Ingredients in Japan: Fruits & Vegetables

This post is part of a series about the differences in ingredients between Japan and the U.S. When I first arrived in Japan, I had a lot of trouble at times because I wasn’t used to these differences, so hopefully this information is helpful! For the full list of posts in this series, see this page.

fruitCurrently in season (November – December): persimmons and mikan.

Most fruits and vegetables go by their English names written in katakana: for example, avocado is called アボカド (abokado), so it’s easy to ask for or recognize them. In other cases, I have included the Japanese name.

There are so many fruits and vegetables that this page is kind of overwhelming. Also, I still sometimes come across fruits or vegetables that I’ve never seen before in Japan, so if you’re wondering about something that you don’t see here, leave a comment and I’ll let you know!

FRUIT
apple: common all year, ranges in price from cheap to expensive. In season in fall and winter. Japanese: りんご, ringo.
apricot: uncommon but available in summer; also sold dried
avocado: common all year round
banana: common and cheap year-round
berries: expensive and seasonal; strawberries and blueberries are available in summer. Strawberries are sold in December because they are popular at Christmas. Other berries are rare or unavailable.
cherries: available in spring and summer. Usually two varieties: American, which are called チェリー, cherii, and Japanese, which are 桜ん坊, sakuranbou.
citrus: There are many types of Japanese citrus, most of which are not found in other countries. Many are seasonal and sold in winter. Some common types are mikan (similar to clementines), yuzu, kinkan (kumquats), dekopon, kabosu, and sudachi. See this article for more.
figs: available in summer. Japanese: いちじく, ichijiku.
grapefruit: often available, especially in winter
grapes: seasonal; available in fall and winter. Many varieties are sold, but most of them have seeds and thick, hard-to-digest skin, so they must be peeled. Japanese: ぶどう, budou.
kiwi: usually available
lemon: always available; price varies
lime: quite rare, but can be found at certain supermarkets
mango: seasonal
melon: several types available, such as watermelon, cantaloupe, and winter melon, especially in fall and winter, but expensive
nectarine/peach: available in summer, generally expensive. Japanese: 桃, momo.
orange: Western-style oranges are sold, but native Japanese citrus are more common (see above).
pear: Western pears are sometimes available. “Asian pear”, called nashi in Japanese, is quite different, but is available in summer.
persimmon: seasonal and cheap in October-November. Japanese: 柿, kaki.
pineapple: usually available; price varies
plum: available in summer; Western type is called プラム, puramu, while the Japanese variety is called 梅, ume.
pomegranate: occasionally available (though expensive) in fall/winter. Japanese: ざくろ, zakuro.
quince: common in fall. Japanese: かりん, karin.

Other fruits are sometimes available seasonally. I have seen dragonfruit, akebi, and loquats (Japanese: biwa).

Vegetables
artichoke: have not seen
asparagus: available year-round; price varies
bamboo: bamboo shoots (takenoko) are sometimes available; menma is a kind of fermented bamboo used as a ramen topping.
beet: have not seen
bell pepper: usually available. Japanese: パプリカ, papurika.
bitter melon: usually available. Japanese: ゴーヤ, gouya.
bok choy: usually available. Japanese: ちんげんさい, chingensai.
broccoli: available year-round but price varies a lot depending on the season
brussels sprouts: available seasonally in winter. Japanese: 芽キャベツ, mekyabetsu.
cabbage: always available and usually cheap. Both Western cabbage and Napa cabbage (Japanese: 白菜, hakusai) are sold.
carrot: available year-round. Japanese: にんじん, ninjin.
cauliflower: sometimes available; always expensive and often not good quality
chili pepper: hot peppers (tougarashi) are sometimes available fresh, but more commonly dried. The most common kind of pepper is shishito, which are usually sweet, but occasionally hot.
corn: fresh corn is available for a time in the summer, but even at the cheapest it is expensive (rarely under 100 yen / about $1 per ear). Japanese: とうもろこし, toumorokoshi.
cucumber: available year-round; cheap in summer
eggplant: usually available. Japanese variety is smaller than Western. Japanese: なす, nasu.
fennel: have not seen
garlic: always available. Japanese: にんにく, ninniku.
ginger: fresh roots are always available and cheap; myouga, a related vegetable, is also common.
green beans: sometimes available; more expensive than in the U.S. Also available frozen. Japanese: いんげん, ingen.
greens: many varieties are sold, but many are unique to Japan or Asia. Spinach is always available (Japanese: ほうれん草, hourensou), as are arugula (rukora) and a few types of lettuce. Mixed salad greens are also sold. Common Japanese greens include 春菊, shungiku (chrysanthemum leaves), mizuna (used in nabe or salad), komatsuna (similar to spinach), mitsuba (similar to parsley), nanohana (similar to broccoli rabe), and nira (garlic chives).
leek family: Long green onions, or naganegi, are common and available year-round, as are the smaller konegi (green onions). There are several similar varieties, such as rakkyou (Chinese scallions), which are often pickled.
okra: sometimes available
onion: available year-round. Variations (red onion, shallots) are hit-and-miss, but are sometimes sold. Japanese: 玉ねぎ, tamanegi.
peas: snow peas are usually available. Green peas are not common. I have seen bagged frozen green peas at only one place.
potato: available year-round. Japanese: じゃがいも, jagaimo.
radish: small red radishes are sometimes available. Giant white radish, or daikon, is always available.
rhubarb: have not seen
root vegetables: Besides daikon, renkon (lotus root) and gobou (burdock root) are always available, as are taro, yamaimo and nagaimo (types of tubers).
rutabaga: have not seen
soybeans: available fresh seasonally; always available frozen. Japanese: 枝豆, edamame.
sprouts: daikon sprouts (kaiware), mung bean sprouts (moyashi), soybean sprouts (toumyou), and broccoli sprouts are common year-round. I have sometimes seen alfalfa sprouts as well.
squash: the most common type is kabocha, similar in taste to butternut squash. Zucchini is sometimes available in summer.
sweet potato: Japanese sweet potato is quite different from Western sweet potato. It is yellow inside with purple skin, and both sweeter and more starchy.
tomato: Usually available, but expensive in winter. Cheap and more widely available in summer.
turnip: sometimes available (white and red varieties). Japanese: かぶ, kabu.

There are many other specialty vegetables that are available for short times during the year, for example, romanesco, fuki (butterbur), and yurine (lily root).

Frozen fruits & veggies
Unfortunately not nearly as popular as in the U.S., probably because of lack of freezer space. You can usually find broccoli, corn, kabocha, spinach, and green beans. For fruit, I see blueberries most often, but sometimes strawberries and mango.

Dried fruit
Commonly available: apricots, figs, mango, persimmons, pineapple, prunes, raisins, and tomatoes. Others are sold at import stores or specialty shops.

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