Japanese American Traditions

Summer Food: Nibbling in “Natsu”

The four seasons are an integral part of Japanese culture. Because Japan’s climate has four distinct seasons during the year—spring, summer, winter and autumn—each season has inspired its own unique celebrations and customs. Many Japanese Americans continue these traditions and have integrated them with mainstream cultural traditions in the United States.

Nowhere is this more evident than during the summer (natsu), a time of upbeat, relaxing get-togethers and lots of food. There are many light, refreshing foods in Japanese cuisine that Japanese Americans have incorporated into their traditional “4th of July” picnics and backyard barbecues. Some of these include:

Teriyaki: Marinated and broiled beef, fish or chicken. Onigiri: Rice balls, often filled with fish or Japanese pickles and covered with sesame seeds or dried seaweed.

Somen: Noodles made of wheat flour and seasoned with a light sauce comprised of soup stock, sweet rice vinegar, soy sauce and sugar, often with grated ginger and green onions as condiments.

Japanese eggplants (nasu): Smaller than western eggplants and sometimes shaped differently, they are at their peak in summer and are versatile vegetables that can be boiled, grilled, steamed, simmered, fried, pickled or served as a topping for cold noodles.

The Japanese American National Museum features a wide variety of cookbooks (containing many beloved family recipes), utensils, Asian vegetable seeds, and other items to help make your summer delicious and fun. Try them and enjoy!

June 2002

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