Washoku is Japan’s traditional food culture. In December of 2013, Washoku was inscribed as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage. It is the fifth food culture to be inscribed after the gastronomic meal of the French, traditional Mexican cuisine, Mediterranean diet and ceremonial Keskek tradition.
Washoku was created from the Japanese people’s perspective of living in harmony with nature and the customs and history unique to Japan, and is closely tied to yearly events, festivals and ceremony. Not only does Washoku taste good, but it is also highly regarded as a food with excellent nutritional balance and has become a familiar name amongst people the world over.
The basic style of Washoku is “1 soup, 3 vegetables” which is a combination of rice, soup and 3 side dishes. This is said to provide the ideal nutritional balance. “Dashijiru” (stock juices) is an essential part of determining Washoku flavor. Dashijiru is a liquid flavoring made from ingredients such as bonito and konbu, including umami elements. The act of using high-quality umami to bring out the inherent delicious flavour of the ingredients is seen nowhere else in the world. The clever use of umami creates Washoku which is not only delicious, but also healthy and low in animal fat, thereby supporting the longevity of the Japanese people.
A characteristic of Toyama food culture is its proactive use of konbu. Since ancient times, Toyama has engaged in thriving trade with Hokkaido, a region where konbu is in abundance. This led to Toyama becoming a high consumer of konbu. In addition to use in Dashijiru, konbu is also used in a wide variety of konbu dishes, such as Kobujime and Konbumaki Kamaboko, and processed foods.
Toyama prefecture is home to the 3000 meter-high Northern Alps consisting of Mount. Tateyama as well as the 1000-meter-strong Toyama Bay, meaning a difference of 4000 meters between the highest and the lowest altitude. There is a plain blessed with an abundance of water which lies between the ocean and the mountains, and all of these elements fit neatly within a radius of 50 km.
With an abundance of water and fertile soil, Toyama also produces a high volume of rice, an essential part of Washoku, and the rice paddy percentage (the percentage of cultivated land occupied by rice paddies) is the highest in Japan. Also, due to the close proximity from the fishing grounds to the markets, Toyama Bay is known as “Nature’s Fish Tank” which always provides fresh seafood. A truly diverse variety of seafood are pulled from the surrounding waters, including Amberjack and sardines in Himi, pink shrimp, glass shrimp, Japanese Babylon and crab in Shinminato and firefly squid in Namerikawa. One of the appealing features of Toyama’s food culture is the ability to enjoy cuisine specific to a region.
Toyamawan-Sushi offers the opportunity to savor the bounty of the sea surrounding Toyama. Toyamawan-Sushi is the ultimate form of sushi, made from the bounty caught in Toyama Bay throughout the seasons and Toyama-grown rice. This exquisitely-tasting sushi can only be eaten in Toyama. There are approximately 60 participating stores throughout Toyama prefecture and for a price set by each store, you can dine with peace of mind on the fresh taste of 10 pieces of sushi with soup. Apart from sushi, as a rich fishing ground, Toyama has produced Kamaboko since long ago. Kamaboko is a traditional Japanese processed seafood made by shaping and heating ground fish. Typically, Kamaboko is shaped into a half-oval cylinder on a small board, however a unique characteristic of Toyama’s Kamaboko is its spiral shape and absence of a board. There are many varieties of Kamaboko, including Akamaki Kamaboko, Konbumaki Kamaboko, Kamaboko shaped like the red sea bream used for wedding celebrations and more. Kamaboko truly is Toyama’s signature regional specialty food.