Travel Japan with Pickles

Sample Ginza Yamau's delicious tsukemono stories

By Sherilyn Siy    - 2 min read

There is much much more to tsukemono or Japanese pickles than the ubiquitous takuan (the brownish white or florescent yellow sun dried daikon) that seem to accompany any meal.

The various regions of Japan boast of pickles that are unique to the local climate. There are as many types of pickles as they are makers, each showcasing traditional production methods that result in traditional tastes, or innovative methods that appeal to modern tastes. The offerings vary according to the seasons as well. The very posh Ginza Yamau pickle shop is where you can sample these delicious pickle stories.

The shop itself is worth a visit. Completed in 2017, the building features a mosaic pattern reminiscent of traditional kumiko pattern that dates back to the Edo period. There are at least 50 different pickles, but offerings change with the seasons and some are only available in limited quantities.

Ginza Yamau's logo
Ginza Yamau's logo

One such pickle is the Shizuoka melon pickle, only available from April to August. I have had pickled apples from Nishiri, but melon is one of those fruits that I cannot imagine being pickled. These melons are picked before ripening and pickled in soy sauce. The result is a pickle that is crisp like cucumbers with a refreshing taste and a hint of melon scent. It is a wonderful addition to your table, guaranteed to be a conversation starter.

Shizuoka melon pickles
Shizuoka melon pickles

Another seasonal pickle is the Atsumi turnip, usually available from November to March, depending on the growing conditions of the vegetables. These turnips have been cultivated in the Shonai region of Yamagata Prefecture for over 400 years. This variety of turnip has a moderately spicy taste and naturally rich in umami. The outer skin is purple and the flesh is white but in the soaking process, the pickle acquires a bright reddish purple hue. This pickle has a complex combination of sweet, sour, and slightly bitter taste that will leave you wanting more.

Atsumi turnip pickles
Atsumi turnip pickles

Getting there

GInza Yamau is located next to Kabuki-za Theater along the Kobikicho-dori in Higashi-Ginza. It is a minute's walk from Exit 3 of Higashi-Ginza Station, served by the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line and the Toei Asakusa Line. The shop is a 5 minute walk from Ginza Station served by the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line and the Marunouchi Line.

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Sherilyn Siy

Sherilyn Siy @sherilyn.siy

For Sherilyn Siy, Asia is home. Born in Hong Kong, Sherilyn spent time in the Philippines, China, and now lives in Japan. She speaks English, Filipino, Chinese (or putonghua), and Hokkien, her family's local dialect. Running is one of her favorite ways to explore Japan. She proudly finished the 2015 Tokyo Marathon -- her first ever full marathon -- in 4 hours and 37 minutes. She was absolutely psyched when she got selected again to run the new Tokyo Marathon route in 2018. She hopes to complete other races in Japan. 

Join the discussion

Sleiman Azizi 2 weeks ago
Never underestimate the value of a good pickle!
Sherilyn Siy Author 2 weeks ago
They perk up any meal.
Bonson Lam 2 weeks ago
Melon pickles, I didn't know they exist. Did you enjoy the taste?
Sherilyn Siy Author 2 weeks ago
Very much, Bonson. They taste like cucumber pickles really, crisp and lightly savory with only the slightest hint of the melon fragrance as you know it from ripe melons. So really, the melon pickle taste more like a vegetable pickle than a fruit pickle.
Elizabeth S 2 weeks ago
Another great pickle shop! Sure, you can get various kinds of pickles in supermarkets. But these regional and traditional pickles are something else.
Elizabeth S 2 weeks ago
A tip when you next visit Shibamata in Tokyo - Marujin on the Tashakuten Sando shopping street has amazing old-fashioned pickles.