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Japanese cuisine has caught the American imagination in recent years, but how much do we know about this complex culinary tradition? We know it’s healthy and we know it tastes good, and for many of us, that’s all we need to know. But if we probe a little deeper, we find a cuisine guided by both refined aesthetic principles and a strong connection to the seasons. We find a cuisine that embraces simplicity and demands the highest quality ingredients. “Food is culture,” says Shiro Kashiba, chef and founder of Shiro’s in Seattle’s Belltown district, “and shun—seasonal delicacies—is the basis of Japanese cuisine.” Tak Suetsugu, a kaiseki chef and owner of Satsuma in Gig Harbor, offers a different perspective: “Food is history. Doing something difficult to bring pleasure to your customers. That’s at the heart of Japanese cuisine.” So who’s right?

The answer to that question—“both of them”—hints at the depth and breadth of Japanese cuisine. On the one hand, Japanese cuisine, or washoku as it is called in Japanese, can be fresh, fast and healthy. Just watch Kashiba quickly prepare sushi behind the counter and handdeliver it nigiri style to his guests.

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