I’ve heard that it’s impossible to live in a country unless you truly enjoy the food there, and it’s certainly true in my case — I couldn’t be happy in Japan if I didn’t love eating here. Although some might imagine that the Japanese eat sashimi and sushi every day, in reality the diet here is quite varied, and many common foods aren’t Japanese at all. One example is the honorary national food of Japan, curry rice, a thick curry stew eaten over steamed rice that was introduced by the British around 1860. Many foods that we consider “Chinese,” like chow mein or fried rice, have intertwined with Japanese dishes for so long that the two are almost impossible to separate, but some foods do maintain a distinct Chinese feel to them, such as gyoza dumplings (aka “pot stickers”). One popular category of food in Japan is donburi, which is any food served over a large bowl of white rice, like 牛丼 gyudon (beef bowl) or 親子丼 oyakodon (“Parent-and-Child Bowl,” or chicken and scrambled egg served over rice). One of my favorite dishes is Katsudon, a fried pork cutlet (katsu) served over a bowl of rice (don). Because katsu also means “to win” in Japanese, it’s common for parents to serve this to their kids before a big test or sporting event to show their support.
Some of my favorite Japanese foods.