Japanese curry is one of the most popular dishes in Japan, where people eat it an average of 84 times a year. It is usually eaten as Kare raisu — curry, rice and often pickled vegetables, served on the same plate and eaten with a spoon, a common lunchtime canteen dish. It is less spicy and seasoned than Indian and Southeast Asian curries, being more of thick Japanese stew than a curry.
Curry was introduced to Japan by the British in the Meiji- era, after Japan ended its policy of national self-isolation (Sakoku), and curry in Japan was categorized as a Western dish. Its spread across the country is commonly attributed to its use in the Japanese Army and Navy which adopted it extensively as convenient field and naval canteen cooking, allowing even conscripts from the remotest countryside to experience the dish. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force traditionally have curry every Friday for lunch and many ships have their own unique recipes.
The standard Japanese curry contains onions, carrots, potatoes, and sometimes celery, and a meat that is cooked in a large pot. Sometimes grated apples or honey are added for additional sweetness and other vegetables are sometimes used instead. For the meat, pork, beef and chicken are the most popular, in order of decreasing popularity. In northern and eastern Japan including Tokyo, pork is the most popular meat for curry. Beef is more common in western Japan, including Osaka, and in Okinawa chicken is favoured. Curry seasoning is commonly sold in the form of a condensed brick which dissolves in the mixture of meat and vegetables.
Sometimes the curry-rice is topped with breaded pork cutlet (tonkatsu); this is called Katsu-kare ("cutlet curry"). Korokke (potato croquettes) are also a common topping.
Apart from with rice, kare udon (thick noodles in curry flavoured soup) and kare-pan ("curry bread" — deep fried battered bread with curry in the middle) are also popular.