Only 15 percent of the land is available for farming but it is from this small percentage that Japanese farmers coax rice and other grains, vegetables, and a wide variety of fruits. From the seas come a great harvest of fish, seafood, and edible seaweed.

Traditional Japanese foods and cookery are recognized by their simplicity and symbolic qualities. Food is artistically presented. The people of Japan eat sparsely and with appreciation.

Japanese cookbooks stress cooking methods rather than recipes, techniques rather than ingredients. Traditional methods and dishes include Tempura (method of coating foods in a light batter and frying quickly in a light vegetable oil), sashimi (a dish of sliced varieties of raw fish, arranged in a pattern on a plate and eaten by dipping into a sauce) and sushi (vinegared or sweet and sour cooked rice wrapped around colorful and flavorful food tidbits).

Japanese noodle dishes are very popular and may be served hot or cold. Noodles are served in one of two ways: kake, which means the cooked noodles are placed in a bowl and hot soup is poured over them; or mori, which means the cold or hot cooked noodles are served on a bamboo plate and mouthfuls picked up with chopsticks and dipped into sauce before eating. Soba means fat noodles, while udon refers to thin noodles. Buckwheat noodles (toshikoshisoba) are believed to be good luck, are eaten on New Year's Eve and are considered an appropriate house gift, especially when wrapped in red paper and ribbon. In eastern Japan buckwheat noodles are favored, while wheat noodles are most popular in the western part of the country.

Along with rice and noodles made from wheat or buckwheat flour, barley and millet are also grown and used in Japan. Barley is also used to make a mild refreshing tea. Roasted barley grains are brewed in a pot and served either hot or cold.

Cold (Soba) Noodles with Dipping Sauce


  • 1 (8 1/2 ounce) package soba granules (buckwheat noodles)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon hon-dashi (a granulated version of soup and cooking stock considered fundamental to authentic Japanese cooking)
  • 1 scallion (with top), thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon
  • grated ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon wasabi powder
  • 1 tablespoon water


Cook noodles as directed on package; drain. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

Heat water, soy sauce, sugar and hon-dashi to boiling; remove from heat. Cool;

Stir in onion and ginger.

Mix wasabi powder and water to a paste. Divide noodles into bowls. Pour soy mixture into an equal number of small dipping bowls.

Serve with wasabi paste. Stir small amounts of wasabi paste into soy mixture to taste.

Japanese Mustard Dipping Sauce (Karashi)


  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce


Combine all ingredients, whisking to blend well.

Serve as a dip for egg rolls.

Cucumber and Avocado Sushi rolls

These cucumber and avocado sushi rolls are easy to make and you can add either fake crab or smoked salmon. Serve with teriyaki or soy sauce and wasabi.


  • 1-1/4 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked glutinous white rice (sushi rice)
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 sheets nori (dry seaweed)
  • 1/2 cucumber, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced


Combine the water and rice in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, or until rice is tender and water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar and a pinch of salt. Set aside to cool.

Cover a bamboo sushi mat with plastic wrap to keep the rice from sticking. Place a sheet of nori over the plastic. Use your hands to spread the rice evenly onto the sheet, leaving about 1.5cm of nori empty at the bottom. Arrange strips of cucumber and avocado across the center of the rice. Lift the mat and roll over the vegetables once and press down. Unroll, then roll again towards the exposed end of the nori sheet to make a long roll. You may moisten with a little water to help seal. Set aside and continue with remaining nori sheets, rice and fillings.

Use a sharp wet knife to slice the rolls into 5 or 6 slices. Serve cut side up with your favorite sushi condiments.

"Yuki, come at once," Mother says. "Your father has been called to Edo by the noble shogun who watches over our country. We must prepare for a long journey. Take all you need. One thousand men go with us to carry our baskets and chests."

I do not want to go, but it would be disrespectful to say so.

My honorable teacher throws up her hands. "Such a journey will take many weeks. What of your lessons? Each day you must write a haiku. And Yuki, do not forget me."

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