Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Message from Japan: Marley Taylor

We are excited to share special messages from AU students who are currently studying in Japan. These include insights and observations that you might find especially useful when you arrive in Japan. Please feel free to leave a comment and let us know your thoughts or questions.

Marley Taylor
Ritsumeikan University

Cooking in Japan 日本の料理こと


Japanese grocery stores have different levels of produce freshness, just like stores in the US. In my ward, we have a higher-end Matsumoto and a lower-end Gyomu. Japanese people put a lot of value on the freshness of their produce. At Matsumoto, the produce is brought in fresh every day, and they try to sell as much as they can by the end of the day. If you go about an hour before closing, you can buy a lot of nice produce at discounted prices.

If you’re on a tight budget, you’ll shop at a place like Gyomu. Their produce is noticeably less fresh, but heavily discounted compared to what’s sold at Matsumoto. Lower-end stores also tend to have more frozen foods. For most of the college students in the area, Gyomu is the best option.
At both stores, the prices of produce change per day. For example, if the batch of cucumbers they receive are smaller than usual, the price will be lower, or they’ll put more in a bundle. Even at Gyomu, the vegetable quality is still better than some stores in the US. Most of the food seems to be grown fairly locally and always has a nice taste.

台所用品|Cooking Equipment

In Japan, there is a distinct lack of traditional ovens. There are a few reasons for this but, primarily, I think it is because Japanese cooking traditionally is never done in an oven. For baking, people here often use the oven setting on their microwave, or a toaster oven. This won’t work if you’re thinking of cooking a turkey while in Japan but, does work well for small baked goods like cakes, bread, and sweets.

The 炊飯器(すいはんき)or, rice cooker, is the backbone of cooking in Japan. They come in various sizes, including 1-serving rice cooker, and aren’t too expensive. You’ll never want to cook rice on the stove again!

冷蔵庫で?How to Store Your Food

In the grocery store, you’ll notice that many things which are refrigerated in the US aren’t refrigerated in Japan. This is due mostly to the way produce are handled, and different cleaning processes in different countries. Here is a list of fruits and vegetables that do and do not need to be refrigerated. In Japan, eggs are not, and do not need to be refrigerated. While people aren’t particularly bothered to see carrots out of the fridge, seeing bread and eggs stored in the same place tends to set of warnings for lots of Americans.
卵:In the most basic terms, the way eggs are cleaned in the United States breaks down the protective layer provided by the shell, making it porous – this means bacteria can penetrate the shell – so the eggs have to be refrigerated. The US relies heavily on large scale farms that are harder to keep clean; this is why our eggs undergo a chemical treatment. In Japan (and many European countries) the eggs do not need to undergo this treatment, so it is safe to keep them unrefrigerated. If you’re interested, here is a more detailed explanation. IMPORTANT: Once you refrigerate an egg, you must keep doing so. Once it’s chilled, if you take it out of the fridge, the egg “sweats”, creating an opening for bacteria. Whichever method you choose, just be consistent.

Cooking in Japan is both incredibly frustrating and wonderful. As you learn more about the produce that’s offered and the Japanese style of cooking, you can have a lot of fun and make some tasty dishes.

(originally published at

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