Denshijisho Dishes

Long ago when I was an exchange student in Japan I had made it a goal to learn how to cook Japanese food.

My first trip to a Japanese supermarket was a true learning experience for me. The size of the seafood section was 3 times as large as ones in supermarkets in the US but the meat section was half the size and four times more expensive. The produce section was filled with things I had never seen before. I had studied Japanese for three years at my home university before even arriving in Japan but never had I come across the kanji that were used to label various items on sale.

This was before the advent of the smartphone but not so long ago that I didn’t have access to an electronic dictionary. I made it a mission to decipher all of the names of things I would potentially be eating. So every few days I would go to the supermarket with a new recipe written in Japanese and my electronic dictionary to find the ingredients for the next meal I’d try cooking.

Though useful, my electronic dictionary wasn’t always perfect. It often translated fish and vegetables using scientific or obscure names. I remember finding “konnyaku” being translated as “devil’s tongue” and “shiso” as “perilla frutescens”. However, my kanji reading skills and ability to talk about food took a huge leap forward and without these experiences I would have never had the opportunity gain this knowledge. I also got to eat some amazing dishes that I still make today.








僕の電子辞書はたしかに便利ではあるものの、いつも完璧だったわけではありません。魚や野菜が、学名や曖昧な名前で訳されることもよくありました。「こんにゃく」が「悪魔の舌」だったり、「しそ」が「perilla frutescens」という難しい学名だったりしたことを覚えています。だけど、僕の漢字を読むスキルや、食べ物について話す力は飛躍的に伸びましたし、こういった経験がなければこの知識を手に入れる機会も得られなかったと思います。また、僕がいまだに美味しい日本食を作って食べることができるのもこの経験のおかげなのです。