I don’t recall ever eating persimmon before coming to Japan, but it is high on my list of favourite autumn foods. They are currently cheap and abundant in the grocery stores: yay.

There are different varieties of persimmon, but I like the kind that are not too juicy but still as soft as a mango.


Persimmons are also an interesting case for language learners, as homonyms (and near homonyms) abound in Japanese. A persimmon is 柿 and an oyster is 牡蠣. Both are pronounced kaki, but when you’re saying oyster, the first syllable has a higher pitch / more stress. Persimmon is the opposite, as pronounced below. (I always get it wrong.)



Shinmai: new rice

Our first shinmai of the year

We’re deep into autumn now, and it’s high time that I blog about fall food.

Like many (most?) countries, Japan has food imported from all over the world, out of whack with the seasons (e.g., we had an avocado from Mexico for dinner). However, overall, people tend to choose, and indeed celebrate, foods that are local and in season. And autumn is the best season of all: sweet potatoes, kabocha (pumpkin / squash), persimmons, apples, late season greens, MUSHROOMS, and more. I want to write a few blog posts about the food glories of fall, and first up is rice.

Shinmai, or new rice, appears in stores in autumn, and is designated as such if it is sold in the same year that it was harvested.

We have acquired some lovely shinmai, and it really is different from “regular” rice. Because of the freshness, the moisture content is different. It needs a little bit less water when cooking, but it becomes more plump, shiny, and mochi mochi (chewy) than other rice. Very delicious.

The author of the Just Hungry blog (which I often reference) wrote an interesting article about shinmai in the Japan Times a while back, with more details about how best to enjoy it, entitled “not all white rice tastes the same“. So true.

Encouraging sayings

If you’ve ever read Japanese manga (comics / graphic novels) or watched anime, particularly those targeted at female viewers, you may have heard phrases of “encouragement” that don’t really sound natural in English. As a native English speaker, for example, I don’t think I tend to say things like “let’s all try hard and do our best together to share happy memories.” But that would be a perfectly normal sentence for a teenage girl to say in a manga translated to English.

Similarly, food, shopping bags, toiletries, household items, etc. frequently have “encouraged sayings” printed on them, often in English or French. The more mundane the item, the more I love the encouragement! Here are a few examples (click to enlarge):

Pharmacy shopping bag
Inspiring toilet paper
Encouragement from the laundry basket

Halloween drinks

Halloween is quite popular in Japan, which is apparently a relatively recent phenomenon. The merchandise is out in full force now after a humbler start back in August. Below are two Halloween-themed beverages that I hadn’t seen before: spooky-label cabernet sauvignon and zombie blood soda.