Will Washoku Accept Friend Request from Curry Rice?

Curry rice (it is pronounced as Kare rais in Japanese) is a popular dish in Japan.  In fact, it is listed on the best dishes that Japanese like in the survey conducted both on adults and children;

1st. Sushi
2nd. Curry and rice
3rd. Ramen
(See “Japan, the Country Where West Meets East and Mixed Up”)

1st. Curry rice
2nd. Fried chicken
3rd. Hamburg (hanbāgu)
(“Finally Solved the Mystery of Washoku”)



Photo from Wikipedia


Also I saw so many non-Japanese friends of mine bought so many curry products before going back to their home.  This is what they make a bulk purchase.


This looks like a chocolate but this is a base of Japanese Curry called ‘Curry roux’ and you will find so many different packs of curry roux sold in super markets .




It is too obvious that the curry rice was not originally a Japanese dish.  As everybody knows the origin country of curry is India. But did you know that the word ‘curry’ did not exist in India?

I had not known it before I asked an idiot question to an Indian owner of an Indian restaurant,

“Do Indian people eat curry every day?”

He said, “Yes but no. We don’t call it curry and every dish has a different name.”


Wikipedia says,

Curry is the generic English term primarily employed in Western culture to denote a wide variety of dishes whose origins are Southern and Southeastern Asian cuisines, as well as New World cuisines influenced by them such as Trinidadian,Mauritian or Fijian.


The Wiki article on curry is very interesting.  So read it to grab a general information and come back to me!


Welcome back!  Then now we all know that the word ‘Curry’ is an English term whose origin is a Tamil word “kari”, meaning ‘sauce’.  Moreover, we know that the Japanese eat ‘curry’ 78 times a year!!  OMG. We eat it once in 4.68 days (if we don’t eat it more than two times a day…)

I’m very happy to know that English people made mistakes in translation as our ancestors did with Tempura.


Anyways, I looked through many articles to study how so called ‘curry’ was adopted in Japan. It is well known in Japan that ‘curry’ was one of the dishes that were served in Japanese Navy soon after it was introduced from Britain after the Meiji Restoration. Especially during Russo Japanese War (1904 – 1905), it was strongly recommended as a nutritionally well balanced dish by which soldiers could take both meat and vegetables at the same time.

That’s why the town of Yokosuka, one of the Navy bases, has decided to call itself as a ‘Town of Curry’, using the fame of curry of Navy, and merchandise many curry related products.


many kinds of retort pouchs of Yokosuka Navy curry
photo from Yokosuka Kaigun Curry Honpo


Back to Meiji period.  Outside the Navy bases, curry was a very authentic Yoshoku dish that only the rich could afford and it was served only in luxury hotels.  In fact, hotels which were established in Meiji period, such as Kanaya Hotel in Nikko (established in 1873), Fujiya Hotel in Hakone (established in 1878), Mampei Hotel in Karuizawa (established in 1894), Nara Hotel in Nara (established in 1909), are still famous for their curry.



authentic curry rice of Fujiya Hotel at the main dining room “The Fujiya”


It was after the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923 that the curry became popular among common people in big cities, when many Yoshoku restaurants for the general public opened.

It was in 1926 House Foods Corporation invented and commercialized ‘canned powdered curry’ called ‘Home curry powder’ and this was the beginning of the history of great merchandise of curry in Japan.  In the ‘curry story’ in their official website, unfortunately written only in Japanese, they had a hard time to sell it because only the people living in cities were familiar with curry but outside cities people didn’t know about it at all and hated the smell of curry saying that it was like some kind of medicine.  Then the founder of House Foods, Mr. Ikuo Urakami, himself had hawked their curry powder for two years until it became popular.


homecurrypowder of house


This is an advertisement of ‘Home curry powder’ of House Foods on newspaper in 1926.  It says “What is Home Curry Powder? There is no one who knows about it in Japan yet  It is the powder which you can make curry at home with only 2 sen 5 rin (2 cents and 5 mil) (0.025 yen) per person.  Available in Japanese and Western grocery shops and pharmacies.”


About thirty years later than this great invention, S&B Foods started to sell the solid type curry roux.

Curry rice, with its 150-year-history, has definitely become a part of Washoku which can also represent the food culture of Japan.  I know that it cannot officially be categorized as Washoku because soy sauce is not used as an ingredient. LOL


Wait a second… Now I’ve found great information on the web that in Osaka there are many people who add soy sauce on their curry rice. That said, in Osaka, though it’s very restrictive, Curry rice is inside the category of Washoku!


I’ found another very interesting thing!! A special soy sauce for Curry was invented by Yuasa Shoyu in October 2002.



Photo from the Website of Yuasa Shoyu


What can it be like?? You have to read the explanation of the product, right?
Here is my translation;

Two different types of soy sauce matured in barrels of Japanese cedar are blended and added six different spices.  Of course it is not diluted with water.  It has the taste of rich soy sauce with an aftertaste of spices which suits curry and even a cheap retort pouched curry becomes delicious with this soy sauce.

Why don’t you, I mean, why don’t we try it to expand our knowledge on the potentiality of Curry???


Curry was generally categorized in Yoshoku, (洋食), Western cuisine, by our ancestors because it was introduced by British people although it was originally from India.  Of course India is not West for us.  Then, what can we call it if we want to show more respect to the origin country, India?  I have a problem.  Yo (洋) of Yoshoku means ‘Ocean’.  But it means also West.  I imagine that for our ancestors in Meiji period ‘overseas’ was just ‘West’…  Now we know that there are many countries on the earth and it is not worth grouping in two, the West and the East.  Curry makes me realize that the whole world can be mixed up in a stew with many kinds of spices, which can differentiate each country.  And our spice, needless to say, would be soy sauce!!
にほんブログ村 歴史ブログ 日本の伝統・文化へ
にほんブログ村 英語ブログ 英語の日記(和英併記)へ



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