There is a shrine in Ama, Aichi Prefecture, dedicated to Japan’s only god of pickles.
It was said that Prince Yamatotakeru, a mythical hero, passed by Kayatsu Shrine once and the villagers served him some pickles, which he declared to be “food for the gods.”
Residents are now trying to establish this legendary food as a local specialty.
Japanese pickles are believed to have originated at Kayatsu Shrine, which used to be near the sea. To prevent their offerings to the gods from rotting, the villagers placed the vegetables in jars of salt, creating the first batch of preservatives.
Every year in August, those in the business gather at the shrine to hold a pickles festival to pray for prosperity, bringing cucumbers and eggplants fermented in salt and a sour sauce as offerings.
The preserves originally created for the offerings are extremely salty, so much so that one can see the white salt residue on the vegetables once they are dried. To dilute this, the women soak them in sweet rice wine to soften the flavor and enhance the taste.
Every season, preserved vegetables are prepared at the shrine and sent to Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya. Since the pickles are made in bulk, there are always leftovers. So Sumako Aoki, wife of the head priest, came up with the idea of marketing them.
After trial and error with the female shrine parishioners, the group managed to perfect the taste and started selling the pickles as a specialty product of the shrine. Although Kayatsu Shrine is believed to be where pickles originated, it does not actually sell local products and is not well-known.
“I want people to know that we are still using the traditional method to make preserved pickles,” said Aoki.
If all goes well, the shrine plans to hold tasting sessions for visitors sometime later this summer.
This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on June 14.