Japanese cuisine is based on combining staple foods, typically Japanese rice or noodles, with a soup and okazu – dishes made from fish, vegetable, tofu and such – to add flavor to the staple food. In the early modern era ingredients such as red meats that had previously not been widely used in Japan were introduced.
Japanese cuisine is known for its emphasis on seasonality of food, quality of ingredients and presentation. Japanese cuisine offers a vast array of regional specialties that use traditional recipes and local ingredients. The phrase ichijū-sansai (一汁三菜, “one soup, three sides”) refers to the makeup of a typical meal served, but has roots in classic kaiseki, honzen, and yūsoku cuisine. The term is also used to describe the first course served in standard kaiseki cuisine nowadays. Japanese curry, since its introduction to Japan from British India, is so widely consumed that it can be called a national dish.
A plate of nigiri-zushi
Traditional Japanese sweets are known as wagashi. Ingredients such as red bean paste and mochi are used. More modern-day tastes includes green tea ice cream, a very popular flavor. Kakigōri is a shaved ice dessert flavored with syrup or condensed milk. It is usually sold and eaten at summer festivals. Popular Japanese beverages such as sake, which is a brewed rice beverage that, typically, contains 14%~17% alcohol and is made by multiple fermentation of rice. Beer has been brewed in Japan since the late 1800s, and is produced in many regions by companies including Asahi Breweries, Kirin Brewery, and Sapporo Brewery – claiming to be the oldest named brand of beer in Japan.
Main article: Public holidays in Japan
Young ladies celebrate Coming of Age Day (成人の日 Seijin no Hi) in Harajuku, Tokyo
Officially, Japan has 16 national, government-recognized holidays. Public holidays in Japan are regulated by the Public Holiday Law (国民の祝日に関する法律 Kokumin no Shukujitsu ni Kansuru Hōritsu) of 1948. Beginning in 2000, Japan implemented the Happy Monday System, which moved a number of national holidays to Monday in order to obtain a long weekend. In 2006, the country decided to add Shōwa Day, a new national holiday, in place of Greenery Day on April 29, and to move Greenery Day to May 4. These changes took effect in 2007. In 2014, the House of Councillors decided to add Mountain Day (山の日 Yama no Hi) to the Japanese calendar on August 11, after lobbying by the Japanese Alpine Club. It is intended to coincide with the Bon Festival vacation time, giving Japanese people an opportunity to appreciate Japan’s mountains.