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Japanese pickles

About Japanese pickles

Tsukemono in a meal There are many kind of pickles in Japan.
When you eat Japanese meal, maybe a small plate of Japanese pickles is served.
Since a long time ago, pickling was one of the fundamental ways to preserve food in Japan, so pickles is a daily essential.

Most Japanese pickles are pickled in salt, brine, shoyu, miso, vinegar, rice bran (nuka) or sake lees.
Daikon, Hakusai (Chinese cabbage), cucumbers, turnips, eggplants, gingers are mainly used among vegitables, and ume (Japanese plum) is used among fruits.

In Japanese, pickles are called "tsukemono".
The following pickles are popular across the country.
And Kyoto has various local tsukemono, and they are the popular souvenirs in Kyoto.

Popular pickles


"Umeboshi" is a pickle of ume fruits. It is red and tastes very salty and extremely sour.

Ume is a kind of fruit-bearing tree, and is called "Japanese plum" in English. But it is actually more closely related to the apricot.

Ume fruits are harvested around June.
The harvested fruits are packed in barrels with salt, and a weight is placed on the top.
During some days, the fruits gradually exude juices.
Then, some red perilla herbs are added in the juice, so the fruits become red.

After some weeks, the fruits are dried in the strong summer sunshine for a few days.
Those are umeboshi.

Umeboshi are usually eaten with rice. Sometimes one or two pieces of umeboshi are served for breakfast at ryokan. (When you put an umeboshi on the rice, it looks like Japanese flag.)
Whole ume has been pickled, so each umeboshi has a large seed. When you eat umeboshi, you must remobe the seed.

Wakayama Prefecture is famous as a production center for good umeboshi.


Takuan is a popular and traditional pickle in Japan.
It is made from daikon, and is often yellow. Commonly sliced takuan is serve.
First harvested daikons are hung in the sun for some weeks.
Then they are placed in a pickling crock, covered with a mix of salt, rice bran (nuka) optionally sugar and dried persimmon peels. And a weight is placed on top of the crock.
Generally "kuchinashi", which is a kind of asian flowers, is added and it make daikon yellow.


Fukujin-zuke is also popular kinds of pickles, and commomly used as a relish for Japanese curry.
It is red or brown in color.
Vegetables including daikon, eggplant, lotus root and cucumber are finely chopped, then pickled in a base that flavored with shoyu and mirin. So it has salty-sweet taste.
"Fukujin" means Seven Lucky Gogs. It comes from using seven different kinds of vegitables.


Nara-zuke is the pickles of asian melon or cucumber and has tortoiseshell color.
The ingredients are packed in barrels with salt, then a weight is placed on the top.
So the liquid of the ingredients is exuded.
After that, they are covered with sake lees. So it has smell of alcohol.
You may eat it at the restaurant of eel dish.


Asa-zuke is the pickles that it is easy to make at home.
After rubbing chopped vegitables with salt, it is made by pickled them with chopped konbu or red pepper in a container for one day.
An asa-zuke is used a few vegitables of hakusai (Chinese cabbage), cabbage, eggplants, cucumbers and many various vegitables.

So you can taste various asa-zuke at any restaurant.


Gari is the pickles of thin sliced young ginger, and is pink in color.
You can certainly eat it at sushi restaurant.
It is marinated in a solution of vinegar and sugar.


Beni-shoga is also a pickles of ginger.
It is cut into thin strips. and is pickled in the solution used to make umeboshi
So it is red in color.
You can find it at gyudon restaurant, and it is used when okonomiyaki or yaki-soba.
"Beni" means red, and "shoga" means ginger.


Rakkyo is a white bulb of vegitable like shallot.
It has the taste and smell mixed onion and garlic.
Commonly it is made by pickling in vinegar and sugar.
You can find it as a relish for Japanese curry.

Umeboshi Umeboshi on rice Takuan
Fukujin-zuke Nara-zuke Asa-zuke
Gari Beni-shoga on Yakisoba Rakkyo

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