Japan’s National Day, known as “Kenkoku Kinen no Hi” or National Foundation Day, commemorates the mythical founding of Japan and the ascension of Emperor Jimmu to the throne in 660 BCE. While National Day isn’t typically associated with specific culinary traditions like some other holidays, Japanese people often celebrate with food that reflects the rich culinary heritage and cultural diversity of the nation. From traditional dishes deeply rooted in history to modern interpretations of Japanese cuisine, the foods enjoyed on National Day offer a tantalizing glimpse into Japan’s culinary tapestry.
One iconic dish that holds a special place in Japanese culture is sushi. Originating in ancient Japan as a preservation method for fish, sushi has evolved into a beloved culinary art form enjoyed by people around the world. On National Day, many Japanese families may choose to indulge in sushi as a way to honor their heritage and celebrate the nation’s rich maritime history. Whether enjoying nigiri sushi, maki rolls, or sashimi, each bite of sushi offers a symphony of flavors and textures that pay homage to Japan’s culinary traditions.
Another popular dish enjoyed on National Day is tempura, a delicacy consisting of lightly battered and fried seafood, vegetables, and other ingredients. Introduced to Japan by Portuguese traders in the 16th century, tempura quickly became a beloved part of Japanese cuisine, known for its crispiness and delicate flavors. Whether served as a standalone dish or as part of a larger meal, tempura is sure to delight the taste buds and evoke feelings of nostalgia for many Japanese people on National Day.
In addition to these traditional favorites, Japanese people may also celebrate National Day with a variety of regional specialties that showcase the unique flavors and ingredients of different parts of the country. For example, residents of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, might enjoy a hearty bowl of miso ramen, a noodle soup made with a rich and savory broth flavored with fermented soybean paste. Meanwhile, those in Osaka, known as the “Kitchen of Japan,” might indulge in savoury okonomiyaki, a type of savory pancake made with cabbage, meat or seafood, and topped with a sweet and savory sauce.
For dessert, Japanese people may enjoy wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets that come in a variety of shapes, colors, and flavors. Made from ingredients like rice flour, sweet beans, and agar agar, wagashi are often served alongside green tea as a way to balance their sweetness with the bitterness of the tea. These delicate sweets are not only delicious but also serve as a symbol of Japan’s cultural heritage and aesthetic sensibilities.
In recent years, there has been a growing trend towards incorporating more modern and international influences into Japanese cuisine, reflecting the country’s status as a global culinary powerhouse. On National Day, some Japanese people may choose to celebrate with fusion dishes that blend traditional Japanese ingredients and techniques with flavors from around the world. For example, they might enjoy a bowl of ramen topped with ingredients like avocado and cilantro, or indulge in sushi rolls filled with non-traditional ingredients like cream cheese and mango.
Regardless of the specific dishes enjoyed, the food served on National Day serves as a celebration of Japan’s rich culinary heritage and cultural identity. Whether savoring traditional favorites like sushi and tempura or exploring more modern interpretations of Japanese cuisine, Japanese people come together on National Day to honor their history, celebrate their diversity, and enjoy the simple pleasure of sharing a delicious meal with loved ones. As they raise their chopsticks in celebration, they pay homage to the traditions of the past while embracing the possibilities of the future, united by their love of food and their pride in their nation.