Japan and the Rule of Five

Five is a significant number in Japanese tradition.  It comes through in many aspects of Japanese culture, in no small way when it comes to the food.  Take a look at your meal the next time you dine at our Seattle sushi restaurant and consider how the following come into play:

  • The Five Senses: You don’t just enjoy a meal for its taste and smell.  Your food should also be presented attractively so as to be pleasing to the eye.  Your utensils and dishware should feel pleasing to the touch.  The restaurant you dine in should have a pleasing ambiance to appeal to the ear.
  • The Five Colors: White, black, green, red, and yellow are traditionally Japan’s five basic colors.  In a single sushi roll you might see white in the rice, black in the nori, green in the wasabi, red in the fish, and yellow in the sauce.  Not only does this look good, but it also assures balanced nutrition.
  • The Five Tastes: You are probably familiar with bitter, sour, salt, and sweet as the four distinct taste sensations.  To this, Japan adds something called umami, which we might understand in English as “savory”.
  • The Five Preparations: Raw, fried, simmered, steamed, and roasted/grilled are the five ways Japanese food is generally prepared.  A large Japanese meal may have you working your way through all five, giving you a rich and complex dining experience.
  • The Five Attitudes: Buddhist tradition gives Japan a philosophical approach to dining, in the form of these five phrases:
    • I reflect on the labor that went into cooking this food.
    • I reflect on my shortcomings, and on whether or not I am worthy of this food.
    • Allow that my mind be free from all prejudices and greed.
    • I take this food in order to maintain good bodily health.
    • I accept this food in order to further my pursuit of enlightenment.