One of the many aspects that makes Japanese food so unique from others is the seasonality, called “旬 shun" in Japanese. Ingredients in shun tend to be fresher, tastier and more nutritious. This is the main reason people are so eager to enjoy shun foods but there is another reason.
There are 3 parts in shun. Hashiri, shun and nagori. Hashiri is the first harvest or the first catch, nagori means the last moment of shun, and shun is the main body of shun in a broad sense, the period between hashiri and nagori. Foods in shun in narrow sense are at their peak ripeness. The amount of crop is at the highest in this period and because of that, the price is generally reasonable. This is the period Japanese people enjoy shun food.
In Edo (old name for Tokyo about 400 ~ 150 years ago), people ran to buy hashiri foods. It was considered cool, “粋 iki” in Japanese, to eat hashiri food earlier than others do. Hashiri foods were a lot more expensive than the same foods in shun but people didn’t care. The most popular hashiri food among people in Edo was bonito. The first catch of bonito, called hatsugatsuo, is very popular this days too but back in Edo, people were crazy about it. There is a record that one kabuki actor bought a bonito at over 1,000 USD. 1,000 USD for one bonito ! You can see from this episode how hashiri mattered to people in Edo. This old cartoon shows even a dog and a black kite making a fuss over hatsugatsuo !!
It is like people rushing to Apple Store to get the newest model on the date of release.
So our obsession with seasonal foods has a long history. it is not only about benefits of seasonal foods, but also about "粋 iki" spirit of Japanese people. How cool that is !!
Hi ! I'm Yoshimi. Here are some updates on TOKYO KITCHEN, Japanese food, Asakusa, Tokyo and more.