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Mastering Japan’s art of cooking

Asia

Tokyo - Cooking classes in traditional Japanese cuisine – known as washoku and recently named to Unesco’s intangible cultural heritage list – are gaining popularity among both tourists and foreigners living in Japan.

At a recent class in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, students learned to make casual Japanese home cuisine with seasonal ingredients. Mari Nameshida started the class in 2011, hoping to teach people how to cook and also expose them to Japanese culture through traditional dishes.

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Students attending a cooking class at Mari Nameshida’s home in Tokyo make Japanese-style gyoza dumplings. Although gyoza are originally from China, they are now a popular home dish in Japan. Illustrates JAPAN-COOKING (category t), by Ryuzo Suzuki, (c) 2013 The Yomiuri Shimbun.  Moved Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. (MUST CREDIT: The Yomiuri Shimbun).These traditional Japanese delicacies made for the New Year’s holiday are popular at Japanese cooking classes. Illustrates JAPAN-COOKING (category t), by Ryuzo Suzuki, (c) 2013 The Yomiuri Shimbun.  Moved Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. (MUST CREDIT: The Yomiuri Shimbun).Students in a cooking class make Kanto-style ozoni, or mochi soup, under the guidance of Mari Nameshida, left front, at her home in Tokyo. Cooking classes are gaining popularity among Japanese residents as well as tourists to the country. Illustrates JAPAN-COOKING (category t), by Ryuzo Suzuki, (c) 2013 The Yomiuri Shimbun.  Moved Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. (MUST CREDIT: The Yomiuri Shimbun).

A lesson takes about three hours. Instruction is in English and most participants are foreigners.

During a lesson just before New Year’s Day, Nameshida taught students to cook osechi traditional Japanese New Year’s food and explained the traditions behind the dishes.

“We cook several dishes for osechi before New Year’s Day,” she said. “Each small dish invokes good luck in the new year.

“For example, kurikinton, or sweet potato with chestnuts, looks like gold, so people eat it and hope for good fortune in business and money matters for a year.”

Adeline Lamond, 48, a tourist from Sydney, joined the class with her son, having learned about it on the internet.

“I cook Japanese food such as udon, miso soup and sashimi about once a week. But I use my own methods, and I wanted to learn cooking Japanese food from Japanese people,” Lamond said. “I like Japanese food because it has flavour, simplicity and elegance. It’s very easy to cook.”

Another participant was Jake Coleman, 31, from San Francisco. “When I go back home I’ll make imomochi (potato cake) for my family.”

Nameshida gives four or five lessons a week and her classes often rank among the best-rated activities on TripAdvisor, one of the world’s largest travel websites. – Washington Post

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