Understanding Japanese food as an approach rather than a list of recipes will (hopefully) make Japanese cooking less daunting. You may not eat three Japanese meals in one day, but let’s walk through what a daily meal rotation might look like. Once you see how the Japanese cook, you’ll understand why there’s so much variety in each meal.

7:00 am: BREAKFAST (朝食)

Thank goodness for rice cookers! Rice was already hot and ready in the rice-cooker, and I had some cucumber sunomono salad, simmered pumpkin, and miso soup leftover from last night’s dinner, so I grilled a piece of cod and took out some eggplant pickles from the fridge. Yum, that pumpkin was so good, I polished it off – the salad, too.

12:30 pm: LUNCH ( 昼ごはん)

My aunt stopped by this morning with some beans from her garden. Fresh is best, so I steamed them for a gomaae, and made a little rolled omelette as well as a fresh pot of miso soup. There’s some cabbage in the fridge that needs to be eaten, so I throw a few chunks into the soup. I still have some cod and pickles leftover, so I eat those, too.

6:00 pm: DINNER (夕食)

My grandma (Obaachan) is here for dinner, and she brought along some simmered mackerel that she made at lunchtime. I still have beans and some omelette from lunch, so all I have to do is make some fresh miso soup and take out some new pickles for dinner.

By using what I call “the Ferris wheel” approach (one jumps off, another jumps on) I only needed to make one or two items at each mealtime. So if you’re nervous about cooking Japanese food – don’t be. Start with rice, miso soup, and one okazu, and build from there. You may be surprised at how easy it is to prepare a series of healthy and delicious meals. And this approach isn’t limited to Japanese cuisine – try it with your regular repertoire. You don’t have to cook Japanese to cook like the Japanese do.