As the weather gets colder when the seasons change, many find they want to eat more, especially comfort food. In Japan there is even a term for this - Shokuyoku no Aki, autumn appetite. The Japanese believe that the abundance of food in fall literally promotes their appetites, and that the body is preparing itself for winter. These traditions are reflected in much of the culture and food that can be found in Japan in the autumn months.
Fall is the new harvest season in Japan and it is one of the best times of the year to enjoy many kinds of seasonal foods. Even with food you can find all year round throughout Japan such as rice, newly harvested food often has a different depth and richness of flavour. Rice harvested this year is designated and sold under the name Shinmai. According to a 2014 survey, rice is the food that the Japanese associate most with autumn.
Fruit picking tours are a popular activity in the fall in Japan. Some fruits harvested include apples, persimmon and asian pears. These can be eaten raw or are made into a range of dishes, including desserts and sweets (wagashi). Kabocha, or Japanese pumpkin is also harvested in the fall, along with sweet potatoes. Kabocha is generally used in soup or as vegetable tempura, whereas sweet potato is roasted and often sold by street vendors. Other popular foods harvested at this time of year are mushrooms and chestnuts.
The sanma, or Pacific saury is one of the most prominent autumn related foods in Japan. Even the kanji used to write the name of the fish literally translates to ‘autumn knife fish’. Salted and grilled whole, garnished with grated daikon radish and accompanied by a bowl of white rice and a side of miso soup, is considered the ultimate autumn meal.
There are many delicious foods to enjoy at harvest time across Japan, even if you don’t want to cook. A brilliant place to start is the Tokyo Ramen Show, which hosts some of the best ramen restaurants in Tokyo, and there are many other food festivals to go to. Eating with the seasons is very important in Japan, and most restaurants will have a seasonal menu, and try to do different dishes each year. An example of this can be seen in the anime Yotsuiro Biyori, which follows a small restaurant over the course of a year. In the first episode they are debating what to put on their new spring menu. Another good example is in Isekai Izakaya: Japanese Food From Another World, in episode 10 they refuse to serve a particular dish as it is a winter meal, even to the Baron.
As the leaves turn beautiful colors, enjoy nature’s bounty! Red maple leaves can even be used to make fall themed snacks, fried to make delicious maple leaf tempura.