Happy Tofu No Hi! The Japanese love for Tofu is so great that they gave it it's own holiday. Every October 8th Tofu is celebrated!
Tofu is SO popular in Japan that it has it's own following, the Japan Tofu Association as well as hundreds of merchandise items, anime characters, costumes and more!
The making and ingestion of tofu in Japan is a revered tradition. Tofu, imported from China, has been part of monastery life in Japan for more than 1,000 years. It is an exalted food that could be compared to the Catholic Communion wafer.
Tofu originated in ancient China although little else is known about the exact historic origins of tofu and its method of production. While there are many theories regarding tofu's origins, historical information is scarce enough as to relegate the status of most theories to either speculation or legend. Like the origins of cheese and butter, the exact origin of tofu production may never be known or proven.
What is known is that tofu production is an ancient technique. Tofu was widely consumed in ancient China, and techniques for its production and preparation were eventually spread to many other parts of Asia.
A delegation studying Buddhism in China brought tofu back to Japan, where it was eaten exclusively by the upper classes and clergy for almost 500 years. The ancient method of requiring dried soy beans to be mashed by hand was too labor-intensive
for most households.
It's no wonder the masses took to tofu - it is a most nutritious food, packed with protein, minerals in addition to being low in calories and cholesterol.
Places specializing in tofu dishes make it fresh with artisans starting early in the morning to soak, ground, strain, boil, curdle, press, cool and package the soybeans. Some tofu masters are exceptionally gentle with how they make tofu – creating special salt rooms for their tofu-making processes. The humidity, salt and hemp bindings are carefully calibrated to produce divine tofu.
Tofu comes in a wide variety of forms and its production has been at the heart of Japanese culture.
In Kyoto, you can eat a restaurant that has existed for 400 years – Okutan – where guests are invited to dine in a calm, garden setting.
Tofu makers are also careful to cultivate their product using beans from unpolluted areas of Japan and making sure they are picked as late as possible.
In Kyoto, tofu is a delicate handmade food, produced every morning in small shops and large industrial kitchens throughout the country. Each region makes its own styles of tofu, but Kyoto is to tofu what Naples is to pizza, New York to bagels. The Kyoto variety—perfected over centuries by Buddhist monks, in imperial kitchens, and in neighborhood shops like this one—is the accepted standard; it is regarded as the best in Japan and thus the world.
So, Happy Tofu No Hi!
And don't forget to eat your curds!