A traditional Japanese meal typically has many small dishes to be enjoyed at once. Three items are indispensable for a traditional meal: white rice, soup, and pickled vegetables. The rice, gohan (ご飯), is the centerpiece of the meal, and in fact the same word can be used to refer to the meal in its totality. The soup is usually a light soup. The picked vegetables, called tsukemono (漬物), are often brined in a mix of soy sauce, mirin, and rice wine vinegar. The small dishes served alongside the rice are called okazu (御菜). The okazu vary from meal to meal and season to season, with hottter, heavier dishes typically being served in winter. The meal pictured here is mostly drawn from Miyoko Nishimoto Schinner’s excellent book, Japanese Cooking: Temporary and Traditional.
The tsukemono pictured in this dish are picked lettuce and ginger. Other popular choices are daikon, plum, cucumber, and eggplant. While you can make them at home, they are typically purchased by the jar.