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Editor’s Notes

Japanese cuisine is characterized by the taste of the dishes and also the beauty of the appearance. Different kinds of leaves and flowers are served with the dish in Japanese cuisine, but did you know that there is a specific meaning for each flower or leaf? Knowing the background will help you enjoy the food even more. Today, we are going to explain the meaning of the different leaves and flowers.

Contents

1. Kaishiki Is a Must in Japanese Cuisine

2. The Meaning of Kaishiki Leaf

3. The Meaning Behind Kaishiki Flowers

4. Before We End

1. Kaishiki Is a Must in Japanese Cuisine

A leaf beneath a dish or a flower served with a dish is called “kaishiki.” It originally was used for an antiseptic and a deodorizer effect. But today, it is used more to express the season or imbed one is wishes.
Let’s look at the history of kaishiki. When there were no bowls or plates made with clay (such as earthenware and pottery), people used a leaf or something made by weaving leaves as a bowl or plate. Even after leaves were not used as bowls anymore, the custom to put a leaf beneath a dish remained to prevent the odor of the earthenware transmit to the food.

Shigematsu | Pocket Concierge

2. The Meaning of Kaishiki Leaf

Pine needle

It is served as a symbol of longevity. It can be used for daily dishes but it is used especially for celebratory occasions.

Bamboo leaf

It is used to express one is wish for healthy growth. This is based on the fact that bamboos grow fast, which is why bamboo and bamboo leaf is served with festival food.

Heavenly bamboo

It is used to ward off evil. The Japanese name has meaning of changing hardships, and is used for celebrations.

Gleichenia japonica

It is used for sanctification as the Japanese name shows cleanliness as well as its appearance. The leaves are grown as a pair, so it is also used to signify a married couple that has a good relationship.

Daphniphyllum macropodum

It is put on a plate to a change in the generation, as when new bud springs out, the old leaf falls as though it is rendering its place.

Holly

The needle-shaped protrusion around the leaves is thought to ward off evil and sickness since “ogars” tend to dislike it. It is used as a standard choice for kaishiki for setsubun (a day before the beginning of spring) dishes as it is a leaf to avoid ogar.

Kappo Higashiyama | Pocket Concierge

Mugwort

It has been used to drive out evil spirits since ancient times as it contains many medical properties. The fragrance and bitter taste is characteristic and is used for mochi and dumplings like kusamochi and kusadango.

Paper mulberry leaf

It has been considered to be a tree to be offered to the gods since ancient times and has been served with dishes for celebratory occasions.

Kudzu leaf

It is often used to express the season, as it is one of the seven fall herbs. Since it is a three-leafed plant, it serves to various roles, such as putting in beneath a dish instead of a plate or a bowl or putting it beneath pottery to prevent it from scratching.

Barron plant

It has been used for the purpose of wrapping food and storing it since the leaves are large. However, today, it is often used at sushi restaurants after applying a decorative cut.

Japanese maple

It is often used to express the season of summer to fall. It accentuates the dishes by using it when it is a vibrant green color during the early summer to fall and when it has turned red during later fall.

Magnolia leaf

The fan-shaped leaf was used in ancient times to wrap food. Today, it is used from early summer until early fall by putting it beneath food so you can enjoy the green color and the fragrance of the leaf and transmitting the fragrance by wrapping grilled food.

Lotus leaf

The large bowl-shaped leaf is used as a bowl for chilled dishes by putting ice in the bowl made with the leaf, expressing the season. Lotus leaf also has a special meaning in Buddhism, which is why it is often used in August during the obon season.

Gingko leaf

It is often served to express the season from summer until fall. Green gingko leaves are used during summer. In the fall, the leaf will have a beautiful yellow gradient color, which is used to show the passing of the season.

Persimmon leaf

It is served to express the season of fall. Persimmon leaves have a unique color in the fall depending on the place. The beautiful and fun colors makes it an invaluable kaishiki to express the fall. As it also has an antiseptic effect, it is also used in “persimmon leaf sushi” that wraps a kind of sushi with a astringent persimmon leaf that has been dipped in salt water.

3. The Meaning Behind Kaishiki Flowers


Yoshifuku | Pocket Concierge

Cherry blossom

Cherry blossoms are beloved in Japan as a national flower and is used in various ways, depending on the change of the flower. For example, a branch may be served together with the flower. When the petals have started to fall, a chef may put a petal on the food.

Camellia

Camellias have been considered a flower suitable to admire since ancient times. It is also used as a “tea flower” that is arranged in a tea room that came to be with the development of the tea ceremony tradition. This is why it is also called the “queen of tea flowers.”

Japanese pampas grass ears

It is a famous offering flower of the night with the full moon. As the opened ear looks like the tail of an animal, it is also called “obana” that means tail flower. A young Japanese pampas grass without bloomed flowers is considered to be ideal when used as a kaishiki.

Chrysanthemum

It is served to express wishes for longevity. It is often used to express fall to show the seasons.

4. Before We End

We looked at different kinds of kaishiki. The kaishiki served with the dishes are used to create a desired atmosphere, so it is not intended to be eaten. If you find the served dishes hard to eat because of the kaishiki, you can be creative and push it towards the corner of a plate.

Ajisho Teraoka | Pocket Concierge

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