Japan's Seasonal Flavours

Japan is a land that is highly aware of the changing of seasons. I often get asked if we have four seasons in Canada and when I say that we do, I am met with a surprised and seemingly never ending "eeeeehhh?!?", like they assumed that Japan was the only place on earth that had four distinct seasons. In some ways they are right though. Japan relishes in the changing of seasons like no other place that I have ever lived.

Baby William trying to break his way into
a pack of sakura flavoured yogurt
In Canada we fairly passively observe the changing of seasons. Spring is met with a "Hey, its nice that the snow is gone and flowers are on the lilac bushes", but not that much more. Maybe because of year round climate controlled houses the seasons are merely something you see outside your window, not a cold, heat, or humidity that you endure all day long. If Canadians dealt with humid, sticky houses when it rained, freezing cold houses in winter, or hot and humid houses in summer, they might find a way of celebrating and glorifying the changing of seasons a bit more. We also like to have constant access to our favourite foods all year long, even if this means we are importing them from across the world and they taste like little more than bland shadows of the foods they should be.

After moving to Japan, we noticed fairly quickly the availability of certain foods and products only in the right season. Want to buy a fan in the winter? Sorry! Have to wait until the appropriate season. Is it an unseasonably warm spring day? Be prepared to get some looks like you are a crazy person if you wear anything other than long sleeve shirts, a sweater, and pants. Do you want to by strawberries in October or tomatoes in December? Not every store will carry them, and if they do you will pay and arm and a leg.

In late spring, I am always happy to eat boiled soramame
Summer is the perfect time to eat a delicious meal of cold noodles like somen
Would winter be winter without eating mikan every day?

Nabe. In winter we revel in it and every other season we
remember it fondly. 
The strict seasonality of products can occasionally be pretty annoying, but once you get used to changing your shopping and menu planning every three months it is really fun and wonderful. I look forward to spring every year because I love how sakura (cherry blossom) flavoured products suddenly show up on the shelves. In summer I am always happy to see my friends warabimochi and all sorts of fresh veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers, and edamame cheap and readily available. Even though brassicas have never been my favourite, we eat turnips, cabbage, and daikon fairly often in the winter months. Though this is something we never really needed to do back home, it has made the seasons into something that we celebrate and anticipate. It is also a way to overlook the unpleasant things that come with them, like heat, cold, bugs, and rain, making them seem more bearable.

Every New Year my children test just how much
fresh mochi they can ingest in one sitting. 

1 comment:

Carol said...

Why didn't I see this post? Glad to see what you're up to!