In case you were wondering, the word “itadakimasu” is an expression that you yell out before you eat. The expression is along the lines of “let’s eat” or being thankful for everyone who was involved in the process of making the food or producing the food. It’s a cute, sweet and personal formality that takes place in Japanese households. To me it symbolizes appreciation for the food that you are about to eat. It also really brings thanks to the person who cooked your meal, most likely, a Japanese mom. In Japanese culture, the little things count and so the mom that cooked this meal and hears the “itadakimasu” sees this as a generous gesture.
The picture shown here is a humble spread of a special evening meal we had in Hokkaido, close to a tourist Ainu village. If you look carefully, you can see beautiful colors of salmon sushi. In the “nabe” pots (brown cast iron pots) venison meat is boiling with udon noodles. It’s hard to see, but there is a secret hiding spot under the “nabe” that has a portable flame powered by mini rockets (not kidding) that keeps the pot boiling. It is custom to open it mid way, and to add a few more veggies or extra fixins. Scallions and daikon (Japanese radish) are pretty standard. There were golden crispy pieces of mountain mushroom tempura and shrimp tempura gently lying on peach colored ceramic plates. I can assure you that almost any food that you eat from Hokkaido is super organic and tastes extremely fresh. The quality of food in Hokkaido, especially in the mountains is close to……as Remy from Ratatouille would say “close to godliness”.
When you eat Japanese meals in Japan, you learn to appreciate the little things. This is more of a moderate spread, but some spreads of Japanese food take a moment of appreciation. You take the time to look at the ceramic plates. One would even lift up the ceramic plate and look under the plate to see where it was handcrafted. A conversation would pick up between you and your guests and the ceramic plates. You also discuss where the tea that you are drinking is from, down to the water sometimes. The seasonal vegetables and meat are a hot topic to discuss and of course…the taste. Japanese people are definitely GOURMET!
In this picture, take a look at the “daikon” (Japanese radish) that is dyed yellow and shaped like a flower. The beautiful orange & shininess of the salmon looks luscious and tantalizing. Meanwhile, if you look closely in the right hand corner, another “daikon” is shaped into a cherry blossom that is dyed pink & is accompanied by a raw piece of shrimp (it’s that fresh & safe to eat) adorned with a shrimp tail.
I have many wonderful memories of our week long trip to Hokkaido with my grandmother and mom. Most of our enjoyment came from sitting down on the “tatami” with a “zabuton” (floor pillow) while sipping beer or tea and eating food as pictured above. It was also empowering not to have our men around and to be served by other people with no responsibilities. There were people daily coming to our room to take out our “futons” (floor beds) and then they would come in the morning and fold up our “futons” and put them away. Our hotel workers would also deliver us our colorful meals and would genuinely talk about Hokkaido and their culture to us with all sincerity and pride. Definitely a girls night out and we enjoyed every minute of it. Oh….and when you are finished with a meal you say “gochisosama deshita” (Thanks for the meal) Another cute thing about Japanese culture. Matta ne!