Faith in Food – Buddhism in Japan

Faith in Food – Buddhism in Japan” (2022)

“Les dieux passent à table – Les bouddhistes du Japon”

Documentary: 26 minutes
Written by: Catharina Kleber
Directed by: Catharina Kleber and Niloufar Taghizadeh

The way we eat has always been determined by religious food rules and traditions. Author Catharina Kleber explores how religion has shaped cuisine in five different regions of the world. On the trail of Buddhism, the journey takes her to Japan. In Kyoto, she meets monks and chefs, visits temples and restaurants. The Buddhist precept of a vegetarian diet has left its mark on Japanese cuisine and given rise to its own culinary genre: Shojin Ryori. Monk Genbou Nishikawa has worked at the temple for more than 60 years and explains the principle: the cuisine is not only vegan and vegetarian, but also honors and respects the cook, the producer and the supplier. Many dishes are based on tofu, its production can be learned in a small store that has been producing according to old recipes for more than 50 years. The owner doesn’t want to hear about the influence of religion on food: “In Europe, Christianity might have something to do with everyday life, but that’s not the case here,” the man laughs. But the European perspective on everyday life is different in Japan, where there is a Shinto shrine on every corner and a Buddhist altar in every apartment. In search of the truth behind this discrepancy, it’s best to taste your way through various ingredients and dishes. From simple miso soup to fish fermented for two years, these are diverse experiences. They all lead in small steps to an approach of understanding, to a comprehension of a culture and religion that at first seem distant and foreign.

Commissioned by ZDF
in cooperation with ARTE
Supported by MFG Filmförderung Baden-Württemberg