The Roots of Kakinohasushi

Kakinohasushi (Sushi wrapped inside a persimmon leaf) has been served at summer festivals of villages around the Yoshino River since the mid-Edo period (1651~1745). It was created as a long-life food. Kakinoha (persimmon leaf) sterilizes and improves the taste of the marinated fish. Fish was preserved in salt in order to prevent rot and then carried to the village. The sushi brings great flavor and taste as the result of combining three ingredients together: mackerel as sea harvest, persimmon leaf as mountain harvest, and rice as earth harvest. Kakinohasushi serves as an appreciation of the ingredients, which were harvested or caught, and the sincerity of the person who eats them. These thought have been respected by Japanese since ancient times.

Kakinohasushi was served at festivals during the very hot summertime. Mackerels are precious seafood around the Mt. Yoshino area that was carried by traveling vendors from Kumano (Wakayama Prefecture) in July. The mackerel was marinated with sea salt in order to prevent rot. Therefore, it tasted very salty; enough to make one cringe. People wanted to improve the taste of sushi by wrapping it into a persimmon leaf; they were harvested locally based on the wisdom of their ancestors’. Homemade Kakinohasushi was served at summer festivals and eaten for a period of seven to ten days. (These days, it would expire in three days).

Kakinohasushi is very beneficial for one’s health and exhibits a unique flavor. The unique flavor is based on the production technique. Rice with a mackerel piece on top was compressed with a weight inside a wooden sushi rice barrel. After three to four days, the rice was well immersed in both saltiness and sweetness. This process increased the umami taste (pleasant savory taste) of the rice and the mackerel after lactic fermentation. All these different flavors combined to achieve a delicious balance on its taste. Only authentic Kakinohasushi was made in such manner. A variety of health benefits of Kakinohasushi have been documented. The amazing discovery of our ancestors was to wrap sushi inside a persimmon leaf for preservation. Persimmon leaves have antibacterial and disinfectant properties that are suitable for food preservative.

Persimmons have a lot of uses. They are regarded as a precious sweet since ancient times. Persimmons were also used for dying fabric. Astringent persimmons were crushed into juice and fermented to activate its chemicals for dying. Persimmon-dyed clothing is antibacterial and waterproofing so that it has been used for many purposes such as rain gear, fishing-nets, and housing. Therefore, persimmon trees were planted in every house because of their wide applicability. Nara Prefecture now has the second largest production of persimmons in Japan. Kakinohasushi from Nara are sold widely and successfully even in other prefectures. The fish used as sushi, the size of leaf, and the wrapping style differ from region to region. The shape, size, and flavor of Kakinohasushi have been adapted to the popular taste in different times. Kakinohasushi is one of the most popular and traditional Japanese sushi dishes, coming out of the Yoshino River area; it has been passed on over generations since the Edo period.

Wrapping sushi inside the persimmon leaf symbolizes two concepts: “Appreciation of the ingredients” and “Sincerity of those who eat it”. Kakinohasushi is embedded in Japanese and Nara’s local culture as a food, which is favored not only Japanese but also connoisseurs all over the world.

  • Association for the Study of Nara’s Food and Culture (2007), “Deai Yamato no Aji” (“Encounter with Yamato’s taste”), Nara Newspaper Inc., page 207. ISBN 488856065X
  • Noriko, Tomioka (2005), “Yamato no Kyoudoryouri” (“Yamato’s Local Cuisine”), Nara Newspaper Inc., page 36. ISBN 9784888560542
  • Junichiro, Tanizaki (1933/1995), “In ei Raisan” (“In Praise of the Shadows”), Chuokoron-Shinsha Inc., ISBN 4122024137

※All references are available only in Japanese.

Restaurants serving Kakinohasushi:
  • Kakinohasushi Yamato (Gojo Main Store)
    Tel: +81-0747-23-1955
    Address: 3-2-2 Gojo, Gojo City, Nara, 637-0042 Japan
  • Kakinohasushi Hiraso
    Tel: +81-0742-22-0866
    Address: 30-1, Imamikado-cho, Nara City, Nara, 630-8374 Japan
  • Yamatozen Tamayura
    Tel: +81-742-35-2300
    Address: 4-25 Shichijyo Higashimachi, Nara City, Nara, 630-8052 Japan