Shōjin ryōri (monastic vegetarian cuisine) started in Japan in the 6th century when Buddhism arrived from China, and became widespread with the development of Zen Buddhism from the 13th century onwards. Shōjin is traditional Zen cooking, but Toshio Tanahashi’s style goes beyond tradition to create something new and unique. It is at the same time the oldest and also the latest food innovation from Japan.
Tanahashi explained the philosophy and history of shōjin while also showing some practical cooking techniques. Shōjin is based on the teachings of Buddha, and is a rigorous discipline that asks us to face vegetables entirely and patiently and receive their life – both visible and invisible – to enhance our own. Taking the time and effort to prepare and cook vegetables, fruit and grains with our hands is a form of training that purifies body and soul. Preparing meals, eating them, and excreting them smoothly – this is the natural way of life. Tanahashi believes that pursuing the possibilities of vegetables will help us find solutions to many crucial issues facing us today – food problems, population problems, health issues, energy problems, and more. The essence of shōjin is a respect for the soil and terroir, leading to physical and mental wellbeing.
About the contributors
Toshio Tanahashi trained for three years as an apprentice at Gesshinji, a temple in Shiga Prefecture famous for its Abbess’s excellent shōjin ryōri. He opened his restaurant Gesshinkyo in Tokyo in 1992. Since closing the restaurant in 2007, he has worked to teach and promote shōjin ryōri though his culinary academy, Zecoow Culinary Institute, and he also teaches at Kyoto University of Art & Design. He has given talks and demonstrations around the world, and his cooking and philosophy have been widely featured in Japanese and international media. After working on menu development with legendary French chef Alain Ducasse he became interested in the possibilities of “Shōjin French”, and is planning to establish a “Shōjin Dōjō” to develop and promote shōjin ryōri internationally.