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Japanese Food – General Analysis and Comparison to American Food Essay

It is generally true that different countries have distinct cultures. The culture of a country is shaped by various factors unique to that country, directly affecting it during its historical development. An example of such factors is geography. The geographic nature and location of a country dictates what resources it may have; a country surrounded by water tends to depend on the aquatic life for food, while a country endowed with vast fields of fertile land tends to feed its citizens through harvested crops.

As one can infer, the food source of a country is in a direct relationship with its culture. This concept in turn supports the development of unique variants of food, also defined as its local or traditional food. The United States of America and Japan, in this sense, are two vastly different cultures with diverse food variants. The American continent, although of course surrounded by bodies of water, has a vast land area which it is known for. This prompted the development of the country to be generally agricultural and crop-based.

Hence, corn and potatoes are considered as its staple food. Japan, on the other hand, is considerably less in terms of total land area; therefore, the development of its agriculture is quite limited and crop variants held to a minimum. The whole population instead focused its attention on the sea as a limitless source of food. Such basic differences in food also result in additional variance to the details regarding it. Suggested food intake, nutritional claims, health claims are expected to be different to a certain extent between the two. Health issues are expected to vary as well.

Hence, the American food culture and the Japanese food culture are expected to be distinctly different with consideration to these aforementioned points of comparison. Methodology In order to begin the analysis of the characteristics of the food from the unfamiliar Japanese culture, a direct sampling of Japanese food is required. Hence, the first major portion of the methodology requires that a restaurant serving authentic Japanese cuisine is to be located within the locality. After choosing one, also keeping in mind that the price range is well within the reach of the researcher’s budget, a sample Japanese dish is to be ordered or bought.

If possible, the method as to how the dish is prepared should be properly observed and noted. The characteristics of the dish should also be considered and inspected. Specific details in terms of taste and appearance are to be listed down. If possible, the constituents of the dish or its basic ingredients are also to be identified. After assessing such details regarding a sample dish of Japanese cuisine, a more technical and research oriented approach towards analysis is to be started. The second main segment of the methodology pertains to the technical and research oriented part of the study.

Specific details regarding the whole Japanese food culture are to be determined. Further research into the Japanese food culture and its historical development is to be accomplished. Further insights regarding the differences with the American food culture and standards will be provided by searching for the occurrence of a localized food pyramid as well as rules or guidelines for food labeling, health claims, and nutrient content claims. Also, health concerns regarding food in the Japanese culture will also be taken into account.

The common health problems, its sources and effects, will be established. Resulting data from the two main sections of the research method gathered through such methods will be properly collated and completely analyzed afterwards. Results Upon locating a restaurant that offers authentic Japanese cuisine, a choice was made to order a highly popular and common Japanese specialty, the sushi. In this case, an unlimited amount of sushi was made available, each variant served in differently colored plates riding on top of a conveyor belt like mechanism.

There were so many variants of sushi, making the process of identification more troublesome. Fortunately in this case, each plate was properly labeled. The first variant of sushi sampled is called the nigiri sushi. In physical form, the nigiri sushi mainly consists of hand-shaped rice with a single kind of topping per serving. This variant is however not simply a single kind as there were notable difference in toppings between servings. There were four main types of nigiri sushi served; one type had squid as topping, the second had shrimp, the third had raw fish, and the fourth was egg.

Upon immediate sampling, the shrimp, and squid were notably very lightly cooked, if cooked at all. The thin slices of fish served as toppings were obviously uncooked. Also, no additional flavor was added to enhance the flavor of these two toppings. The egg however, was noticeably scrambled and sweetened. The rice below the topping, aside from being shaped, had no detectable additional flavoring. The second variant of sushi sampled was considerably more complex in both structure and appearance. Called as the maki sushi, this variant evidently had more ingredients.

There were two main types of maki sushi sampled, futo maki and hoso maki. In both, a thin dried seaweed preparation, known in Japan as the nori, covers the outer area of the flat circular shaped sushi. Another common ingredient noticed for this variant is cucumber, sliced in small portions and apparently used fresh with no additional cooking procedures. Carrots were also noted to be present in both types, having been prepared in the same manner as the cucumbers. The last notable similarity between the two is the use of caviar.

The nature and source of the caviar was not determined; the only detail noted regarding it was that it was commonly used as additional toppings or dispersed within the sushi. In terms of differences, the main distinguishing factor between the futo maki and the hoso maki is the inclusion of fish. Of the two, only hoso maki had slices of fresh raw fish, known to be commonly tuna, interspersed within the roll. As an additional note, the sushi variants were dipped in a mixture of Japanese soy sauce and a spicy paste known as wasabi, with the resulting ratio dependent on one’s preferences.

After discussing the structure and constituent parts of the sampled dish in detail, findings regarding the taste are placed in focus. It is noticeable that the overall taste of the sushi alone is quite simple and plain, and at the same time pleasant and cool. It draws its appeal from the combined flavor of its parts. Such taste is expected since the parts used are neither seasoned nor flavored in any matter. However, upon the addition of the wasabi and soy sauce concoction, the sushi is given a stronger flavor, mainly a combination of salty and spicy taste.

Upon completion of the sampling phase of the study, research was done to determine the historical context of Japanese food. Japan is one of the several island based countries throughout the world which is mainly surrounded by the sea, and along it also contains several bodies of water; hence, even from the early points of Japanese history, food is commonly gathered from aquatic sources (Minnesota State University [MSU], n. d. ). Since fish and other aquatic creatures such as shrimp, crabs, squid, octopus, and urchins, are commonly associated with the Japanese diet, people tend to think that the Japanese consume these exclusively.

This however, is not the case in reality. The Japanese also consume various land grown products including well known ones like eggplants and carrots, along with rice which is considered as their staple food (MSU, n. d. ). Another subject of research conducted in the study is concerned with something more current: government issued guidelines and policies regarding the food industry as well as the presence of a food pyramid. Specific points analyzed include food labeling, health claims, nutrient content claims, and of course, the food pyramid.

Details regarding food labeling, health claims, and nutrient content claims were not very much analyzed in this case, but rather, the focus was placed upon whether such policies exist. In terms of food labeling, it has been noted that a similar system exists in Japan in comparison to other countries such as America. In fact, there has been a movement by the Japanese government to further increase the scope of the law, making it considerably more stringent in comparison to those of other countries (Gale Group Incorporated [GGI], 2008).

As for laws regarding health claims, Japan has a well-defined and extensive policy system, pointing out specific categories for health and nutrient claims and requirements for the application of companies for such claims to be approved for their product (National Centre of Excellence in Functional Foods [NCEFF], 2004). Japan currently has a well-adapted food pyramid. Commonly encountered food items in Japan are included as examples; some of these are rice, miso, honey, soy sauce, milk, soy milk, tofu, fish, clams, plums, and kelp (Southeastern Michigan Dietetic Association [SEMDA], 1998).

The final aspect looked upon in the research was regarding the usual health problems accompanying the local cuisine. Given the fact that Japanese food preparations often utilize raw to lightly cooked seafood, parasitic organisms is a usual threat (Ransom, n. d. ). Examples of these parasitic organisms are worms which latch on to various areas of a person, usually the gastrointestinal tract, in order to provide themselves vital nutrients. Another problem arising from their preference towards seafood is the possible occurrence of heavy metals in the flesh of sea-based organisms due to global environmental problems (Ransom, n.

d. ). Discussion The results point out evident differences and similarities between the American and the Japanese food cultures. First, regarding food preparation and taste, from what was observed with the sushi, Japanese food preparation is simpler in constituent and is also rather simpler in terms of preparation. The focus of the Japanese cooking is to maintain the natural form and flavor of the ingredients while blending well in combination.

This is very much unlike the American way of cooking since the focus is usually to use a main ingredient and season or flavor it in a way that after being cooked for a certain amount of time, the food has acquired an enhanced taste. In relation to this, the Japanese cuisine has a preference towards the uncooked and seafood, while American cuisine focuses on cooking techniques and the use of beef, pork, and chicken. These differences mainly arise from the varied historical development of each country.

In terms of the more technical side of food and its culture, specifically food labeling, health claims, and nutrient claims, due to the trend of globalization, it is quite understandable that in general, both Japan and America have law pertaining to food labeling, health claims, and nutrient claims. Differences on these are mainly observed when inspecting the specifics. Aside from this, both countries have food pyramids. The difference on this point pertains to the food examples written in the pyramid; the main structure and recommendations remain the same.

Lastly, health issues and risks differ for both countries to a certain degree. The Japanese mainly worry about issues regarding contaminants and parasites due to seafood consumption, while the Americans worry about problems such as heart disease and obesity due to the way food is prepared. Conclusion The historical and geographic differences of America and Japan have led to a distinct difference in terms of their local cuisine. Japan focused on seafood as one of the main food sources unlike America. The staple food is also different for both countries, being rice for Japan which is rather uncommon in the United States.

Hence, in relation to this, food-related heath concerns also differ for both countries. However, far from what is expected in terms of Japan and America being completely different, current trends in relation to globalization and exports have shown that in the subject of food in general, America and Japan have several points in common. These points mentioned laws and policies pertaining to food labeling as well as health and nutritional claims. Therefore, although different at various points, Japan and America evidently has certain points of close similarities in the general subject of food contrary to what is commonly thought of.

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