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All about Shojin Ryori: Zen Buddhist Vegetarian Cuisine

This plant-based dining style, along with Zen Buddhism itself, started making its way around Japan in the 12th century, and is still an integral part of the practice today.

Team JJ

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Shojin Ryori is the traditional fare of Zen Buddhist monks in Japan. This plant-based dining style, along with Zen Buddhism itself, started making its way around Japan in the 12th century, and is still an integral part of the practice today.

Despite shojin ryori being a cuisine for religious devotees, you don’t have to be a monk, or even a vegetarian, to try it. Even an intrepid carnivore will be surprised by the many delicious flavours and textures of this Buddhist vegetarian cuisine. 

Why vegetarian?  

In Buddhist belief, the principle ‘ahimsa’ prohibits violence against all living beings. Essentially, as we are all spiritually connected, we would harm ourselves by killing another. So, to avoid being harmed three times a day, it became common to avoid the consumption of animals. This way, the spirit would remain clear and primed for the hours of deep meditation every day.   

For this reason, shojin ryori is strictly plant-based. Even garlic and onion—quite strong flavours—are omitted as they, too, are thought to cloud the spirit. But, despite the lack of heavy hitter ingredients, shojin ryori is still full of flavour. 

The broths are steeped with umami-rich dried mushrooms, kelp and vegetables, which gives them a lovely, savoury taste. And no sauces or broths are too strong, as the intention is to be able to taste the base ingredients rather than mask them.



(You can read the rest of the article at this link. This article was first published by Team JJ on August 12, 2020. Check here for deeper and unique insights into visiting Japan, including wellness, travel, cuisine and more.)

Tokyo based Japan Journeys delivers the inside scoop on travel destinations, tips and experiences. Visit their website to discover more about Japanese culture, great travel itineraries and the very best things to do in Japan.