In 1908, olive saplings were imported to Japan and planted in three places around the country thought to have the right conditions to grow them. The only one to survive was in Kagawa Prefecture’s Shoudo Island, and thrive it did in the sunny hillsides, so much so that now Kagawa is Japan’s number one producer of olives today. There’s an olive shrine on the island, a working olive grove, a museum, shops, restaurants, and even a bath house! There’s also an Olive Harvest Festival from October to November every year. If you like beef, you might try “Sanuki wagyu”, cattle fed on dried olives. And don’t forget to pick up some olive face oil when you visit! Mmmm, olives…
Mentaiko is salted cod fish eggs marinated in chili sauce, and is a Fukuoka specialty. It originated in Korea, and is now popular all around Japan, especially in pasta or as filling for onigiri rice balls. I’ve had mentaiko in pasta before, and it is sometimes used as a topping for sushi rolls, but on the whole I’m not a big fan, so have never tried a big chunk at once like is popular in Fukuoka food stalls. My husband doesn’t really like it either, so I can’t count on him to eat it if I bought some for a picture, hence why I don’t have a picture for this blog. Maybe one of these years I’ll make it down to Fukuoka to take some pictures!
A few years ago I visited Nagoya City in Shizuoka Prefecture for a long weekend. I had the chance to eat a very nice (and expensive…) eel dinner during my trip, and as a big fan of eel it did not disappoint! Unfortunately, unagi is getting harder and harder to find at a good price due to high demand and overfishing, so I was glad to have eaten it when I did. I always look for eel when I eat sushi, but usually it is absent. It has a more common cousin called anago that is usually available, but on the whole I prefer unagi to anago (unagi are fresh-water eels and anago are salt-water eels by the way).
Eel over rice
Ok, now I really want some eel!
While the many springtime flowers of Japan are overshadowed by the famous cherry blossoms, March and April is the blooming period of another beautiful flower called “nanohana” in Japanese. In English it is called rapeseed, but you might be more familiar with canola, as in the canola oil used in cooking. I prefer the Japanese name. Nanohana are common flowers not just in Chiba Prefecture, but all around the Kanto area. I often see them growing underneath cherry trees, and their nice yellow provide a beautiful contrast to the pink sakura.
Aomori is the number one producer of garlic in Japan, and you can find Aomori-grown garlic at supermarkets across the country. In fact I usually always buy Aomori garlic because while there are usually fewer cloves on a head, they are very big and therefore easy to use for cooking!
Along with regularly grown garlic Aomori also produces fermented “black garlic”, a milder variety whose growth is a closely guarded secret among its producers. Apparently this kind of garlic has a lot of health benefits, and is preferred by people who find the usual white garlic variety too strong. As a lover of garlic myself, I love regular white garlic, so I’ve never tried black before, but I’ve seen it in stores. Maybe the next time I catch sight of it I’ll get some and post how it is!
Hokkaido’s 4th postcard features corn, one of the leading exports of Hokkaido. Corn is called “toukibi” in local Hokkaido dialect, but in the rest of Japan is known as “tomorokoshi” which is quite the mouthful to say! On my trip to Hokkaido I didn’t have the chance to try any (harvest is usually late August), but I’ve eaten Hokkaido corn bought from my local grocery store multiple times. A specific variety is white-kerneled and extremely sweet, but even the usual yellow variety is really good!
I’m definitely looking forward to grilled corn this summer, how about you?
What comes to your mind when you think “Japanese textiles”? Probably traditional silk production and kimono, right? You might be surprised to learn that in the prefecture of Okayama in the southern area of the main Honshu island, the main textile export is actually denim!
While the area around Okayama has produced cotton for a very long time, its obsession with jeans started after WWII when second-hand jeans started circulation among the population, and grew in popularity. Around the same time, traditional Japanese dress was falling out of favor, and the producers of cotton and other materials were seeing a decline in demand for their products. This lead to them beginning production of jeans, and now are the number one producer of denim in Japan, as well as gaining world-wide attention from the fashion industry.
On my two trips to Okayama, I noticed an abundance of jeans shops, but didn’t pay a lot of attention to them until my second trip to Kurashiki, and even then didn’t bother much with going in a looking. I did however try “denim ice cream” as well as seeing some other denim-related products. Now that I know more about the industry, I’d love to go back and learn more!
I have a confession: I don’t like oysters. I want to like them… I’ve tried to like them…but I just can’t seem to convince myself that they’re good no matter how I try them. I’ve had them raw, both plain and the New Orleans Acme Oyster style with tabasco; I’ve had them fried, baked, cooked… yeah, it’s not going to happen.
My parents happen to love oysters, however, so I still had plenty of chances to photograph them when I visited Hiroshima with them last year. Of course, this card is retired, so I wasn’t able to buy it directly from the post office… I found it on Yahoo Auctions instead, but didn’t have the postcard to take pictures with the oysters themselves.
An oyster restaurant with oysters actually growing before our eyes!
Actually, this past October on my tour, I had the chance to explore oysters in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture. These oysters from Miyagi are often sent to prefectures like Hiroshima to seed their oyster industry, which made the 2011 earthquake and tsunami all the more devastating, as it didn’t just affect the Tohoku oyster industry, but that of all over Japan. You can read more about that here.
My apologies for the lateness of this post and the lack of any recently… I’ve been fighting a battle with my computer and photo software. I lost this battle, and as a result, my photos, while all there, are a total mess. I can’t find anything! Frankly, even opening the program again was a bit daunting so I’ve put it off and as a result got way behind. Sorry! I’ll be posting one post a day until I’m caught up.
Anyway, May 4th was “Goya” day (5-4) in Okinawa, celebrating Okinawa’s second postcard and famous produce, a bitter melon called goya. Goya wasn’t a vegetable I was familiar with before coming to Japan, and it isn’t one I prefer to eat now. It tends to be quite bitter, but full of vitamins. It is a sun-loving vine, and is therefore popular for people to plant for shade as much as the goya itself.
When I went to Okinawa I had goya champuru, which is a popular dish made with the melon. It wasn’t bad! It may be more of an acquired taste.
I have pictures of goya, both growing and of the Okinawan chapuru, but I can’t find them now. I’ll add them to the post when I’ve finally organized my pictures well enough to find them again! Meanwhile, this is a great site all about goya, including how to grow it, and recipes. Go check it out!