I've never been to Japan. I'd like to very much. Until I can afford that plane ticket, I've just been travelling there through cookbooks, the Japan Centre, and a few vegan cooking courses.
Japanese cooking might traditionally have a lot of fish and meat, but thanks to its respect for vegetables and tofu - as well as its shojin ryori Buddhist cuisine - there's a lot of alternatives for the herbivores too.
I wanted to write something clever about why I love Japanese food, but it's basically because it's amazingly tasty, quick to make something gorgeous, and won't fill up your cupboards with all sorts of stuff you'll never use again.
I was told there are five main seasonings in Japanese food: dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, mirin, sake, and vinegar, so with just a few bottles you can have a complete Japanese larder ready to go. Add a few vegetables, tofu, noodles or rice, and you've got an amazing meal in not a very long time at all.
Here's my standby (and probably a great many people's too, I'll warrant) - yasai yaki udon. Or, to put it another way, noodles and veggies.
This is a Japanese plate I cobbled together not so long ago: spinach with sesame oil, teriyaki tofu, green beans in crushed sesame, and sushi.
While I'm a massive fan of Japanese food, I'm no scholar, so I have a horrible feeling that anyone Japanese person seeing all of this on the same plate would be massively confused or disturbed. Maybe it would be the Japanese equivalent of seeing an English breakfast with a Cornish pasty on the same plate. Japanese chefs, I apologise to you, but I still massively enjoyed the dinner.
Another reason I love Japanese food is a) its almost all made on the stovetop, so no waiting for the oven to heat up and b) it's one of those food cultures that wholeheartedly and creatively uses loads of different types of tofu.
Here's one of my favourites, aburage, used in a lovely warming stew with potatoes and carrots called age jaga. Apparently it's a Japanese take on a traditional English meat-and-spuds hotpot. Now that's fusion food I can appreciate.