Home Page

Stefan's Florilegium


This document is also available in: text or RTF formats.

fd-Japan-msg - 7/9/17


Food of medieval Japan.


NOTE: See also the files: Kumihimo-art, silk-msg, Silk-Reeling-art.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Fri, 29 Oct 2010 19:57:12 -0400

From: devra at aol.com

To: sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] New book on historical Japanese Food -

        commercial   plug


I've just received copies of one of the two new titles coming out this fall/winter on the history of Japanese food.  This one is entitled JAPANESE FOODWAYS, PAST AND PRESENT, and is edited by Eric C Rath and Stephanie Assmann. It's a trade paperback, perfect-bound, 13 b/w illus and photos, 290pp, index. Bibliographies follow each of the essays. The section on historical food is about 129 pages, and consists of the following:


Honzen Dining: The Poetry of Formal Meals in Late Medieval and Early Modern Japan (Eric C Rath), "How to Eat the Ten Thousand Things,": Table Manners in the Edo Period (Michael Kinski), "Stones for the Belly": Kaiseki Cuisine for Tea during the Early Edo Period (Gary Soka Cadwallader & Joseph  B Justice), Meat-Eating in the Kojimachi District of Edo (Akira Shimizu), Wine-Drinking Culture in Seventeenth-century Japan: The Role of Dutch Merchants (Joji Nozawa).


The remaining two-thirds of the book consider various topics in Modern Japan and Contemporary Japan.


The cost is $28, plus $3 postage.


Devra the Baker

Poison Pen Press



Date: Sat, 29 Jan 2011 09:47:52 -0500

From: Elaine Koogler <kiridono at gmail.com>

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] MisRepresenting the Outlands


<<< Is there a period Japanese source available at this point in English

translation? Or are we stuck with recreating from literary mentions and the




www.daviddfriedman.com >>>


There does not appear, at least at this point, to be a period Japanese

source.  However there is one that dates to about 1640.  A friend of mine

has translated it and we are currently pursuing a means to publish it.  Part

of the problem is that the version we acquired came from the V&A, and

getting permission to publish our translation of the book, along with some

redactions/interpretations of some of the recipes and a

historical/commentary section is proving to be very difficult.  Several of

us involved in the project have shared some of the recipes at symposia,

etc., but we have not published the entire work anywhere.


Beyond that, there are a couple of books about Japanese culinary history

that have proved to be very helpful, the best of which is Ishige Naomichi.

The History and Culture of Japanese Food.  Using this book, I have been able

to find listings of period foods. What I have done is to locate modern

recipes (from Japanese cookbooks that are traditional in nature, like Tsuji

Shizuo's *Japanese Cooking:  A Simple Art.  *I know this isn't the best way

to do a period feast but in the absence of period texts, this is as good as

it gets.  Also, there are many dishes that were served in period that have

survived in the cuisine to this day.





Date: Tue, 3 Jun 2014 15:44:40 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at att.net>

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Period Japanese cooking?


<<< I am on a hair-brained scheme, and I am looking for any period sources on Japanese cooking. I am new Asian cooking in general, and I am unfamiliar with the period sources available.


I haven't decided on what century to cook in as of yet, I'm just wanting to see what's available!


- HL Christoff K?ch >>>


How's your Japanese?  Most of the sources I've encountered haven't been

translated.  You might wish to start with Eric Rath's Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Japan or Naomichi Ishige's The History and Culture of Japanese Food.  No recipes, but pointers to available sources.





Date: Wed, 4 Jun 2014 00:11:39 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at att.net>

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Period Japanese cooking?


<<< Hmmm. Were their rabbits or hares in Japan in period? >>>


Both rabbits and hares have species native to Japan. Whether they appear in Japanese cooking in SCA period is another question. Pentalagus furnessi, the Amami rabbit, is a primitive species that was once found all across Asia and now has a limited range.  In Japan, it exists on two small islands.  The Japanese hare, Lepus brachyurus, has a much wider range, being found on all the main islands except Honshu.  There are a number of species across the rest of Asia, but the ranges tend to be limited.  It is possible that they were hunted to extinction in some areas, but I lack a lot of detail to carry that thought beyond idle speculation.





Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2014 17:00:16 -0400

From: Johnna Holloway <johnnae at mac.com>

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Ishige's The History and Culture of Japanese Food


Is now available for the kindle. Hardcover is listed at $144. Kindle edition is $34.36.





From: Solveig Throndardottir <nostrand at acm.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Period Japanese cooking?

Date: June 6, 2014 10:17:10 PM CDT

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


On Jun 4, 2014, at 12:13 AM, JIMCHEVAL at aol.com wrote:

<<< Also one of the sites I browsed claimed that Japanese food really hasn't changed that much over the centuries, supposedly because they're very attached to their culture. It IS true that it's an island culture that remained closed to outside influence for an unusually long time, so that is credible. And to the degree that they've adopted Western foods, it seems they've mainly taken them as  is, rather than integrating them in the way, say, the French integrated verjuice  and a certain approach to spices from the East. >>>


Actually, Japanese food and food culture has evolved over time. Quite a few ingredients have been imported over time into Japanese cookery, much of it from China, but other points of origin are also well documented. Further, a number of specific dishes are known to have originated in Europe.


Among other sources, please consult:

Shokubunkaron Ed. by  Yoshikawa

Nihon Shokumotsushi by Sakurai, Adachi, and Sasagawa

Shokuseikatsu to shokumotsushi by Haga and Ishikawa


There are a few books (in Japanese) out there which attempt to reconstruct the diets of Pimiko and the people of the Manyoshu.

There are also a couple of books (again in Japanese) out there which deal with dairy products in premodern Japanese cuisine.


Since someone brought up the subject of rabbits:


As for mammals eaten in Ryrori Monogatari. The following were eaten: deer, tanuki, wild boar, rabbit, Japanese river otter, bear, and dog.

As for fowel eaten in Ryrori Monogatari. The following were eaten: crane, white swan, wild goose, wild duck, green pheasant, copper pheasant, common moorhen, Gray-Headed Lapwing, Heron, NIght Heron, Japanese quail, skylark, oriental turtle dove, sandpiper, water rail, dusky thrush, tree sparrow, and chicken.

As for aquatic animals: lots of those.


Solveig Throndardottir

Amateur Scholar



Date: Thu, 5 Jun 2014 15:00:38 -0700 (GMT-07:00)

From: <lilinah at earthlink.net>

To: sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Period Japanese cooking?


Johnna wrote:

<<< My guess is Kiri made a mistake and the author's last name is really Badgley. The SCA. cooks post with that spelling is also in the Florilegium so it turns up in searches.




for recent contact info. >>>


Yes, you are correct about the (mis)spelling.


His complete SCA name is Ii Saburo Katsumori. His wife is Abe Akirakeiko. They are both Pelicans.


Urtatim (that's oor-tah-TEEM)



Date: Wed, 25 Mar 2015 20:55:50 -0400

From: Johnna Holloway <johnnae at mac.com>

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Ishige's The History and Culture of Japanese



<<< On Jun 23, 2014, at 5:00 PM, Johnna Holloway <johnnae at mac.com> wrote:

Is now available for the kindle. Hardcover is listed at $144. Kindle edition is $34.36.

Johnnae >>>


Is another academic source for food in Japan. Kindle price has increased but still under $45.





From the fb "Medieval and Ren. Cooking and Recipes" group:


Barbara Nostrand   

9:28pm Apr 12

Shiro Tatsu The earliest Japanese cookbook with recipes dates from the early 17th century. It is called Ryori Monogatari. I have a translation of it in PDF format and Ii dono has his own translation. Yes, there are competing translations out there. As for earlier stuff, there is some material in Ishinpo, but it is not clear that even the section on dietary medicine in Ishinpo is really intended to be a cookbook.The dietary section of Ishinpo written by Tanba Yasuyori in 984 has not to my knowledge been translated into English. Neither has the section on poisons. Interestingly enough, the sex manual portion has been translated. I have a copy of the dietary portion of Ishinpo, but it presents its own collection of problems. A variety of foodstuffs are mentioned in the Engishiki and as I recall foodstuffs are also catalogued in the Fudoki. There are a number of interesting monographs about premodern Japanese cuisine (all in Japanese) one of which even purports to deal with the diet of Pimiko. Finally, Dōgen Kigen (1200-1253) wrote a set of instructions for monestary cooks. A translation of Dogen's instructions to monastic cooks can be found at: http://scbs.stanford.edu/sztp3/translations/eihei_shingi/translations/tenzo_kyokun/translation.html



Barbara Nostrand   

10:18pm Apr 16

Regardless, modern Japanese cuisine is significantly different from early 17th century Japanese cuisine. The sushi and sashimi you encounter in restaurants are both modern, although both words are period.


Anything ending in -katsu is from the 19th century or later. Teppanyaki in its various forms appears to be pretty recent. Tempura appears to be gairaigo from Portuguese. Ramen, chahan, and gyoza are generally speaking associated with China.



Date: Thu, 16 Feb 2017 06:38:31 -0500

From: Johnna Holloway <johnnae at mac.com>

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Something new for me


So are you preparing a western feast using Local Japanese ingredients or is the cook creating a Japanese feast after have been taught techniques by local cooks? How many are sitting feast?

In addition to books, you might want to check out your local Asian groceries for availability and pricing of ingredients. Are they well stocked?


There is a book History of Japanese Food by Ishige. It's on Amazon and you can "look inside" to check it out. Japanese Foodways, Past and Present might also be of interest. The newest work seems to be Japan's Cuisines Food, Place and Identity which came out in late 2016.




Date: Thu, 16 Feb 2017 18:53:37 -0800 (GMT-08:00)

From: <lilinah at earthlink.net>

To: sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Something new for me


From: Susan Lin <susanrlin at gmail.com>

<<< I will be making a Japanese feast with a few western influences for our Midwinter this year. The theme is The King travels East. 14th/15th

Century Japan. The western influences are that the King would have brought a cook with him. I'm not even sure where to start. Does anyone have some good sources? I have access to a university library to borrow some titles from. >>>


The oldest known extant Japanese cookbook is from the 17th century, the Ryori Monogatari. It has been translated into English by Joshua L. Badgley, who is known as Baron Ii Katsumori in the SCA.


It is available at http://food.sengokudaimyo.com/index.html


Urtatim al-Qurtubiyya



Date: Fri, 17 Feb 2017 16:19:45 +1300

From: Glenn Adrian <gadrian at clear.net.nz>

To: 'Cooks within the SCA' <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Something new for me


The oldest know Japanese cookbook is the Ryori Monogatari. This is

slightly post period I think, but the oldest we have, and unlikely to be that much different to what they cooked.  The version I have of the English translation is incomplete, and open to some questions of interpretation.  It also isn't complete recipes.  But it does tell you what most of the foods available to the Japanese then.  And the different way they were prepared.


There are other older mentions of what food they ate, but no attempt at



Basically be prepared for a blander diet than usual, utilising a wide range of meat, bird and fish, rice, noodle and flour and seaweeds, mushrooms, root veges, veges, tofu, miso, and fruit.  Fried, boiled, dried, fresh.  And many multi-step processes.  But fewer flavours than we are use to.  You can easily google what fruits had made it to Japan by period too.


The translator is Baron Il Katsumori (Joshua Badgley), tatsushu at gmail.com


Glenn of SG



Date: Thu, 2 Mar 2017 13:09:49 -0500

From: Solveig Throndardottir <nostrand at acm.org>

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Japanese Cookery


Greetings from Solveig!

<<< The hope is to create a Japanese feast after having been taught or working with locals.  But, also a dish or two that are western but using local ingredients. >>>


That is easily done if you are willing to limit yourself to stuff which made it into the Japanese food canon from the 16th century. For example: the Portuguese sweet "fios de ovos?, castella cakes, and tempura all made it into the Japanese canon. Early tempura appears to have been made from minced fish instead of the whole fish seen today. There is some question as to the type of oil to use. Currently, Japan uses soybean oil. However, in period you would more likely be seeing either sesame oil or rapeseed oil. Rapeseed showed up rather late. I forget whether it made it into Japan by the time when you wish to locate your feast. (I can easily look up the period of arrival for various ingredients in??????Shokubunkaron.  


If you are dealing with meat, I am not sure why you would not simply broil it or stew it. Yakimono (typically broiled on skewers) is quite ancient in Japan. Your cook would generally speaking not have access to ovens in Japan. There are quite a few pictures of Japanese kitchens available online including the marvelous copy of the picture scroll "Shuhanron" at the French National Museum.


Your Humble Servant

Solveig ?r?ndard?ttir

Amateur Scholar



Date: Thu, 2 Mar 2017 13:48:23 -0500

From: Solveig Throndardottir <nostrand at acm.org>

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Concerning Ryori Monogatari


There are actually two extant versions of Ryori Monogatari. Both of these date from before 1650 which places both of them within the so-called ?gray area? from which we accept documentation. We commonly do this for dance, heraldry, and other areas of interest. This may or may satisfy Cariadoc, but it does fit in with generally accepted standards for the Society. There are reasons to use the later version rather than the earlier version. The earlier version of Ryori Monogatari both has fewer recipes and uses less kanji. Those of you who read Japanese will immediately understand why having kanji available is very useful. Regardless, a Japanese scholar recently published an academic paper which compares the two versions.


Like most premodern cookbooks, Ryori Monogatari rarely gives amounts of ingredients. It also assumes prior knowledge of how to prepare commonly used ingredients. There are sources for Japanese food and food culture which predate Ryori Monogatari. For example. There is the dietetics volume of Ishinpo. (Here we can find Japanese cooking milk in a double boiler.) We can date ingredients and to some extent processing from such works as the Wamyosho and a farm manual which was originally produced in China, but available in Japan. There is also quite a bit of culinary information in the Fudoki. We also have archaeological data going as far back as Jomon period shell mounds. The early Chinese source is ?????? which a fellow in the East Kingdom is translating from the Chinese. I have a copy of the Chinese original with Japanese translation which is published as: ????????????????? It has interesting information such as how to grow koji and how to prepare other ingredients commonly found in premodern Japanese cuisine. Further, some contend that early Japanese aristocrats were dining on Chinese cuisine. Further, even butter shows up in the Nihongi where it was introduced to the emperor by a physician of Korean descent.


Concerning noodles. Noodles were not included in actual meals. Ryori Monogatari relegates them to the category of 'godan' cuisine which was eaten outside of regular meals. As for being bland, Japanese as recently as the 1980s believed that American cuisine is bland and that Japanese cuisine is spicer.


Regardless, there were several spices and condiments used in Japanese cookery in period. Be prepared for some of them to be pricey. For example, ordinary mustard should not be substituted for Japanese mustard. There are three species of mustard of which brown mustard is used in Japan. Further, Japanese mustard is 100% ground mustard seeds while American prepared mustard contains quite a few fillers.


Another problem is wasabi. Most commercially prepared wasabi (even in Japan) is actually ordinary horseradish dyed green. Actual wasabi is ideally grated on a microplane (historically sharkskin) immediately prior to use. Wasabi is cultivated in Japan and New Zealand and is quite expensive. You can also buy ground 100% wasabi powder produced by Sushi Sonic on Amazon, but you must be careful not to buy their other variety, which is primarily ground horseradish.


Fruit is generally consumed outside of regular meals. Whole fruit are commonly offered before butsudan. There are some exceptions. For example, chestnuts (like adzuki beans) are sometimes added to rice while it is being cooked. This sort of thing is generically known as 'kawarigohan'. However, this sort of thing is not typical of formal aristocratic meals.


Your Humble Servant

S?lveig ?r?ndard?ttir

Amateur Scholar



Date: Sat, 4 Mar 2017 13:43:53 -0500

From: Solveig Throndardottir <nostrand at acm.org>

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Concerning Ryori Monogatari


There is a 19th century monograph on saki production which was originally published by Tokyo University. I believe that it is still available online.


Japan uses a very specific species aspergillus oryzae which is traditionally cultured on mochi. Mochi is made by steaming a specific cultivar of oryzae japponica which is known as mochi gome in Japan and is marketed as either 'glutinous rice' or 'sweet rice' in North America. Traditionally, the steamed rice is then placed in a large wooden mortar and beaten with a large wooden mallet until it is a paste. The paste would then be formed into disks called kagame mochi. Kagame is the Japanese word for mirror and the name derives from their shape. These disks can then be either eaten as is or used in a variety of other ways. Regardless, in Japan a very specific mold is cultivated and used for saki production, miso production, &c. Shoyu (soy sauce) does date to period in Japan, but appears to have still been a

fairly recent arrival ca. 1600. There are a number of earlier fermented sauces.


Your Humble Servant

Solveig ?r?ndard?ttir

Amateur Scholar



Date: Sat, 4 Mar 2017 14:12:29 -0500

From: Alec Story <avs38 at cornell.edu>

To: Solveig Throndarottir <nostrand at acm.org>, Cooks within the SCA

        <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Concerning Ryori Monogatari


Interesting about soy sauce.


The conclusion that H. T. Huang draws in *Science and Civilisation in China*, volume 6 part V: Fermentations and food science is that, in China, soy sauce was certainly known by the time of Qimin yaoshu (544), but that it was not as popular as it is today, with fermented meat and fish sauces being preferred.  Over time, soy sauce became more popular in the north of China, with the situation today being that fish sauces are an almost exclusively south-China and Vietnam thing.


A copy is available online at


if anyone is interested.  It's a wonderful book.


Page 374 discusses soy sauce in Japan and China [I've updated the Chinese romanizations to pinyin, since the author uses the dated Wade-Giles system]:


"It is believed that long before active cultural interchange between China and Japan began, the Japanese had independently developed savoury sauces by pickling salted fish, shellfish and meat.  These condiments were called *hishio*.  When the Japanese adapted the Chinese writing system to their language, *hisio* was written with as *jiang* ?. [...]  During the Nara Period (+710-794), different types of *hishio* began to appear in the litearture, some derived from grains and soybeans [...].  What is remarkable is that *jiang* was apparently obtained in liquid form, suggesting that it was a primitive protoype of soy sauce.  These references further suggest that the methods for making *jiang* and *chi* [solid fermented soy beans], as recoreded in the Qimin Yaoshu +544, had been transmitted to Japan and were being applied by the Japanese to prepare similar types of fermented soyfoods from locally available raw materials.


Tradition has it that the earliest *miso*, i.e. a *hisio* made with

soybeans was prepared by exposing cooked soybean cakes to wild fungal

spores and fermenting the moulded beans in brine, thus tracing its

genealogy back to the *chi* (rather than the *jiang*) of Han China.


During the Kamakura Period (+1184 to +1333) *miso* became a staple in the Japanese diet.


Legend has it that the earliest type of Japanese soy sauce, *tamari,* was discovered in Yuasa in the 13th century as a dark fragrant liquid left at the bottom of the jar in a Kinzanji *miso* operation.


This story of the origin of *tamari* is reminiscent of the way a liquid soy condiment was left at the bottom of the fermentation jar in the *chi* process described in the late Tang Dynasty almanac, the Si Chi Zuan Yao.



The earliest reference to *shoyu* [the typical soy sauce of Japan] occurs in the *Ekirinhon Setsuyoshu* a Japanese dictionary of +1597. The procedure for making *shoyu* may have been transmitted from China in the preceding century.  As a result, the Japanese process for making *shoyu* is practically the same as the Chinese process for making the *jiang* type of *jiangyou*."



Date: Sat, 4 Mar 2017 18:20:58 -0600

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at att.net>

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Concerning Ryori Monogatari


For anyone seriously interested in the history of soy sauce, here is the URL of what is probably the most thorough treatise on the subject:






<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org