Love Japan Like Keanu Reeves: 5 Reasons to Love Japanese Food

It’s a well-known fact that Keanu Reeves loves Japan. He did 47 Ronin movie based in medieval Japan. In recent months, he was in Tokyo for location scouting for “Rain” TV mini-series and word has it that Keanu’s’ favourite food is ramen! (“Keanu Reeves shares his love for Japan” video)

Other famous celebrities, like Tommy Lee Jones & Lady Gaga, also have a special spot for this country.

And, I’m no different.

I was attracted to Japanese animation and music. What started as an interest has brought me 5,312 km across the sea from Singapore to Japan.

I lived in Tokyo for a year to fulfil my dream of speaking the Japanese language.

Tough Love Bears It All

Coming to my 19th year of Japanophile, there are many things I love about the Land of The Rising Sun, such as their creativity, being stoic and standing in solidarity in face of challenges e.g. Fukushima incident.

And, there are also matters that I didn’t agree with Japan and her people. As a saying goes, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”

Over the years, in all maturity I have reconciled my love-hate relationship with Japan. Tough love bears it all – the good, the bad and the ugly.

It’s Hard Not to Love Japanese Food…

…because food plays a huge part in understanding her country and people.

Here’s why I love Japanese food:

1. Want Quality? Look No Further – The Japanese Quality Chop!

Japanese Sushi

Japanese people love their cuisine and are proud of it, as shown in this article (“Certification system set up by Japanese chefs raises global quality of sushi”)

It shows the Japanese people’s work commitment to high quality standards, and they expect no less excellence from those (even foreigners) who are representing their country. You can be assured of the freshest ingredients and meticulous hygienic food preparations.

2. Let’s Learn the Japanese Culture

Japanese Kaiseki Ryori
Kaiseki Ryori (c) JeffRz

Do you know that there are two type of words in Japanese for ‘Japanese food’? First is ‘washoku’ (和食) when you refer to traditional-style Japanese food like sushi, tempura and kaiseki ryori (会席料理; Japanese haute cuisine).

While over the years of outside cultural influences, ‘nihon ryori’ (日本料理) is a term to include borrowed food that are adapted to the tastes of Japanese people, such as curry rice (Kari; India; “History & Origin of Curry”), ramen (拉面; China; “The Strange History of Ramen Noodles”)

Isn’t it amazing? Yes, to know someone’s culture by their food!

3. Tantalise Your Tastebuds with Creativity

Japanese Bento
Rain Cloud Bento (c) Gamene

Whenever a new season comes along, I will throng the supermarket near my dormitory.

What for? You may ask.

Well, to check out the limited edition Pocky and other new snack releases on the shelves! If it’s autumn, you could discover kuri (栗; chestnut) flavour. And naturally in spring, you will find lots of sakura-flavoured/infused food.

In particular, Japanese food, as in ‘washoku’ (和食), follows the season ‘shun’ (旬) – they will prepare the season’s catch with creative presentation.

Japanese people are also highly creative with their food packaging, as you probably know. Sometimes I buy because of the beautiful or cute design. I’m sure you’re guilty of it too!

And, preparing Japanese food yourself definitely gives you the opportunity to express your creativity. Look at Shirley Wong, Singapore’s top bento artist. She whips up artistic bento sets that look as great as they taste. (Instagram @littlemissbento)

4. Enjoy Health Goodness (Even If You Don’t Try)

Japanese Soba (Buckwheat Noodles)

On top of having regular exercises, an important strategy to lead a healthy life is diet. What you eat is what you are.

You can see from Japanese people’s staple diet – fish, sushi, natto (fermented soybean), buckwheat soba, fruits, vegetables etc. It’s no wonder that only 3.5% of the population is obese (2009 data). Many of the Guinness World Records’ holders for ‘Oldest Living Person’ live in Japan. (“World’s oldest person Misao Okawa dies in Japan”) 117-year-old Mrs Okawa loved eating sushi – her favourite food.

What’s best about Japanese cuisine is you don’t need to try hard to be healthy, because it’s an integral part of their food heritage. One good example is wasabi (the genuine one that comes from wasabia japonica), which has antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties.

5. “Irrashaimase!”

Japanese Ramen
Ramen Shop (c) Yuu

If you’ve stepped into Japanese food outlets before, you’ll be familiar with this chirpy greeting, which means “Welcome!” Besides great food and company, excellent service and ambience are also part of what makes a meal enjoyable.

And you bet, the Japanese people have perfected this hands down.

As Bridget Brennan, CEO of consulting firm Female Factor, puts it on Forbes, “The three ways the Japanese do customer service better” – are appreciating, giving a sensory experience, and showing kindness and enthusiasm to a customer.

Indeed, you can never go wrong with Japanese food!

Battle of the KFC Wings

Freshly breaded in-store with a special batter, these juicy wings are cooked to crispy perfection and coated in your choice of two bold flavours – choose between the Japanese-inspired tangy yet savoury Umadare and the Korean-inspired sweet and spicy Yang Yeum.

Who will be crowned king of the wings?

You decide.

KFC Umadare vs Yang Yeum

Pick a side and be part of KFC’s greatest wing-off.
Hashtag #kfcoishii to support Umadare or #kfcmashisoyo to support Yang Yeum on Instagram!

I vote for #kfcoishii
What about you?

Disclaimer: Although this post is in the running for a contest, hope you’ve gleaned some interesting insights into the Japanese culture. Bonus tip, shouting ‘Irasshaimase’ loudly, you know food from that eatery gotta be oishii (‘delicious’)! When the owner and staff are proud and confident of their food, they show it by the volume of their greeting.