As the weather starts to cool off, Japan enters the autumn season. While many people anticipate the more moderate temperatures and the beautiful colors of the leaves, this is the time of year when select fish, vegetables and fruits are at their best. Whether you see them as you travel or at your local shops, these are 10 exquisite foods you should eat this fall.
Sanma (Pacific Saury)
Pacific saury, or sanma, is a popular fish from September to the end of October because they are at their fattiest for their migration from north to south and, therefore, at their tastiest. This oily fish is often prepared broiled or grilled with salt and served with grated daikon and a squeeze of lemon for the classic autumn meal.
For salmon, their best seasons are in the spring, around May, and in the fall from September through November. When choosing your autumn salmon, or akisake, you can pick one with less white muscles for a simpler flavor or one with more for a sweeter flavor. A popular way to enjoy this fish is to grill it in tinfoil with enoki and shimeji mushrooms.
You may have already had bonito in its dried form over rice, but fall is the perfect time to eat this fish fresh. September and October are when it’s fattiest because it has been accumulating nutrients since the beginning of summer. Served sliced with green onion and ponzu, sliced bonito makes a wonderful appetizer.
Magaki (Pacific Oyster)
Pacific oysters, or magaki, come into their best season from October, yet they stay in season until the end of April. Referred to as the “milk of the sea,” this highly nutritious seafood is famously produced in coastal areas of Hiroshima and Miyagi prefectures. If you happen to be traveling through, try an oyster dish while these magaki are at their absolute freshest!
Satsuma-imo (Sweet Potato)
The humble sweet potato, or satsuma-imo, can actually be found all year round, but the true harvest season is in the fall. This root vegetable is packed with dietary fiber and vitamin C. Baked potato shops and trucks are a common but nostalgic sight for Japanese people. Oimoya Potepote in Nagoya is a popular spot to enjoy this traditional autumn snack.
Kuri (Japanese Chestnut)
Another tasty seasonal snack is the Japanese chestnut, or kuri. Japan has been eating this food for thousands of years, and for good reason. They are easy to prepare and contain protein along with various vitamins. They should not be too difficult to find and when you do, simply boil to enjoy!
For any gourmets hunting more luxurious foods, look no further than matsutake. These mushrooms are known for their aroma and are a staple ingredient for many dishes. Prices for just 100g of this mushroom can go over ¥10,000 because it cannot be artificially cultivated or regularly harvested. Be sure to get them while you can!
Walking into a convenience store, you may even notice the increase in grape-flavored ice creams. October marks the peak for shipment of grapes harvested in the autumn. With the real fruit, don’t be afraid to spend a little extra in the supermarkets or department stores. You will not be disappointed with the quality.
Often referred to as a representative flavor of the autumn, persimmon, or kaki, comes mainly in two forms. The softer variety has a lighter flavor and the tougher variety has more of a bite and a strong sweetness. Everyone has their own preferences, but both have their uses to make various desserts, such as dried persimmons or jelly.
From October to December, apples hit their peak season. Fuji apples are the most produced in Japan, but recently various other varieties from overseas have become available. If you want a fun way to enjoy this fruit, you can head to Aomori or Nagano prefectures and make a day of picking them yourself.