Crown Tourney 10/19/2019 - Symbolism in the Feast - The Power of Five

Note: Four is an unlucky number-   it is generally avoided because the word for four is shi (四/し)  closely resembles the word for death shi (死/し)--avoid serving in groups of 4-only serve 1, 2, 3.

Note: Fourth Course* (sweets) will be referred to as what it is "Anmitsu" --traditionally sweets are not served as a separate course but eaten with tea or served as part of the meal.

The Power of Five
- The number five is considered important in Japanese culture, and this extends to its food traditions as well. They form the basis of concepts that have been in place for centuries.

Five Colors - The prevalence of the five colors – white, black, red, green and yellow – has been a tradition since Buddhism arrived from China in the 6th century.

White 白 shiro - includes rice, tofu and soy milk, mild-flavored, delicate white-fleshed fish (shiromi-zakana) and “white meat” pork. White is the traditional color of mourning. It also represents purity and truth.

Black 黒 kuro - includes very dark foods such as nori laver, eggplant skins, shiitake mushrooms, and black sesame seeds. Black is symbolic of the night, unknown, mystery or anger. It also represents masculinity, knowledge and prosperity.

Red 赤 aka - includes fruits, vegetables, meat and some dried beans. Red is symbolic of blood, self sacrifice and passion. During the Japanese civil wars (1467-1568), red was loved by the samurai and worn as a symbol of strength and power in battle.

Green 青 ao - The word for blue, 青 (ao), actually refers to both blue and green. The word for green came into usage during the Heian period (794 – 1185). This category includes leafy vegetables and herbs and oily fish (mackerel, smelt, sardines). The color green is symbolic of energy, eternity, vitality, growth and fertility.

Yellow 黄 ki - includes fruits, vegetables and eggs. It is symbolic of courage, nobility, beauty and cheerfulness.

The Five Tastes

Salt (鹹 kan)
Sweet (甘 kan)
Sour (酸 san)
Bitter (苦 ku)
Spicy (辛 shin)

Umami (うま味) --Umami comes from the Japanese word umai - meaning delicious & savory-literally translates to "delicious"

Five Ways to Prepare Food - raw (aemaze, water chestnuts) simmered (o-zoni, kabocha), fried (smelt), steamed (fish) and roasted or grilled (fish, possibly eggplant).

*Corrected--removed "remove" and replaced with "course".

For more information please see the following: Serve it Forth: A Periodical Column of Historical Cooks-"Of Course its "Course" or Remove 'Remove'" By Elise Fleming.  You will see it on the left side of the page.

If you have not visited "Serve it Forth" please do--it is a wealth of information for anyone interested in historic cooking. 


  1. "Remove"?? As in "Note: Fourth Remove (sweets)..."??? Of course it's "course". Remove "remove"!

  2. Caught! I am guilty of calling courses 'removes'. Corrected, dear Lady...and thank you.


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