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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on July 11, 2017
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 81] July 11, 2017

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 81]
July 11, 2017
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Taste:
Hidden in the Noshi wrapping paper: Abalone

:: 1. Seasonal Creature

"There is cloth blind hung down in the bed room in my house.
Prince, please be our daughter's groom. What should we serve
at the wedding party? Abalone or horned turban? Perhaps we shall
go for sea urchin?"

Here is a lyric from "Waie (My House)" which was written by the
parents to welcome the man who proposed to their daughter.
This song is one of the "Saibara" music songs, in which music was
originally enjoyed by ordinary people but was gradually adopted by
nobles who played with instruments.

Abalone is a superior food not only in the taste but also in
its nutritional value. It has been highly prized in ceremonies and
banquets to treat important guests since ancient times. There is a
legend in China that the founder of the Qin dynasty, Qin Shi Huang,
sent a man called Xu Fu to Japan to look for abalone, which was
believed to be an elixir of life at that time. There is apparently a
family name, "BAO", written as 鮑 (abalone) in China as well,
to wish for longevity.

Abalone contains Umami such as glutamic acid and adenylic acid on
top of sweetness components, taurine and glycine. Taurine is not just
sweet but also lower the cholesterol as well as helping to strengthen
the liver function. Furthermore, it has variety of nutrients, namely
vitamin B1 which helps recovery from fatigue, vitamin E which has
anti-ageing effects and a beautifying effect on the skin, and
glycogen which is a source of energy. The unique crunchy texture
was from collagen. This food definitely can't be missed, especially
if you are a woman!

"Noshi abalone" is processed abalone that is firstly thin sliced,
and struck to stretch it, then dried. It has been used as an offering
to god for a very long time. As its high nutrition value and long
preservability, it was also used as a welcome back or farewell
present to Samurai when they went to a war or came back from a war
since the Kamakura period (12-14c). After that, whenever Samurai
families sent a present to their feudal lord or Shogun (general)
in important occasions, they added Noshi abalone wrapped in paper
and "Mizuhiki (traditional paper cord like ribbon for decoration)"
along side. This old custom is the origin of the traditional gift
wrapping paper "Noshi" which is still being carried out today.

As Noshi abalone was extremely expensive, town people cut paper
into small pieces and folded it to use as substitute. A printed
version is also used nowadays. If you take a good look at the
illustration on the printed Noshi paper, a thin yellow strip could
be found in it, which is the simplified Noshi abalone.

With its good taste, high nutritional value, and also being treated
as a charm for perennial youth and long life, Abalone entirely
became a symbol of precious gift. Although it depends on the type,
the best season for abalone is usually between August and October
in the Kanto region (Eastern area of the main island of Japan).
Nowadays, abalone can be ordered online and the Japanese can easily
enjoy its freshness at home. As abalone is not a common ingredient
especially in western countries, you may not have eaten it before.
Why don't you try it if you have a chance to go to Japan?

Translation by: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

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