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What is “Yoshoku”? The Excitement of Eating Foreign Cuisine in Japan.

What is “Yoshoku”? The Excitement of Eating Foreign Cuisine in Japan.

I always thought that Chinese cuisine would taste the same wherever I ate it. That all changed one day when I first tried Chinese food in Kyoto and was surprised that there was a distinctive Kyoto-style flavor. It’s generally said that Tokyo is known for its stronger flavors, while Kyoto’s food is lighter in taste.

Skemasa in Kyoto. Gyoza specialized shop using local ingredients.

The gyoza that I ate in Kyoto had a gentle flavor, based on bonito stock and making use of local vegetables from Kyoto. I found that the taste was delicate in a way that I had never experienced in Tokyo.

I was always fixated on dishes like yudofu (boiled tofu) and obanzai (an array of assorted Kyoto-style small dishes) as the famous must-eats when visiting Kyoto, but discovering the “distinctive flavors of Kyoto” in such an unexpected place was an exciting experience.

I’m sure that visitors to Japan, too, will encounter experiences of this sort during their time in the country.

To take just one example, those who have traveled so many miles to Japan are often eager to try staples of Japanese cuisine such as sushi, tempura, and ramen.

Ramen.

But after sampling these, I’d urge visitors to also sample some of Japan’s own takes on Western cuisine.

Japanese people love French, Italian, Chinese, and other international cuisines as well as their own. “Yoshoku”, a category of food that has its roots in Western cuisine but has become so well established now that one could refer to it as Japanese food, is especially loved by the Japanese, consistently ranking among the most popular types of cuisine in Japan.

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Popular yoshoku dishes such as Japanese-style hamburger steak (hamburg ハンバーグ), omelette -wrapped rice (omurice オムライス), curry rice(カレーライス), and Japanese-style gratin are a fixture in every town and are also standard dishes on the menus of roadside family restaurants.

Authentic, old-fashioned omelette -wrapped rice.
Recent omelette -wrapped rice.
Japanese-style hamburger steak (hamburg)
Hamburg is sometimes the No.1 favorite menu item for Japanese children.

From yuzu-scented pasta to steak with wasabi sauce and pizza with teriyaki chicken topping, you will be hard-pressed to find this distinctly Japanese-influenced Western-style cuisine outside of Japan.

“Shirasu”(boiled whitebait) Pizza.
Tacos with firefly squid.

With Tokyo now boasting more Michelin starred restaurants than any other city in the world, the city is home to extremely high-quality flavors, as well as many chefs who study cuisine with a stubborn determination that borders on obsession. It is a journey of culinary adventure that is truly worth taking.

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