Ichiju Sansai: 一汁三菜



Have you heard of Ichiju Sansai (一汁三菜)? It is how traditional Japanese food tables are set up for meals.

“One Liquid” and “Three vegetables”?

Ichiju (一汁) means “one liquid” when directly translated into English. For meal, it means “One soup”. Sansai (三菜) would be translated as “Three vegetables” with direct translation, but it means “Three sides”. Originally, the three sides are Namasu (なます: uncooked sliced vegetables and raw fish pickled in rice vinegar), one Yakimono(焼き物: traditionally it means grilled fish), and one Nimono (煮物: simmered meat and vegetables in seasonings). They are served along with steamed white rice, one soup, and small amount of pickled vegetable. 

 Ichiju Sansai= Guide to Balanaced meals

We also implement this word to create balanced daily meals.
It is not as strictly structured as described above. Ichiju Sansai in daily use means one bowl of rice, one bowl of soup, 1 main meal which is fish or meat, and 2 side dishes. It helps balance starch, proteins, and vegetables for every meals. 

Japanese Manners and Ichiju Sansai

In Japanese restaurant, all the food listed above are placed on a tray. If you are eating at home, they are placed directly on the table. There are certain rules where to place those food in front of each person.
Chopsticks: Horizontally placed right in front of the person.
  1. Miso soup: Right bottom corner
  2. Rice bowl: Left bottom corner
  3. Main dish: Right top corner
  4. 1st side dish: Left top corner 
  5. 2nd side dish: In the middle
Placement of the main dish and side dishes will differ depending on what and where you are eating, but the placement of soup and rice is the golden rule in Japan. Also, from old times, people are expected to be right handed. So the pointy end of chopsticks should always face toward the left, and the part to hold should always be on your right side when they are placed on the table/tray. 
I believe some readers on this webpage are hoping to work in the Japanese food industry. It is something you should keep in your mind when setting up a tray in Japanese restaurant.