion on the top), karaage (bite-sized fried chicken) and edamame (boiled and salted soybean pods), etc which are sold in an izakaya.

Izakaya restaurant is a combination of all Japanese food restaurant which offer from sashimi, tempura, and yokitori to the alcohol drinks such as sake and beer which are good with grilled appetizers. Inside of izakaya style restaurant, the bar seats are the first choice where you can see all chefs are grilling skewers in front of bar table. The menu of traditional izakaya restaurant is created by hand written and placed on the wall. Once they have new item, just write it on a piece paper and place it on the wall. This tradition became a unique eating izakaya environment.

Japanese always know the best delicious food will not be on regular menu but on somewhere of the wall. The common foods in izakaya are yakitori, grilled beef tongue, beef tataki, tempura, butter clams, Gyoza and broiled whole squid, etc. Yakitori is one of famous Japanese grilled appetizers that threads bited-size chicken onto skewers and alternat with green onion, grill the chicken skewers on both sides, and then brush the sauce three times when the meat starts changing color. Grilled beef tongue has the same way to grill as yakitori. Beef tataki is a raw beef dish which is served with onion and ponzu sauce, the special Japanese sauce.

Butter clams are made with onion and butter and broiled until the clams has been well to eat. Gyoza is Japanese dumpling that filled with pork and vegetable and then fry in pan until it becomes golden color. Broiled whole squid is made with a little bit of sake for covering the fishing smell and after done cut the squid into several rounds and dressing with Japanese grilled sauce. Miso is a Japanese traditional food which is made with fermenting rice, barley or soybeans and salted them with kojikin. Sometimes, Japanese will have skewers dip into miso sauce.

In traditional Japanese culture, people always have drinks while eating those izakaya type foods. Usually, beer would be the best choice for after working relaxation. When drinking beer with friends, people need to wait until everyone has their own drink and then raise their glasses and say “Gan Bei” which means to drink off the whole glass until the end. About more drinking manners in Japan, the younger person serves the older person is considered as a good manner. However, in Japanese formal restaurant, drunk is considered as a bad manner; except in Izakaya restaurant, as long as you do not bother other customers.

Other kinds of drinks include Japanese green tea, different flavors of sawa, shochu, palm wine and regular soft drinks. Japanese green tea is also known as “matcha” which is powdered green tea and was invested during Song Dynasty in China and developed in Japan. Matcha is a very common green tea in Japanese culture and it is generally expensive upon the quality of leaves shaped. Sawa is made with sake and other flavored juices such as calpico drinks, plum juice, or orange juice to become flavored sake. Shochu is made from rice, sweat potatoes, wheat and sugar.

It usually serves with water and ice or sometime serves in hot. Palm wine is very famous Japanese alcohol beverage in the world. It is made by Japanese palm, shochu and sugar. It does not really taste like alcohol drink but very fruity taste. It usually contains only around two to five percent of alcohol. (Japan-guide. com) After eating main entree, Japanese would always have dessert such as red bean soup, matcha ice cream or mochi ice cream. Due to the strong impacts from china, Japanese red bean soup was also invested from china.

However, it has been changed to a unique style in Japan. Japanese red bean soup is made by azuki beans and after broiled and crushed, red bean soup will be served in hot and with melting mochi in the soup. Matcha ice cream is made by famous powered green tea in Japan. Mochi is Japanese rice cake and is made by glutinous rice. The outside of mochi ice cream is made by rice cake, filled different flavors ice cream into mochi, and then became mochi ice cream. The most common traditional table manner in Japan is sitting in front of lower table that is always set on tatami floors.

The formal sitting rule for both genders would be seiza (Kneeling). The most important rule in Asian countries is the seating order. In Japan, the honored seat is located at farthest place from the entrance for the most important guest. Before eating, Japanese always say “itadakimasu” which means, “I am glad to receive,” and after eating, people should say “gochisosama” which means “Thank you for the meal. ” In many different countries, they have their own table manner rules. Some bad manners may not consider as bad in other countries.

There are some traditional rules in Japan while eating: blowing nose and burp in public are considered as bad manners, to empty dishes of last grain of rice consider as a good manner. (Japanese table manners) Moreover, traditionally, wooden ware in Japan was used for formal feast. Each dish is set on a zen in the kitchen and brought it in front of each diner. Make a slurping sound will not be considered as a bad manner when sipping soup. As time goes, most Japanese families have changed from low table and tatami style to western-style tables and chairs. Naomichi Ishige 2000) More table manners about chopsticks would be never left chopsticks vertically in a bowl of rice which represents to offer for the dead, never use personal chopsticks to pick up sharing foods, never use chopsticks to point someone or skewer foods and when finishing eating, place chopsticks on the lowest plate. In some restaurants, they would provide hot towels for cleaning hands before eating; some men would use that towel to clean their face and women should only clean their hands with that towel.

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