This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
The natives eat little flesh. Only since the advent of foreigners have they learned to eat any at all. Their sustenance is drawn mostly from rice, sweet potatoes, fish and a few vegetables, such as a great radish called daikan. The lesser articles are barley, wheat, green corn, oranges, grapes, figs and persimmons. They make a soup of rice, small pieces of dough, a little sea-weed, some snails and sharks' fins.
In the country towns tell them to cook you a chicken; you hear a squawking in the house, and in just five minutes the bird is before you, all cooked. It is done in this wiae: Upon a charcoal fire are placed thin copper pans, which are almost instantly heated to a white heat; oil is dropped in, the chicken on top, and it is done.
In the eating-houses of Tokio, if he can obtain the concession of a spoon instead of being obliged to drink his soup out of the bowl like tea, as the natives do, the adventurous foreigner will find that he has in the first dish set before him a savory compound called misoshiru. This is made from miso, a fermented mixture of soy, beans, wheat, and salt. It has a gamey flavor all its own. He will then attack with pleasure or surprise the many little plats on his tray, turning for relief from the sweetened white beans, mixed with Ka-watahe, a kind of mushroom grown in the shadows of rocky boulders, and the delicious lobster pudding or cold omelet and other trifles included under the head of Kuchitori, to the Hachimono, which may happen to be a piece of sole stewed in soy, or a block of salmon with lobster and shredded cucumber. Then for a change he may, with the pair of wooden chop-sticks which are laid before him on a bamboo tray, divert himself with trying to pick out of a small china cup, made without a handle, the brown soy-colored beans and strips of Kikurage, or ear-shaped mushrooms. Boiled rice is served in a separate bowl.
Another substantial dish, Wanmori, consists of meat or fish and vegetables, possibly, for instance, a piece of fresh salmon and a slice of vegetable marrow with pieces of soaked Fu, a kind of biscuit made from the glutinous part of wheat flour. The gravy in which these pieces de resistance are floating is thickened with a transparent, starchy substance, obtained from the root of a climbing plant (Pueraria Thunbergiana), called by the Japanese Kuzu. For salad there are thin slices of cucumber flavored with scraped shreds of dried bonito, a fish much in favor on the Pacific coasts, the cucumber being dressed with vinegar and sugar, but without oil. One other relish must be noticed, the sliced root of the burdock salted and preserved in miso. A sweet kind of sake, described as Japanese wine, is the proper beverage at the meal. After dinner Japanese green tea may be ordered, or, upon special application, a cup of fragrant cherry-flower tea. To prepare this drink half a dozen dried blossoms and buds of the cherry flower are placed, with a pinch of salt, in a tea-cup, and hot, but not boiling, water poured on them.
The infusion is slightly and agreeably aromatic.