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BEGIN Japanology

Sep. 20, Thu.


The abalone is a shellfish found along Japan's rocky coastline. Abalone have shallow, spiral shells that look like dishes, and they have been treasured by the Japanese since ancient times.

Abalone is delicious raw, boiled, or grilled. Dried abalone in particular is a fine delicacy, and it was once such an important export to China that the shoguns outlawed its consumption within Japan.

Abalone have long been considered auspicious. They are an essential part of sacred Shinto offerings on festive occasions. Centuries ago, samurai ate abalone before heading off to battle.

In the late 19th century, Japanese entrepreneurs brought abalone cuisine to the world. And today, methods to increase abalone production are being tried out in many parts of Japan.

On this edition of BEGIN Japanology, our theme is abalone. We'll trace the long history of this shellfish in Japan and what it tells us about Japanese culture and cuisine.