Soba Canada

Japan Nowadays know real Japan and Japanese better

 (1) Geography
                      (2) A Brief look on the History
                      (3) The History of Washoku (Japanese Cuisine)
                      (4) Soba and Japanese Culture
(from Washoku Seminar at George Brown College, 2009)
                      (5) Topics
... coming soon

Cherry BlossomIn the Japanese version of this Homepage, we inserted the page which explains about Canada and Canadians by giving useful and/or interesting informations to know Canada and Candians better. Because we have a strong impression that Canada despite of its popurarity as tourists' destination, most of the people do not know real Canada and Canadians. What people know seems sometimes just a reflection of piece of informations mainly prevailing in the South of the Border. Canada's happiness together with unhappiness is its neighbourhood. The neighbour is so powerful and active and try to lead the world. But thanking to such a strong neighbour, we do believe Canada should take their own role to present themselves to the world more properly. In the same way, Japan and Japanese are also mislead by stereotyped informations. Japan is not a country only with competitive electronics or ninjya and geisha same as Canadian smoked salmon or maple syrup and Green Gables at PEI.

Kyoto HigashiyamaRecent world could be well described to say "Only constant is the constant change". So world is steadily changing day by day. Even if you would find your company's name in the peaceful morning on the headline of the newspaper for the buncruptcy, it would never be so strange nowadays. It really could happen to any company or instead of bunkruptcy it could be only a short notice of lay-off. Sorry but it's not my intention to tell such an inauspicious thing. Anyway the world is changing. Our daily lives, culuture and consciousness too.
So we would like to write something about Japan and Japanese nowadays in series to know Japan better. Though this is pretty personal and would not represent main stream of the opinion but you could draw some image at the end about current Japanese and their way of living and/or thinking
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1) Let's start with geography
Map of JapanJapan is a small island country at the east end of Asian continent. About 130 millions of people are living in 378,000km² land stretching from north to south in a crescent shape with about 3,000km coastline. Comparing with 9.97 million km² of Canadaian size, Japan is only about 1/26. But no complaint because Canada is 2nd largest country in the world after Russia(CIS) which can count 22.40 million km², in another words Russia covers 18% of our earth's surface. Northern end of Japan located around North 45º which belongs to sub-frigid climate zone and almost the same longitude as Montreal. Southern end located North 25º in sub-tropic zone. Our capital, Tokyo, located at North 36º which is roughly the same as Memphis,AK or Nashville,TN and little bit north of Los Angels, CA. or Gibraltar connecting Atlantic Ocean to Mediterranean Sea. However most of Japan enjoy a mild oceanic type of climate with four distinct seasons because of its warm current called Kuroshio (Black Current or Japan Current) running from south to north. Having rugged mountains running almost the full length of the country, it gives Pacifc and Japan Sea sides of the islands totally different climate patterns. Nearly 70% of the land is mountainous area covered by dense forest. Tokyo however stands on the big Kanto Plains on the Pacific side , April and May having cherry blossom with opening of new school sessions, June rainy season called Baiu, July and August hot and humide summer sometimes having sleepless tropical nights, from September to November cool and fresh with autumnal tints everywhere. But sometimes famous Tyhoons are coming too and gives various damages to the rice crops etc but still they are considered as one of natural blessings from the heaven. December to February dry but fine winter with almost no snow. March starts coming into bud. This is the cycle in Tokyo.
Mt.Fuji with a capJapan enjoys the great topographical varieties because of its many volcanic mountains everywhere including famous Mt.Fuji (3,776m, highest peak in Japan) even though dormant for nearly 300 years. The rivers are short and fast-flowing and form deep gorges in the mountainous area. Some european mountaineers about hundred years ago said japanese rivers are not rivers but a water-falls. It shoots. Distinct four seasons, mountains, rivers and sea, all these features make Japan as one of the most picturesque countries in the world. Onsen-Hot Springs in open airFurthermore you can enjoy "Onsen" (hot springs) anywhere. Thus creating Japan's unique Onsen culture. People enjoy and relax soaking sometimes in open air looking up millions of stars in the sky and become a philosopher or a poet. Onsen gives people a break. It also cures or prevents diseases. So sick peoples normally take 2/3 weeks stay in Onsen and it is called as "Tôji". A writer is also an enthusiastic Onsen lover. So I will guide you fantastic Onsen later. Together with active volcanic activities, Japan is lying just on the Circum-Pacific eathquake zone and famous for its world's most seismologically active area. There were many disasters. In Tokyo area, the Kanto Great Earthquake of 1923 with magnitude 7.9 (Richter scale 8.3) destroyed Tokyo and Yokohama Area completely. "Tsunami" is originally a japanese word but now it became an international word because of a disaster hit South Asia at the end of 2003.
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(2) A brief look on the history
Until ten or twenty thousand years ago, Japan was still connected to the Asian continent by land but became island due to the crust movement of the earth. The sea protected Japan from invasion only with one exception by Mongolian invaders with a force 150,000 strong in 13th century but were failed due to typhoons and then a word "Kamikaze" born. Kami is god and Kaze is wind, ie Divine Wind saved the country. But it had fairly easy access to the advanced foreign cultures and this allowed Japan to learn and abosorb their cultures and latest technologies but at the same time Japanese succeeded to develop and grow highly independentJomon Ptteryand its own Japanese culture. World history is written in this colour.

Jomon Period(circa 14,500 b.c. - 300 b.c.)

After the last Ice Age about 20,000 years ago, our globe was gradually (taking about 10,000 years) getting warmer and surface of the sea swelled more than 100m in height. Consequently Japan was cut off from the continent and became current archipelago. But it was still about 2 DC cooler and sea surface was 30m lower than present. About 6,000-5,000 years ago, continued warm period lifted sea suface further which is called Jomon Kaishin. Sea level was about 3m higher and warmer than present. This made typicall Jomon civilization with bigger villages with cultivation of rice, millet, barley and beans on top of  hunting, fishing and picking. Earthenware decorated with Jomon cord-marking is famous. Maruyama Sannai Ruin of Aomori is famous for this period.
But late jomon period again brought colder weather resulting shrinkage of the sea (called Yayoi Kaitai) and forcing people to grow Tochinoki (Japanese horse shestnut) instead of Kuri (Chestnut) and also made buckwheat growing popular which is strong for cooler climate.

Recent doctorine says that very this Jomon period formed and made up the prototype of the Japanese.    
   334 b.c. Alexander the Great begins his conquest to the East and destroyed Persian Empire.

Yayoi Period (circa 300 b.c.- 300 a.d.)
   New rice cultivation method was conveyed from continent and use of metal tools were started and set the fundamental patterns of Japanese life. Also a large number of complex political units called Kuni emerged and began to unite under the hegemony of Yamatai Koku ruled by Queen Himiko which is still mysterious where it was actually located and whether Yamatai Koku can be equated with the early state of Yamato.

   221 b.c. China unifies under Qin dynasty.A Yamato Beauty

Kofun Period (circa 300 - 593 a.d.)
   Large tumuli (Kofun) were built for deceased members of the ruling elite. The first state in Japan called Yamato emerged and established diplomatic relations with Korean states and Chinese courts. It was mid 6th century that Buddhism was introduced from the asian continent.
375 Invasion of Hun, the nomads in Central Asia, triggered The Germanic Miglation
   China, Sui Dynasty (589-618), Tang Dynasty (618-907)
   622 Prophet Muhammad arrives at Medina and the Islamic era begins.

Asuka Period( 593 - 710 a.d.)
On 4th century Yamato (current Imperial family) consolidated Japan and strengthen the foundation of Japan by introducing various Chinese systems such as Buddhism, ideology(Confucianism), social and writing systems also arts. In the two ancient chronicles written in the 8th century, "Kojiki"(712 a.d. which is oldest history book of Japan) and "Nihon Shoki" (720 a.d.) say Emperor Jinmu began his reign on 11th February of 660 b.c. and recorded many Japanese mithologies including the birth-myth of the nation. Prince Shotoku TaishiThat's why Japanese national holiday called National Foundation Day was set aside on that day. These chronicles were compiled by the order of the Emperor and especially "Kojiki" clearly represents Emperor family's ideology thus went upto the age of the gods. So very interesting but difficult to prove them scientifically.
Shotoku Taishi (Prince) (574/622a.d.) whose profile was printed on the head of old 10,000 yen bill is famous in promoting Buddhism and lead the country with many political innovations including the Constitution with 17 articles. Japan 日本 in japanese language is translated as "Nippon" or "Nihon". Both meaning is the same. ie, "Where the sun rises." This is a word created by him. When he sent a diplomatic letter to China's Sui dynasty, he wrote "The emperor where the sun rises gives a letter to the emperor where the sun sets....." Blooming days called Asuka culture based upon Buddhism were here.

Nara Era (710 - 794 a.d.) Daibutsu in Todaiji TempleEra based on "Heijou Kyou" in Nara. In art it is devided to Hakuhou era and Tenpyou Era. This Era is characterized by the full implementation of the Ritsuryô system of government. Taihou Ritsuryô(Code) in 701 a.d. and Yôrô Ritsuryo(Code) in 718 a.d. were compiled based upon Buddhism and Confucianism. The huge, 15m high, bronze statue known as Daibutsu of the temple Tôdaiji is a good example to show new heights in intellectual and cultural acheivement. Manyou Shyu
万葉集 is a great book of poetries. Kakinomoto Hitomaro 柿本人麻呂 is called as The Saint of Poetry (歌聖).

Heian Era (794 - 1185 a.d.) a.d.)Sei Shou Nagon, auther of essay "Pillow Book"A capital was set in Kyoto until moved to Tokyo in 1867a.d. During this era, Japan completely assimilated the essence of Chinese systems and created its indigenous institutions in all fields. The development of Kana syllabary made the outburst of literary creativity. It mainly used for composing Waka (japanese poetry). Lovers communicated each other through Waka. Kokin Waka Syuu is a fruit of this era. Court ladies produced great works of Heian Literature using it. Genji Monogatari (Tale of Genji) by Murasaki Shikibu and Makura no Soushi (Pillow Book) by Sei Shou Nagon are the two greatest.

 800 Charlemagne crowned by Pope Leo 3 as Charles 1, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
1066 William, duke of Normandy, is crowned king of England.
1096 The first expedition of the Crusaders.

Kamakura Era (1185 - 1333 a.d.)
Opening the era of Samurai warriors who overpowered the nobility. Formally, the leading Samurai warrior were appointed by the Typical Samurai, Minamoto Tametomoemperor as his "Shogun in charge of conquering barbarians" and with this designation his feudal government called "Bakufu" was formed. First Shogun was Minamoto Yoritomo who founded his Bakufu in Kamakura which located about 60km west of current Tokyo. Samurai era continued upto the end of Edo Era for nearly 700 years. Kamakura society exalted Loyalty, Honour and Frugality. This spirit was later sublimated to the Bushidô and became a backbone of the Samurai (warrior).
The most dramatic event of this era was Mongol invasions taken place twice. In 1274 with forces 40,000 and 1281 150,000 strong they landed around Hakata, Kyusyu and had fierce battles. But Kamikaze (tyhoon) blew and sent them to the bottom of the sea. This was the only foreign invasion Japan had in our history except MacArthur's ocupation as a result of the WW2.
   1271 Marco Polo sets out on his journey to the court of the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan
   1279 Kublai Khan conquers China and establishes Yuan Dynasty (-1368).
   1337 England-France Hundred Years' War bigins.
   1347 Black Death rages in Europe (-1351)
   1368 China, Ming Dynasty (-1644) founded.

Sengoku (War time) Era(1438 - 1568 a.d.)
Anything could happen. A word Gekokujô (the overturning of those on top by those below) characterizes this era. Days for struggle for hegemony. Only the worriors with power could survive.
   1488 Bartholomeu Diaz finds Cape of Good Hope   
   1492 Christopher Columbus lands in the Bahamas.
   1498 Vasco da Gama reaches Calicut in India via Cape of Good Hope.
   1519 Ferdinand Magellan sails out for Round the World voyage

Azuchi Momoyama Era(1568 - 1600 a.d.)
Oda NobunagaToyotomi HideyoshiA hero Oda Nobunaga followed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi re-united the country and devised new measures to govern the country on a nationwide basis. Especially T. Hideyoshi was a hero of the heroes. He was born just as a poor peasant but went up to the highest position of the country as "Kanpaku Dajyou Daijin" (Imperial Regent and Grand Minister of State) and governed the country as he wanted. Gorgeous and progressive era backed up by the self-confidence. Age of Daimyos (feudal lords), big marchants and common folks. Foreign trades were very active. During this short but spectacular Era, Japan underwent the transition from the medieval to the early modern era. Japanese venture overseas was very active and the activities of European traders and Cathoric missionnaries in Japan too gave this era a cosmopolitan flavour.
   1588 The Invinsible Armada was destroyed by British Royal Navy.  
   1600 British East India Company incorporated.

Edo Era(1600 - 1867 a.d.)
Tokugawa IeyasuTokugawa Ieyasu as Shogun is a founding father of Tokugawa Bakufu. A Haiku (Japanese poem of 17 syllables) discribes the characters of three heroes as follows using a bird called "Hototogisu"(a little cuckoo) ;
1) Oda Nobunaga- - A little cuckoo, if you don't twitter, I will kill you.
2)T. Hideyoshi- - A little cuckoo, even if you don't twitter, I will try everything to let you twitter.
3) Tokugawa Ieyasu- - A little cuckoo, if you don't twitter, then I will wait till you will.Ukiyoe by Utamaro So T.Ieyasu had waited and waited patiently and strategically for his turn after the death of O. Nobunaga at Honnouji Temple in Kyoto.
Era of the great peace both inside and outside for more than 2 centuries. Dispite of Sakoku (National Seclusion) policy, Japan enjoyed developments in all fields. Industies, money economy and matured culture etc. Tokugawa law relied heavily on Confucianism; Chuu (
loyalty) and Kou (filial piety) were conservative and supportive of the existing social and political order.
Stable hierarchy "Shi(
) - Nou() - Kou() - Shou()" (Warrior - Farmer - Artisan - Merchant) worked well for 2.5 centuries.
1644 China, Qing dynasty (-1912) established.
   1689 English Bill of Rights enacted.
   1776 Continental Congress issues the US Declaration of Independence.
   1789 French Revolution begins.
   1804 Napoleon becomes emperor of France.
   1839 Opium War begins in China (-1842)
   1861 Civil War bigins in USA (-1865)

Meiji Era(1867 - 1912 a.d.)
End of the Samurai feudalism and a beginning of modern industrial state along with its emergence from isolation into the ranks of major world powers.
Since The Age of Discovery, the world had been explored by Spain and Portugal first then followed by other European countries and invention of machines and their usage completely changed the manufacturing system (the industrial revolution) which created more wealth in great efficiency but in other hand it also created drastic social changes domestically such as the establishment of capitalism, clear conflict between the classes and the occurrence of various social problems. Internationally they needed colonies to get materials cheap and as exclusive markets to sell products and with the development of capitalism this appeared as Imperialism which is the new form of the conquistadores. Toward the end of Edo Era, there were nearly a thousand of whale catching boats from US and European countries in adjoining seas of Japan and they wanted Japan to provide provisions and stuffs needed for whale catchers. 日本財団図書館
*Source of the photo at left: 日本財団図書館 a picture of one one Perry's fleet)
Especially in 1853 US Commodore MC Perry came to Japan in a fleet and threatened with guns for Trade Treaties to force Japan to give up 250 years old isolation policy. Colonialism was in full swing around this period. All great powers furiously fought each other to expand their colonies.

The First Opium War (1840 - 1842) triggered ruthless invasions of the world great powers. British wanted to solve one-way trade with China from whom they bought silk and tea but nothing they had except cotton goods what China wanted to buy. They used Opium of India and sold it to China in order to save payment in silver for silk and tea. Thus they build up perfect triangle trade between Britain, India and China. To buy cotton from India and sell cotton manufactured goods by return. To buy silk, tea and pottery from China and sell cotton goods to China. And India of British colony started to sell Opium and got paid in silver. But the Opium was illegal in China even at that time and they strengthened the law to stop the import of opium only resulting huge increase of smuggling. In 1839 China confiscated British owned opium and burned it down and banned all trades by British traders which lead to the Opium war. Though there was a strong opposition in Britain from puritans for sending a fleet for this immoral dirty war, nevertheless the troop was sent and China was succumbed completely to British fire power and obliged to sign on Nanking Treaty in 1842. Thus China was obliged to open up 2 additional ports (total 5) for free foreign trade by giving up restricted controled trade in the past. Hong Kong was ceded to Britain and huge reparation was levied also most-favoured-nation status was given etc.
In 1858 British Empire abolished Mughal Emperor and put India under direct control (1858) by taking a chance of Rebellion of Sepoy and later (1877) established India Empire, Queen Victoria as the Emperor of India.

Burma, Nepal, Bhutan, Philippine, Vietnam, Java, Borneo, Sumatra and so on were all colonized and lost sovereignty. Knowing all of these invasions, Japan didn't have any other option but to make up its mind to build a modern country by absorbing western civilization and technology to catch up western great powers with a sloagan "Catch up and outstrip" for the protecttion of the country's independence and for the survival of the people. Japan is the only country in Asia who could maintain independence.
Japan was successful in this decision and later ranked as one of world major powers but it also meant Japan undertook all kind of evils and problems of the colonialism, imperialism and capitalism backed up by the western civilization and philosophy and threw away our own traditional culture and phylosophy as useless obsolete things. Current world is suffering with so many serious problems and conflicts which seem to be almost impossible to solve. But the world is changing and have to be changed now. It could be an unavoidable decision for Japan at Meiji Era but it must be the time to review such style of westernization and steer the helm together with other countries for the creation of the new world.
In 1867 modern Japan has started. The Canadian Confederation was also the same year; The Dominion of Canada. Meiji Emperor made an oath and published "Charter Oath of Five Articles" as a basic policy of new Japan.
Article 1. All affairs of State shall be referred to public opinion through general conferences.
Article 2. The government and the people shall act in harmony energetically carrying out administrative matters.
Article 3. No citizen, whether a civil or a military or one of the common people, shall be discouraged in the pursuit of his aspirations.
Article 4. Evil practices of the past shall be abandoned and universal justice shall prevail.
Article 5. The foundation of Imperial regime shall be strengthened by the acquisition of knowledge from throughout the world.
1876 A Graham Bell invented telephone.
   1896 First modern Olympic Games held in Athens.

Taisho Era (1912 - 1926 a.d.)
Struggle between Imperialism and Democracy.
1914 World War One begins (-1919).
   1917 October Revolution in Russia.

Showa Era
(1926 - 1989 a.d.)
The era of violent changes with war and peace. It was the longest imperial regime (64 years) in Japanese history. WWUwas a first experience of defeat for Japan which gave drastic shock and changes to all Japanese mentally and materially and the Emperor has become just a symbol of the country with no actual power. Japan was occupied by Allied Force and and put under control of its GHQ (General MacArthur of US Army) for 7 years (until the effectuation of Treaty of Peace with Japan on 28th Apr., 1952 known as "San Francisco Peace Treaty"). Aims of the Allied Force at beginning were to wipe out militarism completely and to establish peaceful democratic Japan. (But soon "Cold War" was getting clear by the foundation of Peoples Republic of China (1949) and outbreak of the Korean War (1950 - 53) and the world was separated by the Iron Curtain. Consequently Japan was considered as a breakwater of East Asia against communism and the idealistc plan at the beginning was modified accordingly.)
GHQ ordered;
 1) Dissolution of the Great Imperial Empire of Japan. Emperor's human declaration etc.
 2) Change of representative system allowing revival of the political parties and extended the suffrage to women etc.
 3) Fundamental reform of the educational system. USA's 6-3-3-4 system was introduced.
 4) Dissolution of Zaibatsu
(Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Sumitomo and Yasuda) and enacted Anti-monopolyAct.
 5) Agrarian reform to improve tenant farmers status by setting max rent and redistributing farmland etc.
 6) For libration of workers, 3 basic labour laws were enacted and approved the right to organize union etc.
 7) Enactment of the Constitution in which article 9 denies the right of belligerency and any military forces for the      solution of international conflicts and clearly declared the principle that sovereignty resides in the people and      guaranteed the fundamental human rights in a wide range.
 8) Various renewals of legislations including the Civil Code. It abolished patriarchal system and introduced equal      right of married couple based upon the equal rights for both sexes etc.

A lot of good things were given (or forced) but in the same way a lot of good things were lost.
Balancing? Don't know... but it is clear that only after the serious struggle we will make it real. We must digest "good thing" by our own effort to make it a real good thing. Just a given thing one-sidedly will never be good only by itself. Blood, sweat and tears of the people were always required to make it firm and real. The world should know that especially USA. "Don't give money to beggers. They will just spend all for eating pleasure" is the proverb. To tout democracy to the people who never think about it will never help such people but just result in a self-complacency. And getting lost-good-things back on top of the digested-good-things will make real peaceful new Japan.
         Showa Emperor Hirohito and General MacArthur 1945 
The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (Tokyo Tribunal) was held from 3rd May 1946 to 12th Nov., 1948 to punish the leaders including Prime Minister General H Tojo for the Joint Conspiracies done during 1928 - 1945 to start wars of aggression against Peace Loving Countries. Crimes were categorized as Type A (crime against the Peace) , Type C (crime against the humanity) and Type B (normal war crime). 23 peoples were sentenced death by hang for crime against Peace and 7 were executed. Nobody was indicted for Type C and 7 were sentenced for Type B. Japan accepted the judgement of this Tribunal and agreed not to object in San Francisco Peace Treaty (article 11).
There were a lot of doubts on the ground of this Tribunal for lacking legitimacy and even rules for the procedures and more importantly there was no Crime against the Peace at that time nor even at present. Many people even Allied Force side judged this as the vengeance of the victory nations and their actions in the war were never questioned. So the view of majority of world scholars of the international law are negative for this Tribunal but just see it as a political show.

Everything have to be started from Zero. But the economy was rapidly restored and developped leveraged by both Korean and Vietnam War and one more important fact was that expenditures toward military budget was not necessary due to the Constitution. In 1970 Japan grew world No.2 in GNP after USA. In 1979 Ezra F. Vogel wrote a book "Japan as Number One: Lessons for America" (Harvard University) and analyzed the reasons for such a miracle growth. After experiencing 2 oil shocks, high growth economy turned to stable growth but again in mid 1980 Bubble Economy came and in this extravagance the era has been succeeded to Heisei.

   1927 C. Lindbergh flies across the Atlantic Ocean.
   1929 US stock market crashes and Great Depression begins.
   1933 A. Hitler becomes chancellor of Germany.
   1939 World War Two bigins (- 1945)
   1945 United Nations established.
   1949 The People's Republic of China established.
   1962 Cuban Missile crisis
   1963 President John F Kennedy was assasinated
   1964 Tokyo Olympic, held first time in its history at non-white country and it recorded highest participation             especially from AA (Asia, Africa) countries which obtained their independence after the WWU.                     

Heisei Era (1989 a.d. - present)
Bullet TrainsIn 1993 the Bubble Economy bursted out and land price / stock index fell down to less than half of the end of Showa Era. Also collapsed a traditional value. ie, The myth of the land price which was believed to be "the invincible". Re-structuring, Down-sizing, Re-engineering and Out-sourcing etc.…So many ordeals have to be challenged for economic re-flotation by erasing the shadow of the Bubble including bad debts of financial institutions. Japan is continuing its slow but steady efforts to achieve greater diversity in its social fabric to allow everyone's real freedom for fulfilling life.

     1989 Berlin Wall demolished.
    1991 Soviet Union dissolved.

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(3) The History of Washoku (Japanese Cuisine)
Washoku (和食)means Japanese Cuisine. We will briefly look how Washoku and its culture are developped. It is interesting to see that foods and dietary practice are the direct reflection of each era.

★When you eat Japanese foods, you use "Hashi" (
), chopsticks in English. It appears in old myth. At the beginning there were Izanagi and Izanami no Mikoto (Gods who jointly created Mizuho no Kuni 大八州豊蘆原の瑞穂の国 ie Japan) and they had three children. Eldest sister Amaterasu Omikami was a god of the sun in charge of Takamagahara (Heaven), Tsukuyomi no Mikoto was a god of the moon in charge of the sea and the youngest brother was violent Susanoo no Mikoto who were ordered to govern Yoru no Osukuni. But as he didn't follow to this order, he was banished from the heaven. Japan's first official history book written in Nara Era (712ad) recorded this myth of Izumo which famous "Slaying of Yamata no Orochi by Susanoo no Mikoto" is as follows; When he came to Izumo, he saw a chopstick is coming down from upper stream and thought someone is living. Visiting upper river, he found weeping old man and woman with a lass. The story starts like this and in short he saved the lass who were to be offered as a sacrifice for a monster called Yamata no Orochi with 8 heads and 8 tails and got married with her and same time found a sacred sword called Kusanagi no Tachi 草那芸之大刀 from one of monster's tail. This is one of the 3 treasures which have been inherited by successive Emperors as the token of the Emperor. It is called Mikusa no Kamudakara or Sansyuno Jingi三種の神器. Other two are Yata no Kagami 八咫鏡 and Yasakani no Magatama 八尺瓊勾玉. So chopstick has been used in Japan since the era of myth but in early stage chopsitcks which were found in Yayoi ruins were just one bamoo stick bent in U-shape and used for religious ceremony. It is said that Prince Shotoku started to use current 2 sticks-as-one-set-chopstick in the court which was brought back by Ono no Imoko in 607, the Japanese envoy to Sui Dynasty, China and built up our own table manner.

★Another episode appears in Nihon Shoki
日本書記. 12th Emperor Keiko visited eastern province where he was served Umugi no Namasu, kind of abalone and in appreciation he gave the chef Iwakamutsukari no Mikoto磐鹿六雁命 the official reputable surname of Kashiwade no Omi膳臣 and appointed him to be Kashiwade no Ootomobe膳大判部 as the chef of the court. This chef was enshrined in posterity as a god of cooking mainly for Miso and Shouyu. It's Takabe Shrine高家神社 in Chikura, Chiba Prefecture and there are Houchou Shiki ceremony in every autmun having visitors related to cooking.

★3rd century; Kowaii
強飯, steamed rice, appeared and red beans were added for the celebration. The name Kowa was given due to its hard texture. Kayuis cooked in water and soft, so it is called Yowaii弱飯.
★4th century; Vinegar
started popular.
★6th century; Soy Bean Sauce
醤油 was brewed.
★675 Emperor Tenmu
天武天皇 decreed to prohibit to eat meat such as horse, cow, dog, monkey and bird. This decree is based on Buddhism's precept of abstaining from taking lives combined with Shinto's basic concept of Kegare穢れ(Uncleanness).  Beasts such as wild boars, deers and wild birds including pheasant were outside the scope of this edict.
★ Mid 8th century; Dairy products were broght back by the envoy to Tang dynasty, China together with fried bean curd treats called Tougashi(
唐菓子). Raku(refined milk drink)、So(condensed milk)、Daigo醍醐(something like cheese and butter) were getting popular amongst the nobility and So and Narezushi熟寿司 etc. were used for the tax payment. Brown sugar was brought to Japan by famous Tang monk Ganjin鑑真 who built Toshodaiji(唐招提寺).
★8th century; Tea was introduced early in this century. The Daikyo Cuisine
大饗料理 was its peak. This was developed as hospitality and banquet of the nobility. Guests sat facing large trays on which soy sauce, vinegar (mainly plum vinegar),  salt and sake were arraged for the guest's personal use in addition to the meal itself. Side dishes for sharing were placed in between pairs of guests which allowed each guest to flavour their own meal to suit their tastes. Pheasant, sea bream, carp and trout were often used and the chefs at the Imperial Court established key techniques for these dishes together with frying and boiling. Until the Heian period, a spoon was set out in addition to the traditional chopsticks with a diverse collection of utensils in such materials as silver, copper and glass.
     The staple food of the nobility was Kowaii made with polished rice while common people's dish was some other grain such as barnyard millet, foxtail millet or buckwheat. Hoshiii
乾飯 was developed for better preservation. This was boiled rice that had been dried out and could be eaten as was just with saliva or by adding water.
★12th century; Heian era lead by the nobility ended and entered into the age of Samurai Worriors which lasted nearly 700 years until the end of Edo Era. Minamoto Yoritomo opened Kamakura Era and diet life turned to be very unaffected but vigorous with simple meals featuring brown rice as the main dish.
栄西, a Japanese monk, together with others returning from Sung Dynasty, China promoted the Rinzai school
臨済宗 of Zen Buddhism and built Kenninji and also promoted the practice of having tea which lead to the Tea Ceremony 茶道 together with Kaiseki Ryori懐石料理 later. The popularity of Shojin Ryori精進料理, vegetarian cuisine based on the  dietary restrictions of Buddihist monks, spreaded throughout the country leading to the development of soy bean products like natto, ganmodoki. Miso was added to the traditional flavours and citizens also began to enjoy the early morning meal  of the Zen monk.
★15 - 16th century (Muromachi Era); The Daikyo Cuisine of the nobility was too complicated and didn't match to the life style of the newly born samurais.They modified the Daikyo Cuisine in their style and Honzen Cuisine
本膳料理 was born. At every type of celebration such as Kakan加冠 or Genpuku元服, both are the male coming-of-age ceremonies and/or weddings etc strict sake drinking etiquette is set as Shikisankon 式三献(ceremony of changing cups. a tray with 3 sake cups and side dishes is served 3 times) and there after celebrants take their seats and the Honzen banquet begins. It was served on indivisual trays with legs like small tables. It was basically composed of a Honzen (a main tray or first course), followed by Ni no Kyou二の饗 (second tray) and San no Kyou三の饗(third course).  At an especially polite gathering, a further four and fifth courses might have been served. And at the most magnificent banquet it was said that guests enjoyed up to seven courses. However, most of these courses were served just to show  the highest hospitality of the host and dishes just to be eaten by eyes only (watched).
All types of meals were served in Honzen Ryori and the basic form was a setting with a main course of seven small dishes, a second course of five small dishes and a third course of three small dishes placing main course in the center, the second course at the guest's right and the third course at the left. If there were still more trays to come, they were placed form the right, in the order of the fourth tray to the inside right of the main tray and the fifth tray to the left of that. Black or vermillion lacquer ware utensils were used. Honzen Ryori, established as samurai etiquette, have been handed down over the generations to the present and set as a standard in formal situations even today.
Various cooking techniques and manners have been developled by the nobility, samurai and monks according to their way of lives. Arts of cooking, the way to setting the ceremony and manners at various occaisions etc had been passed down secretly only with oral instruction from parents to children who were embraced by the nobility and samurai. Several schools of cooking such as the Shijou school四条流 of the nobility, the Okusa school大草流 for Ashikaga Shogun足利将軍 and Shinji school進士流 for one of samurai etc, also Dougen
道元, the founder of Soutou Zen曹洞宗, expounded that every daily work itself is the performance of the spirit of Buddhism and cooking was one of important training for monks. He wrote books at Eiheiji in which Shoujin Ryori精進料理 cooking was explained. Thus Eiheiji school永平寺 was born.
It was at this time that chefs began to be called as Houchou Nin
包丁人(Knife people) but chefs preparing Shojin Ryori using grains and vegetables were called Chousai Nin調菜人(Vegetable preparers).
With soy sauce taking the stage as flavouring, the art of cooking made remarkable advances establishing the model for today's Japanese cooking. The custom of eating miso soup also began around this time. Even with the sake of the samurai, ita was normal to simply drink unrefined sake only with miso as a snack in Kawarake (pottery without glazing).

★Azuchi Momoyama Era (1573 - 1598);
Portugal and Spain introduced their culture, guns and Christianity. Potatoes, squash and chili peppers as well as the Western European style of cooking with onions and oil and bread and sponge cake were brought in. And at this time steamed Kowaii was replaced by the Himeii
姫飯 eaten today, white rice cooked in water and the usual two meals a day increased to three.
The tea ceremony was perfected during this period by Sen no Rikyuu and Kaiseki Ryori took shape.

★Edo Period (1598 - 1867);
In the unique environment of national isolation, Japanese own culture matured. At the beginning of the Edo period, the most delicious treats for merchants were Nara Chameshi (rice boiled in tea and flavoured with sake and soy) and Takuan (pickled daikon radish) while for the peasants, meals were modest with assorted grains and vegetables. Accompanying the development of a monetary economy and improved distribution networks came a thriving urban culture of Edo (current Tokyo). Utamaro's Ukiyoe paintings depicting the everyday lives of merchants were everywhere a sign of luxury and dining out gained popularity with the appearnce of Soba
蕎麦 (Below is a man eating soba at Yosobauri from Kabuki, source:Tsubouchi Memorial Museum, Waseda University, ) and Nigiri-Zushi 握寿司(sushiballs). Oniazami no Seikichi eating SobaBotefuri棒手振り (sellers carrying their merchandise on poles over their shoulders as shown at left on the Hiroshige's famous Ukiyoe series of Tokaido 53tsugi, Nihonbashi where you can see sellers), food carts and quick launches popped up and the true Ryori Chaya料理茶屋 (high end restaurant) were established together with specialized restaurants such as soba-ya蕎麦屋, sushi-ya寿司屋 and unagi-ya鰻屋(eel). Especially Sobaya was so popular regardless of the social ranks, genders, alone or in group and people enjoyed soba relaxed with the best sake(Japanese rice wine) available in the city.  So the sake served at Sobaya was called Jyousyu上酒 and was the best drinking spots together with Unagi-ya.
The banquet style Kaiseki-Ryori会席料理 which is different from original Cha Kaiseki Ryori茶懐石料理 is enjoyed by wealthy merchants and same time drinking and/or big eating games became popular and gourmets with a vast knowledge of cookig began to appear in great numbers. The Edo at this time was one of the biggest city in the world and an urban center with the most advanced food service industries in the world.
At the same time, the strict etiquette of Honzen Ryori gave way to the simpler Fukusa Ryori
袱紗料理, a meal which could be enjoyed itself without being bothered by the formality and spreaded from samurai to merchant class. The basic menu consisted of Ichiju Sansai一汁三菜 , simple course with a soup and three dishes. Of course you can try more elaborated mourse of Niju Gosai二汁五菜 or Sanjyu Nanasai三汁七菜. Samurai are said to have eaten this meal after changing from their formal costumes into everyday clothing.
Chefs too no longer served only the samurai and the nobility as in the past but rather worked as professianals at restaurants. The old system of passing down expertise from parent to child shifted to an apprentice system. A true richness was seen in the dietary culture, to the extent that cookbooks for the common people to enjoy reading appeared outside of the specialized cooking and technical books.

★Meiji Period (1867 - 1912)
Ending the long feudal period, the country started working towards establishing the open nation. With the theme of of "Catch up and Overtake" the Western European countries.

With the opening up of the country, the styles of living gradually became westernized and western schools of cooking began to take its root. These so called Japanized Western style meals spread quickly throughout the nation. A saying of the time goes "The sound of drumming on bald heads cuting off Chonmage is the drumbeat of the westernization movement." Many people cut off their traditional topknots and began to wear western clothing, eat sukiyaki and cutlet, brew beer and wine, and produce butter, ham and chocolate. Meanwhile the common people began eating anpan (bread roll filled with anko beans paste) in one hand while drinking a glass of milk in the other and the first school lunches appeared in some schools.

★Taisho Period (1912 - 1926)
The country was enveloped in the dark shadow of the rise of radical nationalism with WWT and the great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 which destroyed Tokyo and Yokohama completely. The Taisho democracy worked towards democratizing society and putting their new educations to use. The general public was reading western books and enjoying literature, theatre, music and art. Newspaper, magazines and radio featured many stories on cooking, contributing to the richness of cultural life. The westernization of cooking continued, leading to such foods as Katsudon (rice with pork cutlet and egg), Curried rice, Hashed meat with rice and Ramen (noodle) gaining a strong foothold in the Japanese diet. Nutritional education was started and Japanese people began the tradition of the family dinner at the same table. It was during this period that the domestic production of whiskey and mayonnaise began.

★Showa Period (1926 - 1989)
Begnning of this era with worldwide depression and defeat in WWUwas the period of upheaval, rebuilding the scorched earth of the country. The lives of the people only grew worse as food insecurity increased. The rice , key staples were rationed but these rations did not provide the sufficient amounts for survivals, meaning that most had to run to the black market just after the war. But such bad situation was overcome soon due to strong economical recovery. Tv and cars entered in our daily life together with other convenient electric appliances like rice cooker, fridge, washing machine etc and also instant ramen was invented and all types of packaged and frozen foods were developed. This let to decreasing the burden of the housewives and promoted social progress. The food service industry continued to grow with the appearance of fast foods and family restaurants. Later the growth of temperature controlled supply chains and other new logistics infrastructure and the progress afforded by other new technologies allowed food to be produced and distributed in abundance. It was possible to get foods and raw materials from around the world almost effortlessly, which naturally let to the beginning of an era of mass production and mass consumption and peaked at Bubble economy. Anything at higher priced merchandises went out first. However the credit slowly but steadily undermined in the society and number of critical problems erupted simultaneously and environmental pollution etc became a serious issue.

★Heisei Period (1989 - Present)
Bubble economy continued and demands for rare items knew no bounds and ultra-spicy (Gekikara
激辛) and ethnic foods including Italian saw a sudden surge in popularity. The burst of bubble economy followed by sudden high value of Yen stagnated the economy and many companies saw unprecedented layoffs and were forced to move production sites to overseas. Restructuring and reengineering became key words of the era. People were insecure and fearful in their new uncertain situations, unable to see what lay ahead. The collapse of the Bubble leaving financial institutions saddled with massive amouts of bad debts changed patterns of the consumers, with the arrival of pizza door delivery (宅配) and foods for easy microwaving, eating ready-made dinners at home called Nakashoku中食 came into fashion and Nakashoku industry grew up fast. Nakashoku is cheaper than dinning out at the restaurants but taste better than the routinely home made dishes, of course avoiding cooking work at home. Red wine boom came supported by health oriented middle class people (because of polyohenol contained in red wine) especially on Friday many peoples bought a bottle of red wine together with Nakashoku dishes called Osouzai to spend a quiet , frugal but a little happy Friday evining at home.
A number of food safety issues such as E coli O157 food poisoning, residual pesticides on vegetables and grains, genetically modified foods, the use of additives without authorization and BSE etc lead to the "Slow Food" movement attempting to return to the natural foods of the old days leading more and more people to re-think the conventional lifestyle of the convenience "more volume, cheaper, easier and cleaner looking".

Soba is such a trendy food now.

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(4) “Soba & Japanese Culture (3rd Washoku Seminar)
Starting the lecture            23rd Mar., 2009 at George Brown College, Toronto
            By  Tetsuya Iizuka (Soba Canada Inc.)

There was a 3rd Washoku seminar sponsored by Consulate General of Japan and Japanese Restaurant Association of Canada on 23rd Mar., 2009. I have given a lecture about Soba and demonstrated Sobauchi (Soba making) followed by the tasting of genuine fresh Soba. It's my pleasure to have many nice words from the attendees and I believe this presentation would have helped Canadians to understand about Soba and our culture a little bit.

1) Introduction
Good evening. I am Iizuka Tetsuya. But please just call me Ted. I am the Missionary of Soba.
This evening I’m going to give you some information on Soba. Then I'll show you how it’s made the authentic way. And finally you’ll be able to taste real, fresh Soba.

Soba, like sushi, is a traditional food in Japan. Can those who have tasted soba before please raise their hands? Good*. And for those of you who answered yes, can you raise your hands if it was real soba like they eat in Japan (not the dried stuff that you can buy in Canada)? There’s a big difference.
*More than 90% of the attendees raised thieir hands but about 40% who said Yes raised their hands for real fresh soba.That means only about 1/3 of the attendees know the real soba. The attendees were all people with some interest for soba and japanese culture but for the general public percentage would be still very low I presume.

Dried soba is convenient. You can make it at home in just minutes. But if you check the label, you’ll probably find wheat flour at the top of the ingredients. Labelling laws dictate that ingredients should be listed in the order of their weight. In Japan, regulations* stipulate that as long as there is 40% buckwheat flour used, it is not required to write on the lavel the percentage of soba flour used. And the contents of buckwheta flour used in majority of commercial dried soba is less than half. So is it Soba or Udon of wheat flour noodle?.

* Japanese Agricutlural Standard Act stipulates standard Dried Soba (kanmen乾麺)should use buckwheat flour more than 40% and if used more than 50% it can be written as High Class Soba. Products can carry JAS marks (general JAS mark is at left) with the packages if they are graded by producers, manufacturers, distributors, or importers who are certified by third party organization. But it is the option of the entrepreneur if they want JAS mark on their marchandise or not. So if they decide not to use JAS mark, they can sell any type of soba. So it may be extremely rare to find out soba with JAS mark on it.  Another standard for Hoshi Soba (乾しそば) is based on Consumer Agency's Rule No.10 dated 30th Sept., 2011. Amongst Dried Soba, if buckwheat flour is used, such noodle shall be called as Hoshi Soba. Any percentage of buckwheat flour to be used is the option of the makers but basically percentage used should be clearly stated on the lavel except if used more than 30%. Also Fair Competition rule has a stipulation for Fresh Soba (Nama-men生めん) which says the noodle with more than 30% of buckwheat flour is called as Soba. And if compliance approved by the industrial organisation, it can bear Fair Competition Mark (公正マーク) shown left. However again you will not find such marchandise in the market. There are a lot of loopholes for the stipulations. But anyway even best soba contains more than 50% and rest is about 25 - 30%. A reason for such low percentage was the ability of noodle making machines in the past. they were poor and if used more than 40% of buckwheat, the machine had failed to make the noodle because buckwhheat didn't contain gluten at all. But nowadays the innovation of technology and the change of economic/social demands ask noodle makers for better quality products. Noodle makers association's internal guideline of "more than 30% and in case of less than 30% percentage should be clearly stated on the package should be reviewed.

That’s why I asked if you have had fresh soba. Unless you’ve tasted freshly made buckwheat soba, you haven’t experienced the real soba. It’s not just a matter of taste; it’s a respect for quality which goes to the heart of a fulfilling life, good health, sharing happiness with other people. If you want to really understand soba, if you really want to understand “washoku,” then you must understand that in this simple thing we find the fullness of life.
Just 2 or 3 decades ago, sushi was exotic and hard to find food in Canada. Now you can find it in any supermarket. That popularity is very positive but it also can create problems in ensuring quality standards. We are now starting to see soba catching on in North America. In New York City, for example, there are now more than half a dozen restaurants claiming to serve real hand-made soba. But knowledge is necessary to tell real from fake. So let’s look at some of the facts about real soba.

2) About Soba
You can find all of today’s information on my Web site: And you’ll be able to find the text of this lecture, as well.
Buckwheat is thought to have originated in Yunnan, China. It was then conveyed to Europe through Silk Road trading routes. It was brought to this continent by John Smith or the Pilgrim Fathers.
In Japan, buckwheat seeds have been found among artifacts of the mid-Jomon period about 5,000 BC. So you can imagine how long and deep is the relationship of soba with the Japanese culture. The first records mentioning soba appeared in the Shoku Nihongi (
続日本紀) the official history book of the Nara period in which the Empress Gensho decreed that buckwheat had to be cultivated as preparation for famine and disaster.
Soba has been eaten in the form of groats for a long time, but through the spread of stone mills at the beginning of the Edo era, soba in noodle form became common. Now, if you refer to soba, it means noodles (“sobagiri”) in Japan.
Buckwheat is a very robust plant and can grow in cold, barren land that won’t support other crops. So buckwheat was known as a “poor man’s crop” around the world. In Japan there is a saying, “Bragging about soba reveals your poor background.” In Normandy, if the king’s taxman found galette au sarrasin, a kind of buckwheat pancake, on the table, he didn’t even try to collect taxes from the household. Galette au sarrasin is tasty when hot, but turns to something like stone when cold making it a symbol of poverty in that region.
Once the Tokugawa Shogun established the government in Edo (the former name for Tokyo,) the city attracted people and merchants to the new capital. Edo is thought to have been the largest city in the world at that time. There was a saying at the time that “Fires and brawls are the flowers of Edo.” Vast numbers of people migrated into the city as workers. The new arrivals were poor but healthy while rich Edokko or people who had lived in the town for several generations were suffering from “Edo Wazurai,” or beriberi. Soba turned out to be the prevention and cure, the secret that had protected the newcomers.
Beriberi is caused by a deficiency in Vitamin B. Rich people could afford polished rice; the poor ate whole rice or soba cheaper but much more nourishing. So Edo Wazurai became a condition among the rich. The actual cause of beriberi was unknown until the mid-20th century. Japanese Imperial Army doctors who studied in Germany believed it was the result of bacteria, while Navy doctors studying in England believed the cause was a dietary deficiency and proposed equipping the entire Imperial fleet with baking ovens. This did not, in the end, go forward because of budget constraints.

The Edokko character is hotheaded but warmhearted and frank. People of Edo are sportsmanlike and not particularly attached to money and status. They are likely to spend the day’s earnings buying drinks for friends. (
Edokko are very discriminating about food. They appreciate seasonal flavours, particularly the very early produce of each season. Hatsu-Gatsuo, first sake, first(shin) soba, first(shin) tea, and so on are eagerly pursued. There is a saying that first foods (hatsu mono) extend life at least 75 days. There is haiku that expresses this enthusiasm: “
初鰹 舌に消え行く 小判かな,” meaning “Early bonito, melting on the tongue, is a gold coin.” During Tenmei-ki, or the 2nd half of the 18th century, the price of an early bonito soared to between 1 Ryo to 2 Ryo; in today’s dollars that would be between $2,000 and $4,000. To stabilize prices, the government tried to put many conditions or even prohibit on the sale of Hatuso-mono, or first foods of the season, through a series of regulations.
The spirited personality of the Edokko is reflected in the manner of eating soba (especially Zaru Soba). You just dip the bottom third of your soba with chopsticks in dipping sauce and suck into your mouth with a light slurping sound. While slurping is rude at the Western table, in Japan it shows a sophisticated Edo style even today.

3) Buckwheat as a plant
The scientific name of common buckwheat is “Fagopyrum Esculentum”. It is fast-growing annual plant. From sowing to reaping it takes only 75 to 90 days. Buckwheat is resistant to insects and cold.
Its “Infinite Inflorescence" unlimited growing character makes buckwheat robust and easily grown in the wild. Distinct from wheat or rice, buckwheat is not “tamed” by human cultivation. Thus the harvest efficiency is not as good as wheat. But while inconvenient for the farmer, buckwheat’s wild character ensures survival of its genes for the future.
The economic and social importance of buckwheat ranks far lower or more correctly "negligible" than for wheat; it is classified among “Special Crops.” in Canada. The hidden benefit for buckwheat is that it has escaped corporate exploitation and has remained a safe and natural crop. This commercial neglect, however, leaves it without influential sponsors. Despite its future opportunities as a cash crop which definitely give excellent health benefit to human, it still remains unrecognized and under-appreciated.

4) World Production and consumption
World production ranges between 2.5 to 3 million kilotonnes. Roughly speaking, 50% is produced by China, followed by 40% coming from Russia and Eastern Europe. Japan’s production is ranked around 10th with a 1% share. Canada once shared the 10th position with Japan, but regrettably production here has been declining bitterly in recent years.
Manitoba is called the “Buckwheat Capital of Canada,” and has been exporting about 80% of its production to Japan. It has also developed new varieties such as famous Mancan* variety that are being grown worldwide. I sincerely hope that Manitoba will revive its past successes in buckwheat cultivation shortly.
*Mancan's Man stands for Manitoba and of course Can is for Canada.

The cultivation itself is very easy. In Japan it is called a typical Sanchan agri-crop. Sanchan means “grandpa, grandma and housewife,” referring to the fact that after sowing there’s not much to do but admire the pretty white flowers, and that even these feeble folks can cultivate the plant. In fact, however, diligence together with good administration is essential for producing a high quality buckwheat. A human’s life is never so easy that we can expect fortunes by just sleeping.
The vast majority of consumption is for human food though a portion is diverted to animal and bird feedstuffs. In Japan nearly all soba is consumed in the form of noodles. The Japanese consider themselves the most enthusiastic soba eaters in the world. Other than Japan eating soba in noodle form is only in some parts of China and Korea. Buckwheat is consumed in Russia and Eastern Europe as kasha, which is easily preserved. In North America, it is often used in production of bread, cookies and energy bars. More recently, it has been introduced into cosmetics and medicines.

5) Washoku and Soba
Washoku (Japanese Cuisine), including soba, has recently been enjoying the spotlight as a healthy cuisine. The Japanese archipelago extends 3,000 km from north to south. The northern part has a sub-arctic climate while the southern part is sub-tropical. But the majority of the land mass is blessed with a mild oceanic climate and has four distinct seasons. 70% of the land is mountain and surrounded by sea, which let the Japanese enjoy rich foods in abundance from sea to mountain in any season. Rice is eaten as a main dish accompanied by the best foodstuffs of the season served on small plates in a variety of shapes and sizes.
At the heart of Washoku cuisine is a deep respect and enjoyment of the natural qualities of food. It has developed techniques to disclose and enhance the essential taste and texture of ingredient itself. It avoids over-decoration, and instead uses simplicity to express the changing motifs of Mother Nature on the plate with gratitude. Such respect reminds us to avoid reckless exploitation of fish and animals etc., to stop destroying nature in the name of development and to question our addiction to convenience at the expense of true value, the quality.
At the table in a Japanese home, if you don’t finish your rice properly, leaving even a grain in your bowl, you’ll be scolded by your parents for not being thankful to the farmers’ hard work. You are taught not only gratitude and respect for others, but also the importance of harmony with nature, the work of others and, in fact, with the whole universe we live in. Acknowledging that we are all equally made creatures of this universe is a first step in eliminating war, environmental abuse and the problems that bring upon ourselves.

Soba is simple but delicate food. Basically only flour and water are used. You can’t cheat with soba because its simplicity tells all. Bad flour makes bad soba. Bad water makes bad soba. It’s said that the skill of the finest soba master contributes only 20% to the quality of good soba; the rest is due to the quality of the flour. So a beginner’s soba can be superior to that of a master using poor flour. This points out the importance of good materials.
Sobauchi is the highlight of soba making. But it is only a small part of the whole process, maybe 5% to 10%. Selection of good buckwheat, proper storage, cleaning, sorting, milling and so on are behind the scenes but their timing and management determine the final quality. So in such meaning, even finest soba master's sobauchi in the whole precess represents only 2% of whole works

During the Edo period, it took a minimum of 5 years and 3 months apprenticeship to become a Soba Master. The first 3 years are devoted just to working flour and water in the kibachi bowl. Two years follow for learning the flattening and rolling or “noshi.” The final stage of cutting took only 3 months.
I have nearly 10 years of experience in sobauchi or soba making, and still it is a challenge every time I put my hands in the flour. A different soba comes out every time. But on rare occasions a beautiful soba takes shape under my hands. It makes me happy all day.
I suggest that when you eat well made fresh soba once, you will see the difference and wonder what substance you had been eating before.

It happened to me. I was born in Asakusa, a district of Tokyo that is the traditional centre of the Edo culture. I had several favourite soba restaurants and thought of myself something like a connoisseur. After learning sobauchi, I returned to my old favourite restaurants. But the old enthusiasm was gone. They weren’t serving real soba at all. Stay comfortable in ignorance or let knowledge sweep away the certainties of the past. To be really a human, you have to chase the truth.

After this introduction, I hope you understand a little about soba and Washoku, and the attitudes behind them. The West has been attracted to Washoku as a healthy food alternative. It is. Partly because it uses fresh superior quality seasonal ingredients in balance. But more importantly, it expresses positive attitudes about the life and the world. This is the kokoro or heart and mind of Japanese cooking that makes it healthy.
I think fusion with other food cultures would contribute to the development of Washoku tradition in the future. But only if the kokoro is understood and sought. Otherwise, we’re just taking the style and not the substance that gives life. This is the most important lesson I can hope to share with you today.

6) Soba and Health
As we discussed earlier, Edo Wazurai or beriberi was the seed of the blossoming of soba culture. But soba’s benefits are not restricted to the prevention of beriberi. Please refer to the paper entitle “Ingredients Comparison Chart of Buckwheat Flour & Wheat/Rice etc.” It will introduce you to the health benefits of buckwheat.

Buckwheat satisfies 3 primary dietary functions:
1. Nutrition for growth and energy
2. Enjoyment and culture
3. Body adjustment and co-ordination (functional food)

In comparison with other grains, buckwheat is superior in almost all component ingredients. Buckwheat deserves to be called “a King of the Grains” because, together with the structural advantage of its kernel, it fulfills the three functional requirements described above so well. As you may recall from school, there are five essential nutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, vitamins and minerals. The protein of buckwheat is high for outer parts of the kernel which contains about 15% of protein. The most noteworthy characteristic of buckwheat protein is its high amount of Lysine (700mg/100g) compared to other grains beneficial in preventing high blood pressure and cerebral apoplexy. The Amino Acid Score measures the quality of protein; eggs are the best protein and are rated 100, buckwheat scores 93 while wheat flour is 44, brown rice 65, and white bread 44. Gluten free buckwheat is a good news for sufferers from celiac disease.
These nutrients are only part of the functions of diet. The second to consider is the enjoyment it gives our five senses and its ability to satisfy the natural human appetite. These distinguish diet from drugs, and are a product of our culture.
The last function is the adjustment function of our living body, the organism. Recently this last function has attracted a great deal of attention as we are getting an aging society for the first time in the history. To strengthen our immunity, to defer the symptoms of aging, to prevent cancer and high blood pressure and to adjust our nerve or digestive systems are examples of requirements of positive adaptation to health risks.

Buckwheat contains significant quantities of rutin, one of polyphenol families. Rutin is one of the functional antioxidants known to strengthen capillary vessels and consequently preventing cerebral apoplexy and disease related to hemorrhage. Recent studies have revealed further functional ingredients in addition to Rutin. These newly found substances have a notable antioxidant effect. Oxygen is necessary for human life, of course; but when breathing, 3% to 10% of the oxygen utilized at respiration will turn to unstable ionized oxygen which, through free radical production, creates toxins at the cellular level, causing various degenerative conditions including diabetes, cancers, heart disease and aging. Buckwheat promotes powerful antioxidation effects which mitigate damage from free radicals. Polyphenols such as rutin from buckwheat, catechin from tea and Vitamins E and C are all effective antioxidants. With the exception of Vitamin C, buckwheat is a valuable source of these important substances.
So for good health and quality of life, eat buckwheat! Thank you.

And now, it’s show time! Let me show you how to make typical Nihachi Soba by the traditional Edo method with the commentaries of John Hanna who is one of my good students of Soba.

My good friend John Hanna

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