The movement of the year through the four seasons is an important concept in Japanese culture. While elements of seasonality crop up all over the place in Japanse culture, one of the strongest places it manifests is through food. There’s even a word for how the seasons manifest in food-- “shun”. Shun basically refers to the window of time in which foods are freshest and most flavorful. Or, put more simply, what tastes best for each season. With all that in mind, in Japan it is said that autumn is the perfect time of year to have a hearty appetite. Seasonal foods can generally be split into three categories--seasonal seafood, determined by the migration patterns of fish in the ocean surrounding japan, seasonal fruits and seasonal vegetables, which are determined by the growing season and local climate.
Seafood for autumn includes saba, or mackerel, and sanma, known in English as the Pacific Saury. Both are usually eaten grilled and are known for a strong, salty flavor and oily texture. Autumn vegetables include satsumaimo, the japanese sweet potato, kabocha, or japanese pumpkin, chestnuts, and most notably the matsutake mushroom. Matsutake mushrooms only grow under very specific conditions and are usually not intentionally cultivated, making them quite rare and therefore rather expensive. The fruits of autumn include persimmons, figs, and two varieties native japanese citrus fruit called yuzu and sudachi. The flavor of yuzu is something like a meeting point between a mandarin orange and lemon, making it a popular addition to desserts.Whereas sudachi is closer in flavor to lime, earning it a spot seasoning seafood. With all these wonderful ingredients at the ready it’s easy to see why autumn is considered the time of year to cozy up and chow down.