Gohan – Japanese Rice

Gohan means boiled or steamed rice, while Kome simply means uncooked rice. The history tells us that the rice has started to be cultivated in India about 9000 years ago, and it came in to Japan 4000 years ago.

Gohan - Japanese Rice
Cooked rice (Gohan) in a typical porcelain rice ball. In front is a pair of chop sticks (Hashi) on a shop stick pillow (Hashi-oki)

Image credit: www.tjf.or.jp

Gohan is the principal food for the Japanese, but we never consider it as a dish or a main food. It has been the most important staple of the diet and the centerpiece of almost every meal. However, it is differently take Kaiseki (simple food service in the tea ceremony), where Gohan is beautifully arranged with two black bowls on the tray. As soon as the rice is cooked, we carefully place a rice scooper horizontally at the edge of the pot and scooped rice to serve it in the bowls. In this way, each grain of Gohan is arranged in the bowl in a horizontal, straight line. The white Gohan, which looks as if each grain of rice were visible, contrasts finely with the black bowl.

Kaisei Ryori: a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. The term also refers to the collection of skills and techniques that allow the preparation of such meals, and are analogous to Western haute cuisine. (Wikipedia)

Although rice is eaten throughout many countries in Asia, Japanese people seem to have a particular feeling for Gohan, more strongly, longingly, sadly and bitterly than people of any other nations. This feeling may be cause by many things in out history which have been affected by rice, our staple food. People from foreign countries ask why the Japanese tenaciously hold on to a house built on land so much, The reason why we do not leave our land, which is one of the most expensive places in the world now, may be attributed to Gohan, because we cannot grow the rice without a land, or in the city. Rather than considering the rice more than food, we seem to take it as something of our mental support. To provide it even in this busy life when we have everything available to us, there is no business that sells only cooked rice. Even if we live in space-limited apartments, we cook rice.

By contrast, in Paris people line up to buy bread in front of bakery. They also give left-over bread to sparrow in park. We do not treat Gohan that way, however. We treasure the last grain of rice. The real beauty may not be the rice itself; instead it may be the attitude of Japanese toward Gohan.

There is a Sashiko design called Komezashi (rice stitch). The reason this name was given is that the design looks like repetition of Japanese/Chinese written character “Rice”.

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We stitch this design by using Hitome-zashi, a variation of Sashko stitching. This design is one of the oldest Sashiko design because this dense stitch was so suitable to make cloth durable and warm for working community people.

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