Seasonal Food – Winter

To chase away the cold, warming dishes like nabe and oden are particularly popular in winter in Japan. Both can be made with a wide range of ingredients, with some of the most popular being in season (or “shun” in Japanese) at this time. Below is a list of some of the main foodstuffs in season during winter.



Daikon radishDaikon is a large variety of radish with a mild flavour. In Japan, they have a reputation for being good for the body, particularly the digestive system.

Uses: Daikon is a very versatile vegetable. Grated daikon, known as “daikon oroshi”, is used to accompany certain meat and fish dishes. It can also be pickled, or shredded and used in salads or as a bed for sashimi. Daikon also appears in stewed and boiled dishes, including nabe and oden.


Renkon/Lotus Root
Renkon is the root of the lotus plant, more famous in the West for its flowers. The distinctive tubers, which resemble wagon wheels, are sliced and eaten in a range of dishes.

Uses: Renkon is often simmered in dashi as part of a “nimono” dish, but can also be fried, or deep-fried as vegetable tempura. A specialty dish of Kumamoto Prefecture is “Karashi Renkon”, where the holes of the boiled root are filled with miso, mustard and honey.

Fish and Seafood

Fugu (pufferfish)

Fugu/PufferfishFugu is famous for being poisonous, and potentially deadly if not prepared correctly. Chefs must train for several years to be legally permitted to prepare the fish, so it is more often consumed at restaurants than at home.

Uses: Fugu is most commonly enjoyed as sashimi (known as “tessa”), though it also appears in nabe dishes called “tecchiri”.

Buri/Hamachi (Japanese amberjack)

Buri/Amberjack TeriyakiThe Japanese amberjack or yellowtail is a kind of fish that is farmed extensively in some parts of Japan. Depending on the size it is allowed to grow to, the fish is known in Japanese as “hamachi” or “buri”.

Uses: While high-grade buri is eaten as sashimi, it is a very versatile fish and can be cooked teriyaki style or stewed. One popular dish is “buri daikon”.

Amaebi (sweet shrimp)

Amaebi/Sweet shrimpAmaebi Amaebi is a generic term for two varieties of sweet shrimp eaten widely in Japan.

Uses: Amaebi are considered to be best eaten raw, as they lose their flavour on cooking. They are commonly served as “nigiri” sushi.


Nori seaweed Nori is a kind of seaweed that is pressed and dried, creating paper-like sheets.

Uses:Nori is used to wrap “onigiri” (riceballs) and “maki” sushi. It is also added as a garnish to ramen and some soup dishes.


Mikan (mandarin/satsuma oranges)

Mika/Satsuma orangeMikan, known elsewhere as “satsumas” for the province of Japan from which they were first exported to the west, are an orange-like citrus fruit. They grow in some gardens in the southern parts of Japan, and mikan picking is a popular annual excursion in rural areas.

Uses: Mikan are eaten as they are, like other oranges. They are sometimes frozen when fresh to enjoy in warmer seasons, or as a very simple iced treat.



TofuTofu is made by the coagulation of soy milk and is an important foodstuff throughout East Asia. Though it is widely available year-round, tofu is considered at its best in winter, following the soybean harvest season. Fresh tofu in Japan usually comes in one of two forms – soft and firm, both of which appear in a variety of dishes.

Uses: The culinary applications of tofu in Japan are too varied to list, but in winter it is a common ingredient in nabe, and deep-fried tofu can be found in oden.

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