Traditional Japanese cuisine, or washoku, yet praised for its sensibility towards nature, is, in reality, a miniature portrait of the Japanese ecosystem and foodscape. As we know it, its canonic recipes represent a passed-down idea of the urban ruling class food culture. It is hard to imagine that a diet focused on rice, seafood, and soy byproducts could historically represent the whole population of an archipelago with two-thirds of mountainous landmass and a marked North-South orientation. Hence, compartmentalisation is widespread, and the environment can significantly change from one area to another. Like many societies throughout history, the Japanese complimented their agricultural lifestyle with hunting, fishing, and foraging. Then, Japanese people’s relationship with nature resulted in foodways as diverse as the different regions of Japan. This paper will disclose the persistence of uncanonical – for modern washoku standards – Japanese traditional culinary knowledge based on that wilderness and contact with nature that started to get lost in modernisation. The focus will be on the indigenous, undomesticated organisms of the Japanese archipelago by analysing and comparing recipes and food testimonies in a longue durée, holistic perspective from the late Muromachi period to nowadays. This research speaks about game meat, wild plants, and non-commercial fish from mountains, sea, rivers, lakes, and paddy fields; what recipes are associated with them, what patterns can we discern in cooking, and how they got transmitted.
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