CULTURAL HONOR: Washoku, the traditional cuisine of Japan, is being considered for designation as part of the world's cultural heritage by the U.N. this week. But even as sushi and sake booms worldwide, purists say its finer points are candidates for the endangered list at home.
THE CUISINE: Washoku embraces seasonal ingredients, time-consuming preparation and a style of eating steeped in centuries of tradition. At its heart is savory "umami," recognized as a fundamental taste along with sweet, sour, salty and bitter.
BURGERS AND PIZZA: Fast-food chains have become ubiquitous in Japan, including Domino's Pizza and the perennial favorite McDonald's. Their reasonable prices and fast service are attracting the workaholic "salaryman" and OL, short for "office lady."