- Main lore areas
All areas in Yamagata Prefecture
- Main ingredients used
Yamagata seisai mustard, salt, soy sauce, sugar, sake, shochu
- History/origin/related events
Yamagata Prefecture is known for its diverse pickling culture, with "Seisai mustard pickles" being one of its most popular varieties. These pickles are made from Yamagata seisai mustard, a type of leaf mustard, and are often paired with "Omizuke" to represent the prefecture's pickling traditions.
The "pickled seisai mustard" has its roots in Chongqing, China, and was introduced to Yamagata Prefecture in 1908. After a prototype was made at the Agricultural Experiment Station, it was found to be superior in quality to other pickled greens like "bok choy", Chinese cabbage, and spinach. This led to the cultivation of "Yamagata seisai mustard", which began in the Murayama region and later spread throughout the prefecture during the Showa era.
"Yamagata seisai mustard" is characterized by its large, broad leaves - measuring 70 cm to 80 cm in length - and thick stems. Each plant weighs around 500 grams and has a unique pungent taste and crunchy texture. To make the pickles, the greens are lightly dried in the sun, pickled in salt, rinsed carefully, and then pickled again in a sauce made from soy sauce, kelp, dried bonito flakes, and other ingredients.
The harvest season for "Yamagata seisai mustard" is from late October to mid-November, and the greens are dried in the sun after harvesting. It's a common sight to see households drying the greens and preparing pickles in their yards during the early winter months.
- Opportunities and times of eating habits
"Yamagata’s seisai mustards" are harvested between late October and mid-November. In the past, large quantities of pickles were made and consumed until early spring. They are still an important part of the New Year's table. Nowadays, families that grow "Yamagata seisai mustard" still make their own pickles, but most people buy them from supermarkets and other stores.
- How to eat
"Seisai mustard pickles" are known for their distinctively sharp taste and crispy texture. They are often enjoyed alongside freshly cooked rice. In the Shonai region, there is a local specialty known as "Benkei-meshi," which consists of a round rice ball coated with miso, wrapped in pickled greens, and grilled to a light char. In some areas, seisai mustard pickles turn a tortoiseshell color and become slightly sour in early spring. They are then stir-fried or boiled.
- Efforts for Preservation and Succession
(Outline of the traditions, the preservation society, social media use, modern approaches at commercialization)
Nowadays, it’s easier to purchase ready-made products from supermarkets and direct sales outlets instead of making it at home.