Learning Japanese Culture and Philosophy While Cooking Soba and Kaisen Don

My friends and some online followers would jokingly complain to me for posting too much food pictures in my Instagram account. There’d be times that these posts just become torture for the people browsing my feed. Diet ruined.

Well, I couldn’t help it. I just love food – particularly, Japanese cuisine. But I never imagined myself acing it in the kitchen. Sure, I can come up with a nabe (hot pot) or sukiyaki with the right ingredients but Kaisen Don? Soba? I only eat these at restaurants, sometimes in packed bento boxes and/or instant-ones from the supermarket. There is a certain atmosphere of superiority and professionalism in being able to make the said dishes. Somehow, I didn’t think I could make the cut.
Until, Asakology Japan.

Asakology, at first glance, seems to be a peculiar name for a cooking class but its origin stems from the founder’s name, Ms. Asako Nonaka and the suffix logy which signifies “the study of”. For Asako-sensei, her cooking class serves as an educational field where students can learn about the usual cooking techniques and also about Japanese culture and philosophy. It offers a deeper understanding of health, hard work and consciousness and effortlessly demonstrates these concepts in a fun and easily comprehensible manner. I appreciate how Asako-sensei speaks perfect English because it displays amiability to foreigners who are very much eager to learn about the food and culture of Japan but do not even know how to engage in such activities, unless they go to luxurious tourist spots.

“It’s meditation.” she explains. “When I start the cooking process, I don’t have to think about anything else.” You will understand what she meant by this as you start deboning the horse mackerel – one of the key ingredients of the super delicious Kaisen Don. Indeed, what is there to think about when you have conditioned yourself to perfectly take all the fish bones and beautifully slice it to pieces? It’s a process (there is a certain technique and Asako-sensei will guide you through it) so beautifully crafted that you yourself will be so proud that in one session, you can actually do it. Probably not as skillfully as the sushi masters, but yes, you can. There is no perfect meditation and it can only be subjective to how you felt towards it. In the end, it’s your very own experience that matters.

The handmade soba might be a little difficult for those not used to handling big knives. It also deals with a lot of concentration and control (with kneading and slicing) but it’ll all be worth it during the dining section. You’ll be amazed by the sweet chewiness of the freshly made noodles (which are, by the way, almost gluten-free). What a treat for the health!

I think fortunate is the word to describe how I felt after the class. Asakology offered me a perspective on Japanese culture and also made me experience it at the same time. The labor at the kitchen was transferred to a reward at the dining section and it was fulfilling to know that I had done it myself. It felt very familiar as well since it was executed in a Japanese home in the heart of Tokyo and not in cold four-walled studio. Moreover, she provides handouts with the detailed recipes so that students can re-create the dishes on their own. In a nutshell, it’s an unforgettable experience that I’m definitely recommending everyone – Japanese and foreigners alike, to try!

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