Asia generally has skipped cheese as part of its diet for all those thousands of years. Many Asians have some form of lactose intolerance and cheese is a relatively new item in the area that first appeared in Japan when the Portuguese first landed in Japan. The Portuguese have also introduced bread to Japan. There has been some old ancient cheeses but it was never a significant part of the diet. The only cheese I know is Sakura (Cherry Blossom) from Hokkaido, which is a French style semi lactic cheese aged in mountain cherry blossom leaves. It is seasonal and appears in spring -when cherry blossoms arrive too.
Here are some links:
- An EXCELLENT article by Culture magazine: http://www.culturecheesemag.com/travel/summer_2011/japan
- Kyodogakusha: www.kyodogakusha.org/making.html
- A map of Hokkaido cheesemakers:
Most cheeses in Japan and China today are made by people who were trained in Europe and are mimics of European styles of cheeses (and use European breeds of cows). There are interesting developments in Tibet however, where there is a history of cheese made with Yak milk (actually Dri - the female Yak). This is a type of bovine animal related to cow, a "mountain cow" if you will, that grazes on 14,000 ft peaks where only grass survives and there aren't even any trees. It has a fat, protein-rich milk. Recently some non profit organizations from the west have been teaching the Tibetian people how to make European cheeses with Yak milk and put them on the export market in order to create a sustainable branch of agriculture there to support their local community. If anyone knows of a good native Japanese cheese - I would love to hear about it too.
Here is some info about the Tibet program: http://trace.org/projects/projects_rd_TCP.html