The Japanese Ancient Vegetarian Meal That Balances Mind, Body & Soul

You might not know, but Japan is not only popular for Sushi, but it is also famous for vegetarian food. The love of seafood is engraved in Japanese culture. Commonly 96 vegetable dishes are in Japan. Several foods are used in Japan to prepare vegetarian dishes. Some add fish flavorings, and others add non-vegetarian ingredients to enhance their flavor.

Japan is known as the Land of the Rising Sun and is rich in history and culture. Japan’s ancient capital has a tradition of shojin ryori. It is a Buddhist temple cuisine and is purely a vegan. It is presented beautifully and is prepared using seasonal ingredients. It is made from tofu, veggies, rice, and other items like konnyaku. It is an ancient cuisine and recently found its way from restaurants to Tokyo’s Michelin-star tables.

Buddhist cuisine is Asian cuisine and is followed by several people from areas influenced by Mahayana Buddhism. It is vegan and vegetarian and is based on the concept of non-violence. In Japan, this practice of serving food to people who paid respect to the strictures of Buddhist precepts is known as shojin ryori (devotion cuisine).

In the Mahayana tradition, sutras of the Mahayana canon were against consuming meat. Also, the monastic community in Vietnamese, Korean, and Chinese Buddhism adhere to vegetarianism.

Shojin Cuisine Gained Popularity in the 6th Century

Shojin cuisine was a traditional affair and came in the 6th century.

It is preserved by monks and priests. Shojin chefs should possess the three minds of Zen Buddhism, known as Sanshin. Roshin is needed to care for the ingredients, kishin requires pleasure and gratitude, and Aishin should be maintained for calmness and motivation.

Shojin Ryori means food for spiritual peace. A professor of Japanese studies said,

“Specifically, it refers to a vegetarian meal that also excludes ingredients like garlic and green onion, which Buddhists believed excited the passions.”

The concept of this vegetarian cuisine is based on Buddhist precepts. Shojin food at temples supports the health of training monks and doesn’t require a beautiful presentation. However, in restaurants, it is a meal for customers; therefore, it is served beautifully.

The chilled sesame tofu is the common dish in Shojin Ryori. However, it is not tofu and is not made from soy milk but from a thickening powder that contains water, sesame paste, and kuzu. It has a creamy texture and tastes different than tofu.

Gishi-wajin-denn, a history based on Japan written in China around the third century BC, reads,

“There are no cattle, no horses, no tigers, no leopards, no goats and no magpies in that land. The climate is mild and people over there eat fresh vegetables both in summer and in winter.”

It also says that “people catch fish and shellfish in the water.”

Japan is not the only country that follows the vegetarianism principle; several countries like Africa have a history of a vegetarian diet that dates back to centuries.

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