Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Japanese foods--kudamono


torakris
 Share

Recommended Posts

  • 2 weeks later...

Yesterday while in Kyoto, my co-worker and I dropped by my favourite tea shop, Mariage Freres, for tea and tarts. I had something like a tarte tatin, but it was made with nashi. It was fabulous! The nashi were still a bit firm--not too soft nor too watery. Now if only I had a cast iron pan (or any decent-sized pan) that would fit in my Japanese-sized oven.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...

from the article:

"A [$1] apple tastes like a [$1] apple," Katayama said. "A [$5] apple is more juicy, more sweet, more beautiful to look it. They are a completely different fruit, and consumers who can afford it will want the best."

But how much better does a $15 dollar apple taste...??

I think I need to get my husband out of construction and into an apple orchard. :hmmm:

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting article from the Washington Post. I am interested if the perception is true that appearance of the fruit is equal or even more important than the flavor in Japanese culture.

Here is a link to a picture of the showroom of the Sembikiya Fruit Store in Tokyo mentioned in the article. It looks more like a high-end jewelry shop than a store selling fruit.....then again at over 10,000 JPY for a melon I guess they have their design right!

http://www.sembikiya.co.jp/nu_pro/nu_honten.html

EDITED to change the link, the fruit store is the second picture down. Click on it to see it larger.

Edited by torakris (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am interested if the perception is true that appearance of the fruit is equal or even more important than the flavor in Japanese culture.

I'd say no. If this were true, then people would be climbing over themselves to buy perfect looking fruit that tastes like crap. Although I'm sure it has happened, I don't think it's what the Japanese consumer expects.

It would be more accurate to say that appearance and flavor are of equal importance.

Baker of "impaired" cakes...
Link to comment
Share on other sites

These days, I often see mikan with a sugar content of 10 for sale at a local supermarket.  I find these mikan good enough for me.  I think mikan with a sugar content of 12, 13, or greater are so sweet that I can't eat many of them.

Where do you see this written?

gallery_16375_5_47853.jpg

I bought some mikan today. Today's suger content is 13! That's not bad, I mean, not too sweet.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 8 months later...

A square watermelon!

gallery_31440_3297_51833.jpg

I was having an internal struggle about whether I should take a picture in the middle of a high-end shop, but finally I whipped out the camera, snapped the picture, and bolted. (The things I do for the Japan forum! :raz: ) I bolted so quickly that I didn't catch the price! But, seeing that it was a Sembikiya melon (see above post), I am sure that it was very expensive. Anyone lucky enough to have ever tried one of these? I wonder if it tastes as interesting as it looks. And I really wonder what kind of rational being would buy one of these and how many a day Sembikiya is really able to sell.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A square watermelon!

gallery_31440_3297_51833.jpg

I was having an internal struggle about whether I should take a picture in the middle of a high-end shop, but finally I whipped out the camera, snapped the picture, and bolted.  (The things I do for the Japan forum!  :raz: ) I bolted so quickly that I didn't catch the price!  But, seeing that it was a Sembikiya melon (see above post), I am sure that it was very expensive.  Anyone lucky enough to have ever tried one of these?  I wonder if it tastes as interesting as it looks.  And I really wonder what kind of rational being would buy one of these and how many a day Sembikiya is really able to sell.

Your guerrilla-photo tatics are greatly appreciated because that melon is simply extraordinary...

Maybe someone thought it would be a good idea to create a square melon so it wouldn't roll when you cut it? Safety first???

Easier to wrap? Just shove it in a nice gift box?

:biggrin:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

appearance of the fruit is equal or even more important than the flavor in Japanese culture

I think that's a polite way of saying that the apples don't taste all that great, or at least not enough to justify the price.

I remember that when I first moved to Tokyo from the US, the quality and lack of variety of the apples in Tokyo was one of my more disappointing supermarket experiences.

One interesting point from the article: "domestic farm subsidies, meanwhile, amount to about 1.4 percent of the gross domestic product, a figure greater than the entire value of Japan's annual farm production". So, basically all those exported apples are subsidized by Japanese taxpayers, including the costs of marketing them.

I am glad to see that those square watermelons made an appearance in the Washington Post. They've been a favorite of Western news stories for well over a decade now.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I remember that when I first moved to Tokyo from the US, the quality and lack of variety of the apples in Tokyo was one of my more disappointing supermarket experiences.

When did you move to Tokyo? I certainly wasn't disappointed in the quality of Japanese apples when I left Tokyo in '99, although it doesn't hurt that I spent a fair amount of recreational time in Nagano Pref. (apple-growing region).

Of course, taste is a subjective thing, but I happen to enjoy the crisp, sweet apples that Japanese tend to prefer. I would take a Fuji or Mutsu apple over almost any other variety. Luckily, these are increasingly available here in Canada.

The selection is wider and certainly cheaper now that I'm in Vancouver, but not necessarily tastier or more consistent in quality. The other thing with buying fruit in Japan is that you often get what you pay for.

Baker of "impaired" cakes...
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A square watermelon!

gallery_31440_3297_51833.jpg

I was having an internal struggle about whether I should take a picture in the middle of a high-end shop, but finally I whipped out the camera, snapped the picture, and bolted.  (The things I do for the Japan forum!  :raz: ) I bolted so quickly that I didn't catch the price!  But, seeing that it was a Sembikiya melon (see above post), I am sure that it was very expensive.  Anyone lucky enough to have ever tried one of these?  I wonder if it tastes as interesting as it looks.  And I really wonder what kind of rational being would buy one of these and how many a day Sembikiya is really able to sell.

Here is a previous thread of square watermelon in the Food Media and News Forum:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=45320&hl=

According to this webpage, a square watermelon is 12,600 yen, a pyramid one 84,000 yen (not 8,400 :biggrin: ), and a human face one is 84,000 yen.

If I remember correctly, square watermelons were first conceived to make them easier to store in the fridge.

sk_ward, I appreciate your efforts. I enjoy your photos in the Japan Forum. :biggrin:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A square watermelon!

Here is a previous thread of square watermelon in the Food Media and News Forum:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=45320&hl=

According to this webpage, a square watermelon is 12,600 yen, a pyramid one 84,000 yen (not 8,400 :biggrin: ), and a human face one is 84,000 yen.

If I remember correctly, square watermelons were first conceived to make them easier to store in the fridge.

sk_ward, I appreciate your efforts. I enjoy your photos in the Japan Forum. :biggrin:

Too bad, I thought that I found something new and interesting! :biggrin: I'm surprised that they have been around for so long because I don't remember ever seeing them before during previous trips to Japan. But then again, I don't really go shopping at fruit salons all that often! Thanks for the link, too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

appearance of the fruit is equal or even more important than the flavor in Japanese culture

I think that's a polite way of saying that the apples don't taste all that great, or at least not enough to justify the price.

I remember that when I first moved to Tokyo from the US, the quality and lack of variety of the apples in Tokyo was one of my more disappointing supermarket experiences.

I know I have mentioned it around here before but I too have been disappointed by the apples in Japan, both variety and quality. For me it is also part personal preference as I prefer tart apples and this is a quality the Japanese don't seem to enjoy. I have had plently of picture perfect apples that have tasted like cardboard. I have also had some of the best apples of my life. It is really hit or miss and price seems to have very little to do with it.

My current favorite are small san-tsugaru サンつがる apples from Aomori, the season is starting right now and I order 6 of them every other week from my Co-op until the season is over. 6 small ones cost 398 yen, not a bad price at all. These are eating out of hand apples, with the skin on! In fact the picture in my Co-op catalogue shows a group of smiling children all holding a whole apple with a bite taken out of it.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the quality of fruit and most other food in Japan is extremely good. It's true that uniform looks can be overemphasized. It's also true that you can find gimmicky food at wacky prices. God do overseas journalists love those...

It's also true that you can find bad food. But in general, the freshness, taste and quality of food, whether locally produced or imported, are beyond reproach, and paying more here for a particular product usually gets you a better version of that product, up until the law of diminishing returns sets in (that applies in most fields of production anyway, not just food). Sure, it's more expensive than many other places (though direct comparisons are not always appropriate - try fish for example). And subsidies are one but definitely not the only reason. Looking at it from the other side of the coin, you could argue that Americans (to take the article's country of origin) are almost rabidly devoted to low prices and high quantities. It's practically seen as a right. It hasn't necessarily served the food culture well though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The yaoya that supplies Hyotei in Kyoto didn't want to sell me his almost pornographically beautiful Arakawa peaches (450 yen each) because they were slightly off-season, but I was more than happy to shell out for them. It's been so long since I tasted a peach with any flavor at all, with juice that dribbles down the chin. I even loved looking at the way the downy skin peeled back so cleanly.

I think they'll have more difficulty finding a market outside of Japan, however. The Japanese luxury market in general is far more high-powered than anywhere else, and few people are willing to pay the price Japanese do for quality. Plus, they will have difficulty shipping fruit that is bred for flavor and appearance rather than long storage in overseas shipping containers. But if they want to give it a go, I'm ready to place an order any time. Those melons...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One interesting point from the article: "domestic farm subsidies, meanwhile, amount to about 1.4 percent of the gross domestic product, a figure greater than the entire value of Japan's annual farm production".  So, basically all those exported apples are subsidized by Japanese taxpayers, including the costs of marketing them.

Don't all subsidies involve that process though? Take the US, a heavy subsidizer and heavy exporter. I did a check on rice subsidies in Japan and America. These are the first stories I located where a figure is given:

Times, US subsidies

BBC, Japan subsidies

These figures are 2 billion dollars a year for Japan, and 1.3 billion dollars in a single year for the United States. And according to the Economist, the American rice subsidy accounts for 8 percent of total farm subsidies (link).

I'm aware that taking from 3 different sources could be a problem, and I'm open to suggestions on more accurate or better figures and ways to compare, but a few things are striking here. First of course, is that in pure dollar terms, whatever the total tonnage, America appears to be spending (in subsidies) over half of what Japan does to produce rice. In Japan's case though, its production sustains its population of 130 million people, and rice is unquestionably its most important crop. Additionally most of the rice produced is consumed domestically rather than exported, and almost all domestically consumed rice is Japanese. There is a restricted market to keep out exports, but I think the question of fair trade becomes moot if you read the Oxfam claims on how America subsidizes crops and what happens to the rice it produces.

This is always the problem with subsidies - questions of fair trade go right out the window. Is Japan's subsidy system less worthy if it allows a predominance of small, family run farms to survive than America's or Europe's, which may favour large and even corporate-scale businesses that in turn export to countries who can't compete?

Edited by Ohba (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm certainly not arguing in favor of "fair trade" or "free trade", whatever that may mean. I was just pointing out that as a story of successful marketing, it's less impressive if you have a free-flowing marketing budget and you can also sell your product for a lot less than it costs to produce.

Full disclosure: several years ago I actually worked on a marketing campaign aimed at exporting Japanese fruit (to Europe). The budget for the campaign was absurdly high compared to the actual sales volume at the time, but it was all subsidized, and the people in charge had to use up their budget by the end of the fiscal year or else get it cut in the future. So perhaps I have a jaundiced eye towards stories like this one.

One other point about the high level of farm subsidies in Japan is that it's an artifact of the peculiar electoral system where rural voters have much more power proportionally than urban voters. (Perhaps the same is true in the US, I don't know.) But I have nothing against government subsidies in general, especially when they go towards supporting a diverse crop of locally grown foods, rather than, say, artificially cheap corn syrup.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, I agree with you on quite a few points, probably most of them. Personally, though, I'm not a huge fan of farm subsidies in the first place, and the distortion you mention is one of those absurdities that subsidies tend to give rise to. It's been quite interesting hunting around on the net for figures, in terms of things I didn't know about before. Some of the US figures are very illuminating - this was originally a fruit thread, so I guess I shouldn't hijack it any further - but I'd recommend having a look at the tonnage produced (similar to Japan's), and annual rice income (not impressive considering the subsidy; the USDA website has the stats). I mention these because Japan's well known for its carefully protected and heavily subsidized rice industry, and journalists rarely miss opportunities to mention it (as in the article on fruit that started this thread). American rice subsidies seem to be less well known, or at least less talked about.

Edited by Ohba (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree that really expensive fruit is often not very tasty - maybe it was once, but I think it tends to sit on the shelf while buyers go for cheaper alternatives!

Apples: tart, green apples...I guess that's just a pleasure I will have to enjoy outside Japan.

However, for the past...10 years?...I've been ordering 6 months' worth of apples by the carton from Tsugaru Kanjuku Ringo Kenkyuu-kai. I only order the cheapest (cooking/juice apples) but I find them much better quality than supermarket apples. The price works out to about 500 yen per kilo, which is cheap at the beginning of the season and expensive by the end of the season, but even two teenage boys can't get through 10kg of apples in one sitting, so they're a bargain as far as I'm concerned!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's interesting that the rice subsidies in the US and Japan seem to have opposite effects from a consumer point of view (if I may continue the topic hijack a little further). In Japan support is in the form of price support, and the price level here is five times the average in the rest of the world. Rice is also Japan's biggest agricultural product (35% of total agricultural output), so perhaps subsidies are relatively more important.

If you like reading economic statistics about agriculture, the PSE ("producer support estimate" or "producer subsidy equivalent") figures from the OECD seem to put everything together and measure things on the same scale. Producer support percentages in Japan are about three times as high as in the US, and around ten times as high as Australia. And every cow in Japan receives $7.50 a day in government subsidies. (No wonder they can afford all that beer.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 9 months later...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...