The Roots of Japanese Cuisine
15 July – 13 September 2020*
Mori Arts Center Gallery
*The show, initially scheduled to take place from 17 April through 7 June, had been postponed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Ukiyo-e prints capture vividly the life and culture that flourished in Edo (pre-modern Tokyo), with unparalleled graphic virtuosity.
The exhibition entitled “Oishii Ukiyo-e” – literally “delicious ukiyo-e” – will shed light on “Japanese cuisine” as part of the history of everyday life in Edo, captured through the lens of the ukiyo-e artists.
Highlights of the Oishii Ukiyo-e exhibition
◆ Seasonal recreation events and food
What did Edo inhabitants eat in recreation time?
Ukiyo-e prints give a glimpse of their familiar foods, such as sushi, tofu, watermelon, baked sweet-potatoes, rice balls and mochi.
Ukiyo-e works also depict how the kabuki audience enjoyed the theater performance, while having nibbles such as sweet snacks, sushi and a bento lunch.
◆ A lively Edo dining
Many dishes in now familiar repertoire of Japanese cuisine became prevalent and/or have their origins in the Edo era (1603‐1868) and the town of Edo.
Prints by Hokusai, Hiroshige and Utagawa Kuniyoshi, as well as less known artists, illustrate the daily scenes with such food as sushi, unagi (grilled eel) and tempura.
In addition, this section introduces the recipes of foods and dishes appearing in ukiyo-e works, retrieved from cooking books of the Edo period.
◆ Famous eating places in Edo
The late Edo period gave birth to many, including some high-end, teahouses and restaurants.
Ukiyo-e works portray calligraphy and haiku meetings held at such places, which served as a salon of artists and intellectuals.
“Toto Komei Kaiseki-sho”, a sort of guidebook of 50 volumes published since 1852, enlists famous kaiseki restaurants, introducing each with a popular kabuki actor of the time.
This indicates how Edo was a dining-out capital.
◆ Travel and local specialties
The sampling of local specialties was (and is) an integral part of travel.
Under the Tokugawa shogunate, the Five Highways (Tokaido, Nakasendo, Nikko Kaido, Oshu Kaido and Koshu Kaido) were established and inns were opened along the ways.
This eventually facilitated tourism by commoners in the Edo era.
In the Tokaido series by Hiroshige and Hokusai, we find how travelers walked a 492 km from Edo to Kyoto, touring to scenic spots and savouring local specialties.
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