top of page

Study of Shojin Ryori - origin of macrobiotic food 精進料理の一考察

Updated: Apr 25, 2022

I had an opportunity to cook a little variety of macrobiotic food by request. I agree with the philosophy behind, but I don't take that life style and the diet particularly. As a Japanese chef, I used to cook some SHOJIN 精進 dishes on my menu such as KENCHIN-JIRU 建長汁 (vegetarian soup originated in Kamakura Period, at KENCHINN-JI 建長寺 temple, made by a monk), SHIRA-AE 白和え (marinated greens with sesame-tofu crumble, established in early Edo-Period, from SHOJIN cuisine) and so on. But I never really sat with a text book, blank papers and a pen to study and plan preparations for days.

Put the fact aside that the monk ate meat and seafood secretly once in a while. KENCHIN-JIRU has a popular history between a master monk and a young monk. One day, the young monk accidentally dropped a fresh tofu on the kitchen floor of the temple, KENCHIN-JI. He was so afraid to be disciplined by the master. But the master quietly picked up the crushed tofu from the floor and tell a cook to wash and put it in soup for the evening meal. (That is why tofu in KENCHIN-JIRU is hand torn to make it crushed or crumbled!) Without a word, the young monk learned why the kitchen floor had to be kept in a super clean state, (as if he could have bit off the floor) and food should've never been wasted for any reasons.

We still live in the time that we are struggling between wasting and not wasting, through recycling, composting, using no plastic product, or simply buying too much to waste it. We love organic vegetables, but end up wasting skins, seeds, and leaves (carrot for example) anyway. In these ZEN 禅 temples, preparing food was a part of practice and training. In our time, macrobiotic cooking is the same in that point. In restaurant kitchens we worked, we used to think that way, too. Now we try to skip steps to save labor cost, and so new generations don't even know what the practice and the training mean. What is right for them is to share their final product in photos on social media, which might create so much waste, and using technology to make up numbers in profit. Well, I think I should look at myself in the mirror about this, too. Where is a real relationship between blessing of the earth and us as a human? Speaking loud of eco-friendly, natural, organic, farm to, ocean to, any of these terms seem contradiction then.

Represent Japanese culture, washoku 和食, and the skill is easy. But practicing with food face to face, and training myself to focus on it, must be the place where I should go back in Post-COVID time.

Please add your comment below. Thank you.

Each encounter of a life time 一期一会

-Youji Iwakura

158 views2 comments
bottom of page