Assorted Japanese autumn food

The Flavors of Autumn in Japan

There are so many things to look forward to during autumn in Japan. One of the highlights of the season are the colors of fall when summer transitions into the cooler months and the lush foliage turn into hues of yellow, orange and red. The temperate climate during the autumn months is also the perfect time to enjoy traditional festivals featuring centuries of Japanese history and traditions.

One of the highlights of the fall season in Japan is the cuisine. Autumn is known as the country’s traditional season of food and dining, shokuyoku no aki, or the “season of hearty appetites”. Fall harvest is a bounty of fresh autumn vegetables and other crops, fish like saury and bonito, autumn fruits like pears, then there’s matsutake mushrooms,  ginkgo nuts, seasonal wagashi made with autumn’s fare, yakiimo (roasted sweet potato), and more!

Matsutake mushrooms

Matsutake mushrooms

Check out some of the flavors of fall in Japan

Shishamo (柳葉魚) – smelt or “Willow Leaf Fish”, is a small water fish native to Hokkaido and is a popular food ingredient during autumn.  Shishamo has fine bones and can be eaten whole including the head and tail and is usually grilled as an appetizer but it can also serve as an entre. Shishamo is considered a delicacy when it is harvested with its roe as the eggs add to the flavor.

Matsutake mushrooms (まつたけ) –  is highly prized for its rich taste and fragrant smell and is known in Japan to be the “King of Autumn Foods”. Matsutake mushroom is quite expensive because it cannot be cultivated artificially. The pungent aroma of the mushrooms are considered to be unpleasant for some and only until recently was it considered to be a highly coveted food ingredient.

Kuri kinton

Kuri kinton

Chestnuts (くり) – or kuri is popular during the fall months. Since 5,000 years ago chestnuts have been a stable in the Japanese diet. It is prepared in many ways such as boiled with salt or soy sauce and cooking wine and it is an essential ingredient in making cakes and yokan, a thick red bean dessert. The sweet, rich taste of chestnuts is a much awaited autumn treat.

Persimmon (柿)– or kaki is a favorite fall fruit. The sweetness of a persimmon makes the fruit average about 115 calories. It has high fiber content making it a filling snack. Persimmons are also rich in antioxidants. A single fruit can provide 20 percent of  our body’s daily requirements for vitamin C and 50 percent of vitamin A.

Sweet potato (さつまいも) – or satsuma-imo is popular during autumn when street vendors sell them hot and roasted. Candied sweet potatoes (daigaku-imo) are also a favorite fall treat.