Japanese Vegetarian Buddhist Cuisine Nourishes the Soul 15 Centuries Later

Shojin Ryori: Zen Cuisine for Body & Mind

Thursday, February 27, 6:30 pm, 2014, at Japan Society

** Demo & Tasting with Chef Toshio Tanahashi **

講演・試食会『精進料理: 「からだ」と「こころ」にやさしい日本の食事』

New York, NY -- Shojin Ryori first came to Japan with the spread of Buddhism in the 6th century. The savory vegetable dishes that make up this delicious style of cuisine aims to purify the body and train the mind through the dietary habits of a vegetarian lifestyle.

In Shojin Ryori: Zen Cuisine for Body & Mind, Chef Toshio Tanahashi, founder of Zecoow Culinary Institute, demonstrates how to prepare a variety of dishes, including Sesame Tofu with Wasabi & Vegan Soy Sauce Gelatin, Grilled Vegetables & Fruit with Sesame Sauce, Poached Seasonal Vegetables, and for dessert, a Kudzu-Glazed Fruit Bun. Following the demonstration, participants will be able to sample each of the dishes. With sake provided by Akita Seishu, the event takes place Thursday, February 27, at Japan Society.

Explaining that sho means “purify” and jin comes from the word for “advance”, and that combined they mean to “move forward whilst respecting the old, and keeping oneself pure”, Toshio Tanahashi discussed the philosophy of Shojin Ryori with the Kyoto Journal: “In shojin-ryori, only plants are used. No meat, no fish; only grains and vegetables. Some say vegetables are a gift from God, from nature, whereas meat and fish are a secondary gift. Humans cannot make, for example, tomatoes. Only through sunshine, water and air are they created as a gift of food. We are able to live thanks to products that plants create for us, and without them we cannot: that is the absolute truth. Shojin-ryori is rooted in this fact. So, we shojin-ryori practitioners endeavor to take time with and cultivate passion for the plants that provide us with this truth.”

Shojin Ryori is a type of Washoku, traditional Japanese cuisine, which was designated an intangible cultural heritage asset in 2013 by UNESCO in recognition of its uniqueness and use of natural, locally sourced ingredients such as rice, fish, vegetables, and edible wild plants. As a master of Shojin Ryori, Toshio Tanahashi has received grants from the Japanese government as part of the Cool Japan initiative to preserve and promote Japanese culture, food, and technology around the globe.

Born in Japan in 1960, Toshio Tanahashi trained at the age of 27 for three years at the Gesshinji Temple in Shiga prefecture, near Kyoto--a nunnery famous for its abbess’ excellent Shojin cooking. In 1992, he opened his restaurant Gesshinkyo in Tokyo. In 2000, Vogue Nippon ran a series of articles featuring his cooking and he was invited to demonstrate his style of cooking at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In the same year, Tanahashi’s story was dramatized for a TV series entitled “Honmamon” (The True Thing) by NHK Broadcasting, and he introduced Chinese traditional Shojin style from China in a program on NHK BS. Tanahashi has been featured by The New York Times, The Sunday Times, The Japan Times, Financial Times, and Telegraph Magazine. He is the author of Shojin (Bunka Publishing Bureau, March 2002), an illustrated recipe book, in Japanese, which outlines his philosophies of Shojin cooking. After he closed Gesshinkyo in 2007, Tanahashi established Zecoow Culinary Institute in February, 2008. He teaches culinary arts and design as a director at Kyoto University of Art and Design since April 2009. His books include Shojin-Wonder of Vegetables (2003) and The Power of the Vegetable, the Time for Shojin is Now (2008). More at

Founded in 1907, Japan Society is a multidisciplinary hub for global leaders, artists, scholars, educators, and English and Japanese-speaking audiences. At the Society, more than 100 events each year feature sophisticated, topically relevant presentations of Japanese art and culture and open, critical dialogue on issues of vital importance to the U.S., Japan and East Asia. An American nonprofit, nonpolitical organization, the Society cultivates a constructive, resonant and dynamic relationship between the people of the U.S. and Japan.

Shojin Ryori: Zen Cuisine for Body & Mind takes place Thursday, February 27, at 6:30 pm. Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 and 7 subway at Grand Central or the E and M subway at Lexington Avenue). Tickets are $25/$20 Japan Society members, seniors and students, and may be purchased in person at Japan Society, at, or by calling the box office at 212-715-1258. For more information, call 212-832-1155 or visit the website.

This program is sponsored by Kikkoman Corporation. Lecture Programs at Japan Society are generously sponsored by Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ. Japan Airlines is the exclusive Japanese Airlines sponsor of Lecture Programs at Japan Society. United Airlines is the exclusive U.S. Airlines sponsor of Lecture Programs at Japan Society. Additional support is provided by Chris A. Wachenheim, and the Sandy Heck Lecture Fund.

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Media Contacts:
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