Seasonal and Unusual Foods

Some interesting tidbits about Japanese food

By Elena Lisina    - 3 min read

Each season in Japan traditionally marked with seasonal decorations, but the seasonal changes are also seen with food. The celebration of such change, enjoying the beauty and uniqueness of each season, is a very important part of Japanese culture.

Spring is perhaps the most popular time of the year for many people. The Japanese will feast their eyes on the blooming sakura but not only that, they will add sakura petals to jams, jelly, ice creams and tea, as well as wrapping sweets in the leaves of the sakura creating a lovely spring taste. In spring time I tasted young bamboo shoots. My friends told me they feel a sense of spring when eating young bamboo. How interesting!

Bamboo shoots
Bamboo shoots

From January until the end of May is strawberry season. You will find them everywhere, but they are particularly enjoyable at a strawberry farm where they invite people to eat as much as they can during one hour. The fee is around 1000 JPY. During the other seasons you won’t find strawberries at all...

Winter and spring are the strawberry seasons
Winter and spring are the strawberry seasons

My Japanese friend was much surprised when we treated her with a watermelon in November because in Japan watermelons are grown and eaten only during the summer months. There is an old game here where a blindfolded person must find and break open a watermelon with a wooden stick. As you can imagine, it's a lot of messy fun.

Autumn is the season of fruits, of course. In shops or markets you will find apples, peachs, persimmon, pears, grapes and many more. It's a great time visit a farm to go fruit picking and spend an enjoyable day outdoors. People from the countryside are always seem so friendly and helpful. Suggestive of the countryside, in one Tokyo restaurant we were advised to pound some seeds (strangely, I don’t recall which seed...) and add them to our dish so that it would create a 'taste of autumn.'

Seasonal seeds
Seasonal seeds

Along with seasonal foods there are some unusual ones like the green soy beans known as zunda served as a snack with beer. I once tasted whale meat, raw but thinly sliced – I have to say that it was quite nice. The Okinawa kitchen features crispy roasted pig ears on their menu. Dishes are often served with pickled vegetable prepared in special way. The vegetables are placed inside a large ceramic pot filled with a sand-like mixture with a strong odour - but the resulting pickles taste good! The most popular are pickled plums called umeboshi and are just delicious.

Whether seasonal or unusual, Japanese food really is a treat.

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Elena Lisina

Elena Lisina @shiroi.tenshi

I love Japan very much! I like small towns of Japan where I can watch people doing their business and talk to them carefully. They're always friendly. I like Japanese gardens where I can just sit or walk and take my time. Also I like Shinto Jinja as being there I feel in peace. I like to watch sunsets and then to dine in some small local places. I like to soak into onsen after a long day of wandering. I like Japanese crafts very much as all items are made with great taste and skill. Nihon wo daisuki desuyo! My photos from Japan I also place here: Matane!

Join the discussion

Elizabeth Scally a week ago
Persimmons and ginkgo nuts in the autumn are some of my favorite seasonal foods, but don’t eat too much of them. Too much of the fruit can make you constipated and the nuts are toxic.

Elena Lisina Author a week ago
Thanks! I won't! :)))
Kim B a week ago
Japanese strawberries are the best I’ve tasted anywhere in the world. I think that’s one great thing about seasonality with food - you know everything is super fresh!
Kim B a week ago
Definitely for freshness and taste!