Japanese take great pride in the quality and purity of their food. Discussions about food can be very serious, passionate and deeply analytical. Foreign visitors to Tokyo describe the food "sublime, delicate and carefully presented."
The average Japanese person eats about 25% fewer calories per day than the average American, which could partly explain their lengthy lifespan. Eating just 8% fewer calories per day, while moderately increasing your activity level, may be enough to promote longer life.
The Japanese love to eat. When asked what makes them happiest, many Japanese say a delicious meal. Television is filled with cooking and eating shows. The variety of food found in Japan is astounding. Hundreds of different dishes are available. Each city, town and region has its speciality for which it is known nationally.
In Japan, food is served on separate small plates and bowls instead of on one big plate. Diners take turns having little tastes of everything. Serving smaller portions may be one of the best secrets for eating healthfully and losing weight. Research shows that when we're served more, we tend to eat it -- whether we planned to and were hungry for it or not.
The Japanese diet includes huge amounts of rice -- six times more per person than the average American's diet. A small bowl is served with almost every meal, including breakfast. A low-fat, complex carbohydrate, rice helps fill you up on fewer calories, leaving less room in your belly for fattening foods like packaged cookies and pastries.
Common food choices associated within cultural group.
Grain group: rice and rice products, rice flour (mochiko), noodles (comen/soba), buckwheat and millet.
Vegetable group: artichoke, asparagus, bamboo shoots (takenoko), burdock (gobo), cabbage (nappa), eggplant, horseradish (wasabi), mizuna, mushrooms (shiitake, matsutake, nameko), Japanese parsley (seri), lotus root (renkon), pickled cabbage (kimchee), pickled vegetables, seaweed (laver, nori, wakame, kombu), snow peas, spinach, sweet potato, vegetable soup (mizutaki), watercress, white radish (daikon).
Fruit group: pearlike apple (nasi), apricots, bananas, cherries, figs, grapefruit (yuzu), kumquats, lemons, limes, persimmons, plums, pineapples, strawberry, tangerine (mikan).
Milk, yogurt and cheese group: milk, butter and ice cream.
Meat, fish, eggs and nuts group: beef, deer, lamb, port, rabbit, veal; fish and shellfish, including dried fish with bones, raw fish (sashimi), and fish cake (kamaboko); a variety of poultry (chicken, duck, goose, turkey) and legumes (black beans, red beans, soybeans – as tofu, fermented soybean and sprouts).
Fats and sweets group: lard; soy, sesame, rapeseed and rice oil; honey and sugar.