A taste of the culture

Last updated 05:00 24/12/2013

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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 learn 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.

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 the class 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 and healthy," she added.

Another participant was Jake Coleman, 31, from San Francisco. "I'm going back home to Ohio for the Christmas holidays, and I'll make imomochi [potato cake] I learned [how to make] here today for my family," he said.

Nameshida gives four or five lessons a week and about 100 to 150 people join the class every month.

Her classes often rank among the best-rated activities in the Kanto area on TripAdvisor, one of the world's largest travel websites.

- The Washington Post/The Yomiuri Shimbun

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