According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the most popular vegetable in Japan is the daikon radish, beating out onions and cabbage. Both the white roots and green tops are eaten throughout the year in many ways: raw, pickled, as sprouts, dried and simmered. Daikon are available year-round, but winter varieties are thought to have the sweetest flavor, perfectly suited to hot, simmered dishes.

Radishes most likely originated in the Mediterranean region, but they had already reached Japan by the 3rd or 4th century — although initially only the green tops were eaten. The tender young leaves of the radish plant have been included as one of the nanakusa, the seven herbs that are traditionally eaten in rice porridge in January to wish for health and longevity during the year.

While the greens are rich in vitamins and minerals, the most versatile part of the vegetable is the root, which became widely cultivated during the early Muromachi Period (1392-1573).