5 Colors, 5 Flavors, 5 Ways 

Meals that are balanced in flavor include some foods that are salty, others sweet and/or sour, bitter and spicy. Including a variety of flavors in every meal helps avoid food cravings that might lead to over-eating. Balancing flavor helps to limit sodium and sugar intake, too.

Miso Varities
SALTY  kan

The category SALTY flavor includes salt, soy sauce, and miso used in the kitchen when preparing and cooking various foods. Many condiments and dipping sauces at table are from the salty category.

Rice Vinegar
Citrus Fruits

SOUR san

The category of SOUR includes vinegar, naturally tart foods such as citrus, and some pickled foods that acquire sour or tart flavors as they ferment. Sour or tartly flavored condiments and dipping sauces also used at table to flavor foods.


The SWEET category includes sugar, mirin, honey and syrups used in cooking to balance salty and tart flavors. Sweeteners are occasionally brought to table where diners use them to flavor foods directly. Mizu ame, a thick, honey-like sweetener used in making confections, is processed from rice and/or barley, in much the same way that corn syrup is processed from the starch of maize.

gomi 五味

5 Flavors 

Bitter Cabbage


This category includes coffee, tea, some herbs and vegetables. In the mountainous areas of central Japan, a group of (naturally bitter) vegetables (ferns, bracken) known as sansai are foraged early in the spring.

Bitter flavors are thought to aid in digestion, and help to clear the palate, getting ready to experience forthcoming foods as flavorful.

Fresh Wasabi Root
Chili Pepper

SPICY shin

Although Japanese food is often thought of as mild compared to other Asian cuisines, there are several distinctive, and powerful, spices that are regularly used as flavor accents:
  • wasabi (indigenous to Japan)
  • karashi (mustard)
  • togarashi (capsicums)

Rice Wine