Nowadays almost everybody eats meat in Japan. However, eating meat, especially beef, had been a taboo in Japan for a long, long time. Numerous prohibition orders against consumption of meat have been documented throughout the history. So all truly traditional Japanese meals are basically “vegetarian” and that tradition has culminated in 精進料理(しょうじんりょうり/shoujin_ryouri).

The name 精進料理(しょうじんりょうり/shoujin_ryouri) is made of 2 words 精進(しょうじん/shoujin) and 料理(りょうり/ryouri). 精進(しょうじん/shoujin) in the everyday context means “deligence” and “devotion” but it also has a meaning of “religious purification” and “abstinence from eating fish and meat,” so in this case it means “vegetarian.” 料理(りょうり/ryouri) is “cuisine” or “cooking.”
精進料理(しょうじんりょうり/shoujin_ryouri) apparently started in China well before Buddhism arrived in China but it was brought to Japan with Zen Buddhism around the 12/13th century and it influenced the way people prepared their meals greatly.
In some temples, preparing meals has been an important part of monks’ training and these temples often run a guesthouse for pilgrims and serve 精進料理(しょうじんりょうり/shoujin_ryouri)to the guests. These guesthouses are quite basic but inexpensive and, if you are interested in the traditional Japanese lifestyle, they will be a great alternative to staying in a hotel.

There are many 精進料理(しょうじんりょうり/shoujin_ryouri) restaurants around too. They are quite expensive, but most food is prepared with so much care that it is worth trying at least once while you are in Japan!

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