When most people think about Japanese food, items such as sushi, tempura or ramen typically come to mind. After all, those dishes are some of the best-known outside of Japan, and a holiday in the country isn't complete without tasting fresh sushi near Tsukiji market or slurping on a warm bowl of noodles. But how about fare such as omu-rice, hambagu or Neapolitan? While those names may not sound familiar outside of Japan, they are also an integral part of Japanese cuisine: they belong to a category called yoshoku.
Yoshoku: A Western Twist on Japanese Food
The word yoshoku literally means “Western food”. It comprises of a wide range of American and European dishes that were imported to Japan, then reinvented to fit local tastes. It's not traditional Japanese cuisine, yet it isn't quite French, Italian or American either. Yoshoku is best explained as Japanese-style Western cuisine, as it is a hybrid of both. The dishes often feature Western names, and are usually written in katakana, the Japanese characters usually reserved for foreign words.
For hundreds of years, fish was central to the Japanese diet, and consuming meat was virtually banned due to Buddhist beliefs. However, during the Meiji restoration, right after Japan opened up to the rest of the world back in the mid-1850s, the government began to encourage the population to consume meat. During that same period, some Japanese people traveled to Europe and America, and brought back recipes to Japan, giving them a Japanese twist.