If you knew sushi
In December, 2013, washoku, the art of traditional Japanese home-cooking, was designated an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. Part of the pleasure of a visit to Japan is eating intriguing food that might seem ambitious to cook back home. But why not learn from the locals? There are courses conducted by enterprising Japanese home cooks as well as professional culinary classes that introduce unfamiliar ingredients, teach traditional dishes and conclude with a communal meal.
TOKYO In the central Tsukiji district, site of Tsukiji Fish Market, famed for its tuna auctions, chef Akila Inouye at Tsukiji Soba Academy and Tokyo Cooking Studio offers classes making (thin, usually buckwheat) soba noodles. Demonstrations and hands-on practice are followed by lunch. Prices vary depending on class numbers and range from 2½-hour sessions to 10-day professional courses, and can also cover general Japanese cooking, from essentials to advanced; soba.specialist.co.jp; tokyo.cookingstudio.org.
At Japanese Cooking Class Tokyo with Mari, there are English-language classes and tastings at Mari’s home, five minutes’ walk from Tsukiji Fish Market. Mari teaches dishes such as chirashi sushi (scattered sushi), tempura, udon, teriyaki, okonomiyaki, katsudon, gyoza, simmered mackerel in miso and boiled eggplant. She says she is the only Tokyo provider of English classes in Japanese sweet-making, such as green tea cake; japanese-cooking-class-tokyo-mari.com.
SEKI (GIFU PREFECTURE) At Ozeki Cooking School (in the 100-year-old Yamakyu Restaurant), chef Shuji offers workshops customised for skill levels, diets and time schedules and including washoku, bento, zazen (meditative or monastic cooking) and tea ceremony; classes can cater for two to 12 students over four, six or eight hours. Shuji includes excursions, perhaps picking vegetables or catching fish. Lunchtime classes are also available in a Tokyo residence; ozekicookingschool.com.
KYOTO Home cook Emi Hirayama of Uzuki Cookery offers small-group sessions at her home, teaching everything from Kyo-ryori (Kyoto cuisine) to traditional homestyle Japanese dishes, vegetarian and wagashi (Japanese sweets); students share the meal following each class; kyotouzuki.com.
At the family-run Haru Cooking Class, husband and wife Taro and Yoshiko invite participants into their Kyoto home, offering three to four-hour classes focusing more on demystifying ingredients and imparting basic understanding than on hands-on cooking; kyoto-cooking-class.com.
At Kafu, a “cultural experience centre” in Kyoto’s museum quarter, chef-patissiere Mari Itoh and three local instructors teach Kyoto home-cooking to locals and tourists. The menu includes dashi, vegetables with miso sauce, yuba roll and rolled omelette. Classes run for just under 90 minutes; kafu.co.
Cooking Sun offers classes for up to eight participants in a refurbished machiya, traditional townhouse, at Shimogyo-ku, 10 minutes on foot from Shijo/Karasuma Station. A 3½-hour morning bento class demonstrates gomaae sesame salad, teriyaki chicken, egg roll, tempura, sushi roll and miso soup. Classes in kappo (“over the counter” food) teach three to five dishes in two sessions; cooking-sun.com.
HOKKAIDO Niseko Ski Resort, in the northern island of Hokkaido, offers Japanese cooking workshops in English hosted by Sachiko Kageyama and themed as Japanese Home Dinner or Japanese Lunch Set and Supermarket Tour. Three-hour sessions are held at the village’s Gourmet Cooking Studio, where participants prepare, arrange and then eat the meal together, and there are hotel transfers provided; nisekoalpineaccommodation.com.
OSAKA World-renowned professional Japanese cookery school Tsuji Culinary Institute runs courses exclusively in Japanese but offers a complete syllabus in English on DVD; essentialjapanesecooking.com.
Fans of Japanese food have plenty of opportunities to learn how to re-create dishes back home