Shojin cuisine is an ancient Japanese culinary practice developed in Zen Buddhist monasteries. Chef Masato Nishihara is an inspiration of Shojin cuisine, he's the master behind New York's Kajitsu restaurant. Kajitsu means "fine day", or "day of celebration" in Japanese. Even though it does not use meat or fish, shojin is seen as the foundation of all Japanese cuisine, especially kaiseki, the Japanese version of haute cuisine. Kaiseki is a multi-course meal in which fresh, seasonal ingredients are prepared to enhance the flavor of each component, with the finished dishes beautifully plated. All of these characteristics come from shojin cuisine, which is still prepared in Buddhist temples throughout Japan. Before moving to NY, Chef Nishihara worked for ten years at Kitcho, one of Kyotos most famous kaiseki restaurants. He developed a deep respect for the seasonal qualities of ingredients and the importance of antique Japanese dishware in presentation. He also trained in the Japanese arts of tea ceremony and flower arrangement, both of which are integral parts of kaiseki cuisine. Chef Nishihara then worked as the executive chef at Tohma, a soba kaiseki restaurant in Japan, before heading Kajitsu.
Another Shojin inspiration is found in the latest book from culinary educator Elizabeth Andoh titled, Kansha: Celebrating Japan’s Vegan and Vegetarian Traditions (2010). The word Kansha means appreciation, and the book discusses the ancient Buddhist philosophy of 'using every part of your ingredients in the cooking process' (ichi motsu zen shoku: one food, used entirely) meaning to leave no waste. Described by Elizabeth, "applying kansha to daily meal preparation requires mindfulness-planning menus that avoid unnecessary time and energy or superfluous foodstuffs." Born and raised in NY, Elizabeth Andoh first went to Japan over 40 years ago, eventually settled in Tokyo. Elizabeth studied Anthropology in the early 1960's and was captivated by the world of culinary endeavor. She attended the Yanagihara School of Traditional Japanese Cuisine in Tokyo, and began her own culinary arts program, A Taste of Culture in 1972. As an author and journalist, Elizabeth has written numerous cookbooks, magazine and newspaper articles.