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9 Emoji about Japanese food, explained (part 1)

In the previous blogpost about Emoji, we dived into those emoji that apparently make no sense like these 💢 📛 ♨️ 💮 But we saw how they are actually part of everyday life here in Japan.

The word emoji stands for image (絵 e) symbol (文字 moji) and the first set of emojis was introduced in 1999 by the Japanese mobile operator NTT DOCOMO. Mr. Shigetake Kurita, is considered “the father of emoji” and he created this initial set to enable easier digital communication.

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🍱 Bento Box

A Japanese “bento” is a lunch box divided into portions of rice, vegetables, and meat or seafood. The origin of bento dates back to hundreds of years ago when people ate simple onigiri (rice ball) during hunting, farm work, travel or in battlefields.

In the Meiji era people began to bring bento almost everyday to their workplaces and prepare bento boxes became an expressions of love since many mothers wake up very early to prepare the lunch for husband and children. In recent years particularly prettily decorated bento can be called "deco-ben" where deco stands for decoration. But it is not rare that after a quarrel the husband finds a very poor lunch box (revenge bento) which might make him feel sorry.

Major train station have their own bento boxes called Eki-ben (eki=station) filled with local ingredients which make the train travel part of the whole experience.

🍘 Rice Cracker

A Japanese “senbei”, or rice cracker, wrapped with a sheet of nori, (seaweed) a snack commonly enjoyed with green tea. They come in various shapes, sizes, and flavors, usually savory but sometimes sweet. What Japanese commonly refer to as senbei nowadays were popularized by a teahouse in Sōka city in the Edo period, which spread salty soy sauce flavored senbei throughout Japan.

🍙 Rice Ball

A Japanese onigiri is a triangular or circular ball of white rice, a snack wrapped with a sheet of nori (seaweed) and filled with a desired ingredient. "O" is a Japanese word giving honor to someone or something, while "Nigiri" comes from the verb "nigiru", meaning to grasp, that allude to the movement of the hands when modeling it. It is a very common comfort food ate as quick meal or at picnic, but when prepared by a dear one, it means love and affection.

🍣 Sushi

Japanese sushi emoji is generally depicted as two pieces of raw pinkish-orange fish, as tuna or salmon, on white rice (nigiri). Some platforms show the cylindrical maki, a piece of

seafood, vegetables, and white rice wrapped in seaweed (nori).

Popular kinds of sushi are exactly nigiri and maki, whereas uromaki, a cylindrical piece with two or more fillings and rice on the outside, was born abroad to hide the black nori, unpleasant for some.

Sushi is a very quick and easy option for people to eat in a hurry, or an elegant and expensive way to celebrate some special occasion.

🍥 Naruto-maki

A slice of ridged fishcake of processed whitefish with an iconic pink swirl, often served in ramen or oden and called narutomaki. Thanks to its distinct swirl, may be used for flair.

It is said that the creator of the anime called Naruto, got the main character name idea while eating a ramen and indeed a narutomaki.

🍡 Dango

A Japanese sweet dumpling made from rice flour and served on a skewer. Depicted as a botchan dango, comprising a pink, white or light yellow, and green ball, as colored by red beans, egg, and green tea. Resembles the Oden emoji and featured in the Moon Viewing Ceremony emoji, used in the Japanese festival to celebrate the full moon.

🍢 Oden

A skewer of three bites of Japanese oden, a winter dish made with fishcakes, tofu, konnyaku, and a variety of other ingredients, including boiled eggs. Often served as a stew or skewered and dipped into soy sauce. Resembles the Dango and may be used for other skewered foods (e.g., shish kebab, roasting marshmallows) or spears.

🍶 Sake

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Japanese sake is an alcoholic beverage made from rice. The emoji shows a sake set with a carafe (tokkuri) and drinking cup (choko). Formerly, sake was sold by volume in a wooden box measuring cup, known as a masu that was also used to drink. Tradition requires the masu be filled to the rim as a sign of prosperity, its pronounciation in fact is the same with the

Masu cup

Japanese word for increase/proliferate (増す) it is therefore a symbol of wealth.

🍵 Teacup Without Handle

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A cup of green tea, as the minty-colored Japanese matcha, usually shown on a wooden mat. Matcha is traditionally served in a small bowl that resembles a cup without a handle. This emoji is often taken as a bowl of soup, such as a split pea.

Usually these cups are irregular, with not levigated surface and uneven colors. This is because they embrace the concept of wabi-sabi, according to which beauty is hidden especially in the imperfection.


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