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Japanese Tea Culture

Origin of Ochazuke

Most Japanese people love Ochazuke, which is served with bowl of rice and different toppings on top, and then poured hot green tea at last. Typical toppings are different kind of vegetable pickles and seaweed. However, some places, flying fish, bonito, mackerel, salmon and bream are also used as toppings for Ochazuke. In Shizuoka prefecture, grilled eel is used as a topping and it is called "Unacha" and it is a famous specialty of Shizuoka prefecture.
The origins of Ochazuke is still unknown. However, in Heian era, there was a meal called "yuzuke", which is a bowl of rice and hot water poured on top. Yuzuke was also introduced in the record of a formal banquet during the Muromachi era. Ochazuke might be a alternative of this "yuzuke". Also, in the recipe book which was published in early Edo era called "Ryori monogatari (Story of the meals)", a kind of meal used tea "Naracha" was introduced. Naracha was more like a porridge combined rice, chestnut, or potates with tea. It is also possible that Ochazuke was made to be a instant version of this kind of food using tea.
In ancient China, tea was widely used as a food. Even now in China, tea as a food still exists and eaten by minority groups. This tells that tea was originally not used only for drinking, but also for as a food. Ochazuke might be a reminder of the ancient tradition of using tea.

(Yoichiro Nakamura)