A samurai party —
pungent as daikon radish
their conversation!
— Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)

By a wide margin, more land in Japan is devoted to the cultivation of the humble daikon than any other vegetable crop. This said, it is not surprising to see the vegetable influence so many aspects of Japanese cultural life. In addition to the humble root's inclusion — in one form or another — in practically every family meal, it makes appearances everywhere from the alleyway food stalls to the local shrine, from the pages of classical and pop literature to the cartoons of the erotic shunga woodblock prints.

The daikon found its way into the Japanese kitchen by way of China, where it had migrated centuries earlier — in the form of small piquant radishes — from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Once the radish reached Southeastern and Eastern Asia, the process of improving its size and variety began. While several types of the large radish remain an important staple in some other Asian countries, no place rivals Japan in the varied cultivation of the daikon and outright obsession with it.