The slightly acrid smell of roasting chestnuts in the air is one of the fixtures of autumn in Japan, and heading to the countryside for some chestnut picking is one of the popular autumn activities for Japanese.
The chestnuts fall to the ground and split when ripe, and the seeds inside are pickled from their spiky shell.
One of the most common way to enjoy these mildly sweet nuts is by roasting them over charcoal, and you can often see street stalls selling these by the roadside. Those from the Tanba region in the north of Kyoto are particularly famed for being big and perfectly shaped, as well as for their sweetness. These used to be presented as offerings to the Emperor and Shogun over 1,000 years ago.
Another favorite way to enjoy these nuts is to boil them with rice, for kurimeshi (chestnut rice).
The taste and texture of chestnuts also makes them perfect for use in desserts.
You will see mont blancs (a sponge cake dressed in chestnut cream and topped with a candied chestnut or marron glace) being offered in most patisseries.
In wagashi shops, or Japanese confectionery shops, you will see the kurikinton — a chestnut-shaped wagashi made of chestnut paste and sugar.
And of course, don’t miss out on the seasonal limited editions of classic souvenir snacks, such as Iwate Prefecture’s Kamome no Tamago (Seagull’s Eggs) with chestnut paste inside!
Shun (旬) translates directly into “season”, but strictly speaking in Japan refers to the ten days in which a food (be it a fruit, vegetable, fish or dish) is deemed to be at its tastiest and best period in which it is to be eaten. 季節（kisetsu), which also translates into “season”, refers to six periods within each season (spring, summer, autumn, winter), according to the solar calendar in which a change in the season is deemed to occur – an indication of the Japanese sensitivity to changes in the weather and climate, and its impact on crops and catches of the day. 「A Taste of Sh旬n」aims to bring you the freshest and best harvests, catches and dishes of the day.