Have you ever heard of Japanese "shojin(精進)" meals?
Shojin meals are based on Buddhist practices and good for your health and beauty.
Japanese Vegan Food
A "Shojin" meal is based on Buddhist practices, meaning it doesn't involve any type of meat or fish, since killing a living animal goes against the doctrine. The meal therefore only uses vegetables and legumes. Shojin meals came to Japan during the Heian Era(794-1192), and eventually took form as a type of Japanese cuisine during the Muromachi Era(1336-1573).
“Shojin” means “to dedicate oneself to Buddhist training”. The meal, which narrows the dishes to include only the necessary nutrients, is based on a Buddhist belief that monks in training must discipline themselves to learn the importance of life.
The meal reminds human beings of how dependent they are on other living things.
Though you can't eat any meat or fish, shojin meals are good for your health. They're rich in nutrients because they uses a lot of seasonal vegetables to create a balanced meal. For example, cucumbers (a summer vegetable) stimulate sweating to cool down the body. It has a diuretic effect to detoxify your body from the summer heat. On the other hand, winter vegetables like Japanese radish and turnip stimulate digestion that prevent heavy stomachs. Nutritious and balanced, shojin meals are effective in preventing lifestyle diseases like like arteriosclerosis.
Shojin meals tend to lack protein, which can lead to weaker muscles, slower metabolism, and even weight gain. Therefore the meal replaces meats and fish with legumes, Koya-tofu (dried tofu), and "fu", a dried, bread-like piece of wheat gluten. Koya-tofu is especially healthy, because it has no fat content but has high levels of protein. It also absorbs cholesterol, making it a perfect diet food.
5 Shojin Restaurants Near Temples
Because the meals are meant for monks in training, you can typically find shojin restaurants near temples. Here are just a few:
1) Sankouin(三光院): Tokyo Prefecture
The meals here embody the elegance of the imperial court but also a Zen-like simplicity. They serve shojin meals that were meant for the women of royal family, having been passed down for over 600 years. The menu is set each month, so customers can enjoy seasonal vegetables.
Address: 3 Chome-1-36 Honcho, Koganei, Tokyo 184-0004
2) Shigetsu at Tenryu-ji Temple(篩月 / 天龍寺): Kyoto Prefecture
This restaurant is at Tenryu-ji, a temple located in Kyoto's Saga Arashiyama area. Enjoy a meal in a large tatami room facing a beautiful garden.
Shigetsu at Tenryu-ji Temple(篩月 / 天龍寺)
Address: 68 Susukinobaba-cho, Saga-Tenryuji, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi 616-8385
3) Chuoshokudo Sanbou(中央食堂 さんぼう): Wakayama Prefecture
Shojin meals at Mt. Koya use sesame tofu, which appears in anecdotes of Kukai, a prominent Japanese buddhist priest. With a reasonable price, it's one of the more popular restaurants around the area.
Address: Koyasan 722, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama
4) Daisho-in(大聖院): Hiroshima
Daisho-in is the oldest temple in Miyajima. The restaurant serves dishes using wild, edible plants and tempuras made of Japanese maple leaves.
Address: Takimachi 210, Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima 739-0524
5) Kasuisai Temple(可睡斎): Shizuoka Prefecture
The restaurant uses fresh, seasonal ingredients from Hamamatsu. The meals are also very aesthetically pleasing, as they go the extra mile to plate the dishes in flower-like shapes. They require a reservation to be made a week in advance.
Address: 2915-1, Kuno, Fukuroi, Shizuoka 437-0061
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