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Traditional dried daikon bound for Milan expo

Chunichi Shimbun

Kanboshi daikon, radish preserved using a traditional freeze-dried technique from the town of Kamioka in Hida, Gifu Prefecture, will be showcased in Expo Milano 2015, the next Universal Exhibition to be held in Milan, Italy, from May 1 to Oct. 31.

The daikon will be included in an Italian dish prepared by Masaki Okada, a 38-year-old chef born in Kamioka who currently resides in Milan, and will be served to visitors at the Japan Pavilion.

Okada says he hopes to introduce Japanese regional food to the rest of the world in cooperation with local producers.

Kanboshi daikon is produced by local women who belong to Suzushiro Group in Yamanomura, a remote district in Kamioka that has a population of about 160.

Located at an elevation of around 1,000 meters and hit by heavy snowfall in winter, the area has produced kanboshi daikon for several hundred years.

The group was created by the women in 1986 when they realized the food was a good source of income in winter.

Daikon harvested in the district is boiled and sliced before it is hung out to dry in the cold for about a month.

The sweetness and crunchiness of the vegetable is brought out through the repeated process of natural freezing and defrosting.

Kanboshi daikon, which returns to its original form by soaking in warm water, can be used in stewed dishes, salads and sukiyaki.

Two years ago it was included in the Honba no Honmono (Authentic Local Specialty) brand maintained by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to recognize food culture unique to certain regions.

Other certified brands from Gifu Prefecture, including dojohachiyagaki dried persimmon from Minokamo and Takahara sansho pepper from Takayama, will also be showcased in the expo among some 40 food items from all over Japan.

Other food items from the Chubu region to be featured include Hatcho miso, a unique miso brand from Mikawa, Aichi Prefecture, and Ise takuan pickled radish from Mie Prefecture.

After graduating from high school, Okada trained as a chef at hotels and Japanese-style inns in Takayama. He moved to Italy seven years ago, captivated by the beautiful landscape, and in 2012 relocated to Milan, where he started working at a Japanese restaurant.

When he returned to his hometown temporarily last summer, he heard from Takuya Shimizu, a 38-year-old friend from high school and the son of Toshiko Shimizu, 68-year-old head of Suzushiro Group, that kanboshi daikon will be showcased at the expo.

“It was a strange coincidence but I’m excited that a food item from my hometown will be coming to Milan,” he said.

Asked by Toshiko Shimizu to come up with an Italian recipe using kanboshi daikon, Okada brought some radish back to Milan with him and is now creating a pasta and other dishes for the exposition.

“The simple flavor (of kanboshi daikon) matches the philosophy of Italian food,” he explained.

Okada also helps the group translate Japanese recipes into Italian via email.

Toshiko Shimizu will be visiting Milan for a week from May 10 and will be preparing dishes using kanboshi daikon in the Japan Pavilion, so that the two can demonstrate how kanboshi daikon can be arranged in both Japanese and Italian dishes.

Washoku was recently registered as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO and I want to make use of this opportunity to share the traditional food preservation method passed down for generations,” Shimizu said.

This section, featuring exclusive coverage from the Chubu region by the Chunichi Shimbun, until now a Saturday feature, will appear on Tuesdays in future. The original article was published on April 10.