Traditional Japanese plate bowl in ryokan kaiseki with vegetable dish of boiled salt edamame, natto and soy sauce on plate by chopsticks with shoji sliding paper doors
Food - Drink
The Buddhist Origins Of The Shojin Ryori Diet
Originally affiliated with Buddhist philosophy, Shojin Ryori is a plant-based cuisine that uses simple flavors, nutritious ingredients, and no animal products. The virtuous diet's popularity grew along with Japanese practice of 13th-century Zen Buddhism, and was encouraged by the founder of Zen Buddhism, a monk named Dōgen.
"Shojin" references both the quest for enlightenment and the goal of detaching from worldly thoughts, so Shojin Ryori meals are prepared with these aims in mind. The way of preparing food emphasizes harmony and equilibrium, stemming from the Buddhist belief that a person's body and mind are linked to the environment.
Chefs strive to include red, green, white, black, and yellow colors in a Shojin Ryori meal, as well as the five different flavors: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. Meals typically include a seasonal soup, three side dishes, and servings of rice and pickles, and key ingredients include vegetables, nuts, soybeans, and vegetarian dashi stock.
Shojin Ryori techniques are still used to prepare more modern vegan and vegetarian meals, with brighter flavors, a less traditional air, and appeal to all eaters. Certain Japanese temples still offer this kind of food to Buddhist practitioners and others interested in experiencing it, and many restaurants in Tokyo serve and focus on Shojin Ryori.