Umami was discovered in Japanese cuisine by a Japanese person. In 1906, this Japanese scientist discovered umami in kombu seaweed. After that it was discovered in dried bonito flakes and shitake mushroom. Today we can taste umami in broth from kombu seaweed, dried bonito flakes and shitake.
Also, shibumi is an original word in Japanese. If you think of shibui food or drink, it would be a strong tea or a tannic taste of full-bodied red wine. In addition, we have a shibui persimmon in Japan. When you eat unsweet persimmon, it would be such a terrible taste that you can’t eat it anymore. That is shibui tatste, but if you have not experienced it, it is hard to imagine the taste. So, please try it if you have a chance it is really bad though…)
When you change the last letter “mi” of these words for tastes to “i”, the nouns turn to adjectives. And, the adjectives have other meanings than just tastes. I will introduce them today.
1. amai (sweet)
I wrote about this before, so please see my old post.
2. umai (savory, delicious)
When umami turns to umai, it means the same as oishi. Men can use umai istead of oishi.
Other meaning A: skillfull
Example: kare wa uta ga umai. (He is good at singing.)
Other meaning B: in a satisfactory state
Example: saikin shigoto ga umaku itteiru. (Lately my work has been going well.)
*umaku is an adverb.
3. oishi (delicious)
Other meaning: in a satisfactory state with stronger connotation of being profitableExample: sono toshi wa oishi hanashi da. (That investment sounds good.)
4. mazui (awful tasting)
Other meaning: awkward, unlucky
Example: sono hanashi wa tannin ni kikareru to, mazui. (If another person hears this story, it would be bad.)
5. nigai (bitter)
Other meaning; trying, hardExample: ano shippai wa nigai keien datta. (That failure was a hard experience.)
6. karai (spicy, hot)
Other meaning; harsh, hardExample: ano sensei wa kibishikute, seito e no hyoka mo karai. (That teacher is strict and his evaluation to students is also severe.)
7. suppai (sour)
Basically, suppai means only a sour taste, but there is one expression.
Example: kuchi o suppaku shite iu. → watashi wa annani kuchi o suppaku shite itta noni, anata wa wakatte kurenakatta. (Although I have told you this so many times, you didn’t understand me.) *suppaku is an adverb.Meaning: having to give advice so many times
8. shibui (astringent)
Other meaning A: I wrote this before, but shibui is a word unique to Japanese and it describes a Japanese aesthetic sense. With this sense we feel beauty in a quiet and refined atmosphere, not seek for beauty in brightness. We find shadows beautiful, not light and we find older people attractive, not youth.Example: kono heya no interior wa grey ya beige ga ookute, shibui funiki da. (There is a lot of grey
Other meaning B: serious and unsmiling in appearance (I think this meaning is related to an unpleasant feeling when you eat something astringent.)Example: kare wa tomodachi no warui uwasa o kiite, shibui kao o shita. (He had a sour expression on his face because he heard a bad rumor about his friend.)
Today we know that every cuisine has umami in it, and it is especially strong in Asian food. Therefore, Japanese knew from experience
And, the Japanese feeling of finding beauty in shibui things is expressed in “wabi sabi”, one aspect of Japanese culture