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A crash course on the Japanese home and kitchen

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By Fiona Uyema

My first experience of a typical Japanese home was at my homestay mother’s house in Gunma prefecture when I was a student. Later in the years, while working in Niigata prefecture, I relived the experience in my own apartment which was also equipped with a typical Japanese kitchen.

It was in those two places where I was first introduced to some of the key characteristics of the Japanese home, which would simultaneously surprise me and make me understand a few cultural factors about Japan. Here are my essential seven.

1. Shoes on, shoes off

This is a question you would often get from many locals when you first come to Japan: “Do you take your shoes off at home in your country?”

Yes, in many parts of the world we do, yet in some, we don’t. In Japan, however, the shoes off principle implies to literally every home you get to go to, whether yours, your bestie’s or this of a stranger. Although most of us know it when going to Japan, it’s so easy to forget.

The first stop at a Japanese home is the genkan—the entrance, where you would take off your shoes and gently arrange them facing the front door after entering the house. You would then put slippers on, which on most occasions will be arranged for you prior to your visit.

Many houses also have special indoor slippers for the toilet. If you are wearing indoor slippers and notice that there are other slippers inside the toilet, take off your slippers, leave them in front of the toilet and change into the toilet slippers while there. Once out, leave them where they were and change into your regular slippers.

2. Rice cooker versus saucepans

After living in Japan and returning to Ireland I couldn’t survive without a rice cooker. They are so convenient with lots of functions. One of the best features is the timer—which means it’s possible to set the timer at night time so you will have freshly steamed rice in the morning when you wake up. This is useful for Japanese households as a traditional Japanese breakfast includes a bowl of rice. My homestay mother always set the timer on the rice cooker at night and now, back in Ireland, I do this so I have freshly steamed rice in the morning to make rice balls for my son’s lunchbox.

The rice cooker is one of the most important appliances in a Japanese kitchen. The best thing about these clever machines is that they are not only limited to rice—you can steam cakes, soft bread, pancakes, and even cook full meals inside. Just put whatever you like together with the rice, add some flavor, and press on. Simple as that. Check out this article on how to read all the buttons on your Japanese rice cooker.

3. Electric grills versus conventional ovens

Click here to read more.

© Savvy Tokyo

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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