JAPAN The significance of the particular Japanese dishes on students and staff

By Shreshta Ranganathan

From Nintendo to sushi bars to Marie Kondo’s organization philosophies, elements of Japanese culture have slowly been permeating American culture for centuries now. While Japanese restaurants are common in America, the dishes these restaurants serve aren’t traditional Japanese foods but rather an Americanized version of them.

Japanese culture has played an integral role in American culture since the late 1800s. After the isolationist foreign policy for trade came to an end after being in effect for over 220 years, the Japanese began interacting and exchanging their culture with the rest of the world. Immigration to the U.S. became a popular choice among Japanese citizens in order to find peace and prosperity, and so did leaving their homes in order to provide a better life for their children.


English teacher Shozo Shimazaki comes from a family that immigrated to America from Japan in the 1960s. Being the first American-born member of his Japanese family, food was his sole connection to his culture and homeland — it was a way for him to relate with his brothers and parents, who were all born in Japan.

“My father, who recently passed, loved to make unagi, which is a boiled eel with this fabulous sauce over rice,” Shimazaki said.

Unagi translates to “eel” and has been a popular Japanese dish since the Edo Period which lasted from 1603 to 1886. It used to be a very common meal, but due to the recent limited supply of eels, it has become a luxury food.

“When I was young, [my father] would bring bring it in from Japan in a carry on container,” Shimazaki said. “My brothers would be so excited to eat Japanese food in Colorado in the 1960s as it wasn’t very common.”

Japanese Curry

Junior Kelli Kosakura, on the other hand, is a third generation Japanese-American. She considers Japanese food her comfort food because it reminds her of her mother.

“My favorite Japanese food is curry because it’s like comfort food for me,” Kosakura said. “It’s super easy to make and is a go-to meal for my family when there’s no food in the fridge.”

Japanese curry is one of Japan’s most common dishes, and differs from other curries because the type of powder that’s used doesn’t contain many spices. Other curries, especially Indian ones, are made of a mix of several different spices. Japanese curry is served in a variety of combinations. The most prominent ingredients include a variety of vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes and potatoes, and meats such as beef or chicken. Additionally, Japanese curry is almost always served with a side of rice.

“Whenever my mom makes it, I always get at least three servings,” Kosakura said.


Unlike Kosakura and Shimazaki, junior Seth Berger doesn’t immediately associate Japanese food with his family, but instead has fond memories with food from when he graduateding from Japanese school.

“I think it was the first thing I had after I graduated, and now every time I have katsudon that’s the first thing I think about,” Berger said.

With katsudon, which translates to pork cutlet over rice, it is common to also add vegetables on the side. The dish has multiple names in Japanese including tonkatsu and donburi.

Katsudon is usually only eaten on special occasions for students, such as a graduation, which is where Berger tried it for the first time. Katsudon has a unique history as it was invented by a high school student in the early 1920’s, and another meaning of the word “Katsu” is “to win”.

“Now, everytime I have Katsudon I remember all the good times I had in school and how it will always be an important time in my life to look back on,” Berger said.