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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on April 15, 2016
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 66] April 15, 2016

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 66]
April 15, 2016
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Food:
The king of fishes: "Japanese Sea Bream"

2. News from JTCO:
New articles -
1) Kanazawa-Haku: Kanazawa Gold Leaf

:: 1. Seasonal Food

Here is a Japanese traditional poem, tanka, compiled in "Manyoshu",
the Japanese oldest anthology(7-8c), No.3829.

"Hishihosuni hirutsukikatete tainegau warenina mieso nagino

Interpretation: I would like to eat a Japanese sea bream dipped in
vinegary soy sauce with condiments like squashed spring onion or
garlic. I don't need a heartleaf false pickerelweed soup.

At this time of year when cherry blossoms fully bloom in the mountains
of Japan, it is also the best season of Japanese sea bream which is
said to be the king of fishes. During season, it is called "Sakura
dai (cherry blossom sea bream)" or "Hanami dai (Cherry-blossom
viewing sea bream)". It is the time that it grows fat and tastes nice
because it will spawn soon.

The Japanese have a long history of eating Japanese sea bream as a
familiar ingredient for everyday meals. Its bones were even found in
the historical remains of the Jomon period (B.C.145-B.C.3c) and it
seems that ancient people cooked and ate it by the way roughly the
same as today, as fresh, grilled and boiled with seasonings. In the
"Engi shiki(detailed regulations for enforcement of an ancient code)"
written in the Heian period (8-12c), there are many descriptions
of how Japanese sea breams were presented to the imperial court as a
tribute. Fresh fish was used from the nearby provinces, while from
other distance provinces, dried sea breams food were used such as
"Suhayari (sliced back and dried with salt)", "Hoshishi (shredded
dried fish meat)" or as fermented food, "Narezushi (fermented fish
with salt and rice)" or "Shiokara (heavily salted fish meat and

"Tai no Okashira tsuki" (Japanese sea bream with head and tail) is a
fundamental luxury dish during the celebration occasions. It is said
that Japanese sea bream was used to substitute the carp to be the
major fish cuisine since the Muromachi period (14-16c). From the alias
"Red Sea bream", we can see that it has a distinguished red body. As
Japanese people regard red and white as an auspicious colour
combination, the fish was really liked as well. On top of the colour
and taste, fin with prickles and hard scales were a speciality
favoured by samurai families because those features reminded them of
samurai armour. Since then, it was started being thought as the king
of fishes widely.

Japanese sea bream fishing become prosperous with an increasing demand
for Japanese sea bream as a fish for celebrations. Seto inland sea is
a prominent fishing ground in Japan. "Sakura dai (cherry blossom sea
bream)" caught by an angling method in Nishinomiya in Hyogo
prefecture, and also "Uoshima dai", caught in Uoshima island in
Ehime prefecture, both in West Japan, were known as nice sea breams.
They were often used as a tribute. At first, as a tribute for the Edo
shogunate (17c), processed sea breams were used such as dried sea
bream, heavily salted sea bream or dried roe. However, "Ikebune",
a boat with an in stalled water tank to keep fish alive while
transporting, was invented at a later time, so fresh sea bream were
able to be gathered to the Edo (current Tokyo) from local areas.

By this time, townspeople became affluent and were able to afford
Japanese sea breams for celebrations, and Japanese sea bream with head
and tail became a fundamental dish for happy events like weddings.

While the harvest of natural Japanese sea breams around Japan has
decreased, with better breeding technology and larger imported
quantity, Japanese sea bream is no longer a rare food today. However,
the fish caught in Seto Inland Sea is still called "Maeno mon
(literally 'caught in the front', which means the fish caught in
the sea in front of Seto Inland Region)" to be distinguished from other
sea breams apparently.

Translation by: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO:

New articles released!

1) Kanazawa-Haku: Kanazawa Gold Leaf

Kanazawa Gold Leaf creates a brilliant and radiant beauty in various
kinds of arts and architectures: from temples such as Kinkakuji-temple
and Nikko Toshogu-temple to handicrafts such as lacquer wares,
Buddhist alters, Buddhist instruments and fabrics. The gold leaf
produced in Kanazawa accounts for more than 98 percent of the total
amount of gold leaf production in Japan. The graceful Kanazawa Gold
Leaf which glows beautifully has been used for art crafts and has
supported the traditional culture of wealthy Kaga domain, current
Ishikawa Prefecture, Central Japan.


Translation by: Naoko Yamashita, reviewed by Marie Mine

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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