Japanese food is refined and elegant, its preparation and presentation honed over the centuries so its flavours are pure and delicate. Like many of the most highly developed cuisines on earth, Japanese food celebrates and highlights the flavours, textures and colours of seasonal produce. The first produce of the season is prized. As well as exquisite flavour, visual beauty is paramount – the type of plate or dish is as important as what is on it. The Japanese have also perfected the concept of negative space – where the empty parts of a serving platter serve to emphasise the beauty of the food placed on it. Many devotees of Japanese food speak of the importance of clean flavours and simplicity. The health aspects of food are not to be underestimated – part of the attraction of buckwheat noodles for instance is also the knowledge they have a beneficial effect on the body. The main flavourings are dashi stock (made from either or both seaweed in the form of dried kelp called konbu and bonito fish in the form of shavings of the smoked dried fish); shoyu or soy sauce and miso made from soybean paste. A full Japanese banquet aims to tease the tastebuds by using a range of cooking techniques - a likely combination is a mix of raw food, dressed food such as salads or cold dressed noodles known as aemono, deep fried (agemono), steamed (mushimono), one-pot or (nabemono), simmered (nimono), soups (suimonoor shirumono), vinegared (sunomono), glazed (teriyaki style) and pickled (tsukemono).