Finding Japan in Germany! Part 7: An interview at a Japanese vegan-cooking workshop in Berlin.

"A report on Japanese culture found in Germany"- In this article TJ writer wasabi, who is currently in Berlin, is interviewing people she found who are associated with Japan and its culture. This time, she interviewed Yuko Kihira, who is striving to spread the culture of Japanese cooking to the world.

Wasabi   Food & Drinks,

The lecturer Yuko Kihira

The participants and Yuko Kihira, the lecturer

Why is the term “Vegan” unfamiliar in Japan?

Japanese food is recognized as healthy food here in Germany, and redefines it’s value. Even though Japan has such a healthy food culture, awareness of veganism is still low. Japan is often unrecognized as the country with original vegan dishes like “shojin ryori”, the Buddhist cuisine that only uses vegetables. Ms. Kihira is teaching vegan Japanese cooking in order to hand down traditional Japanese food culture to people all over the world.

People in Europe are becoming more and more conscious about animal rights and personal health. It raises interests in healthy Asian food culture and vegetarianism. There were about 10 people at the workshop and they are all keen on learning Japanese food culture.

The menu for the day

The key to Japanese food is “hand” making, with love.

During the workshop, Yuko and her assistant served food that they had cooked while telling a little bit about it. Yuko puts importance on using ingredients that are available in each country she does workshops in. She hopes that they will casually make Japanese food more on a daily basis. During the workshop, I realized that the Japanese dishes are hand-made in many ways. The food is prepared literally by hand. Yuko was squishing lettuce with her bare hands while making Japanese pickles. One participant described it as “massaging a salad”, which I thought was an interesting point of view. Other people asked why ginger has to be cut parallel to its fiber patterns while Yuko was shredding ginger, something commonly seen in cooking Japanese food. The famous Japanese food, “Onigiri” (rice ball) is also squished together by hand, one by one. Japanese cooking is best described as, “food made with love”.


Onigiri with green tea leaves

The most poplar dish was “Shira-ae”, which uses Tofu in an unexpected way!

For some participants, “Shira-ae” made with milled Tofu was a surprise. Its texture was something that most of them especially liked. The majority of people said it’s hard to decide on one dish out of the many today, because all of them were delicious.
The Tofu sold in Germany is very stiff, so it would be better to boil it in water. It was indeed a very helpful tip for me too as a Japanese person living here. Another surprising cuisine was the onigiri containing used green tea leaves. I’ve lived in Japan for 21 years, but never came across onigiri with green tea leaves. It got me thinking how Japanese food culture is deep and has much to explore.

Check out her blog as well!

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Writer / Translator

I’m a freelance translator from Tokyo who likes to travel right in the middle of the unpredictables in life. Through the translation of articles I hope to create points of contact between Japan and the rest of the world. As a writer, I want to add information that isn’t in the guide book, from a “wasabi” perspective!



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