What The Samurai Really Ate In A Day

Samurai hold a unique place in Japanese history. Although a warrior class, they were also lords and ruled lands. But while samurai had access to fancier ingredients, the samurai diet was far more simple than we might have thought.

Samurai did not live in ancient Japan's cities, but rather held land in more rural areas as feudal lords. This allowed them to gather root crops and other fresh ingredients. According to Medium, the samurai diet focused more on fuel than enjoyment.

Predictably, samurai ate a lot of rice. After all, rice is a staple of Asian cuisine. But samurai had a much different relationship with rice; the grain is how samurai measured their wealth, explains Medium. Samurai ate husked rice, which peasants also consumed. Reportedly, the rice tasted terrible, but they had no choice. Only the elites and the emperor's family could eat white rice; it was too valuable a commodity. So to balance this foul-tasting meal, samurai ate pickled herbs and vegetables, and fermented pastes like miso, reports Bloomberg.

What samurai ate depended on the season, and since many of them owned farms, vegetables were always present in their diet. They used leafy vegetables, root crops, natto (made from fermented soybeans, says Healthline), and wasabi, per Bloomberg. Basically, samurai had a balanced, clean diet.

Where's the beef?

If you noticed one thing missing from the samurai diet, you're right. Samurai didn't eat a lot of meat. Medium writes that Buddhism and Shintoism, two religions practiced in ancient Japan, considered meat unclean, and encouraged followers to eat things like vegetables or fish. Also, meat was a luxury item, so even if they wanted to flout rules, they'd have to be one of the few samurai with money to spare.

Vegetarianism was something the samurai had in common with ninjas. Atlas Obscura says both classes preferred eating what was most readily available, though ninjas also claimed a diet of mostly vegetables made them more agile.

The samurai diet has since been adapted in modern times. Reuters reports Japanese authorities in the city of Ise told its police officers to slim down by following a samurai diet. A restaurant serving traditional samurai cuisine also managed to earn Michelin stars, per Bloomberg. When you think about it, samurai were not just fierce warriors protecting feudal Japan; they were also the original clean-eating influencers.