Kaki, better known as Persimmons to those from the West, grow everywhere in Japan. For those who don’t know much about this fruit, it has a sweet, rich flavor and a soft texture. There are many kinds of kaki which can grow in Japan’s moderate climate. This fruit can be eaten by itself, but can also be used in many sweet dishes (mainly desserts).
There are two main types of kaki in Japan: the sweet one which can be eaten as soon as you cut it, and the bitter one which must be dried or processed before it can be consumed.
One of the main producers of kaki in Japan is Gojo-shi, a city in the Nara Prefecture. One of the methods used to process bitter kaki to make the fruit edible comes from Gojo-shi. Drying the kaki under the sun is the oldest method that is used: it helps in sealing in the tannin which causes the fruit’s bitterness and concentrates the fruit’s sugar content to produce a very sweet dried piece of fruit.
Also located in Gojo-shi is the Kaki Persimmon Museum (Kaki Hakubutsukan), easily recognisable by its giant kaki shaped dome. This is the only museum dedicated to the persimmon in Japan. There are about 158 kinds of kaki on display in this museum, and it is also a research facility that cultivates kaki varieties from all over the country. The Kaki Hakubutsukan also processes kaki and gets them ready to be eaten.
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Fermented kaki juice produces kakishibu (tannin-rich persimmon juice), which has a number of useful effects. For example, as it repels water, it can waterproof fans and umbrellas. The kaki leaves can also be used, a special kind of sushi called ‘oshizushi’ needs kaki leaves to be wrapped in. The dried skin of the kaki fruit is also used in the process of the making of nukazuke (a type of Japanese pickle), it helps with increasing the flavor and sweetness of the fermented pickles.
Kaki is a popular autumn and winter fruit in Japan, and it is quite delicious. When I was a kid, I was told that my cold would be cured if I eat this fruit. Kaki can be easily bought from supermarkets all over Japan (and also in many other countries, usually as imported fruit), so go grab one and see how good it is for yourself!
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