Cabbage was first introduced to Japan in the early 17th century by Dutch traders via the port at Nagasaki. It was then called "oranda-na," or “Dutch vegetable,” and was primarily regarded as an ornamental plant — it wasn’t until the Meiji Era (1868-1912) that edible cabbage began to be cultivated in Japan itself, where it was grown mainly for the newly arriving foreigners settling in Yokohama. At that time, and up until World War II, it was called “kanran” alongside its current name: “kyabetsu.”

Nowadays, several types of cabbage are cultivated here — none more sought after than spring cabbage.

Although spring cabbage is very tender, it isn't well-suited to Japan’s traditional method of eating the vegetable raw, finely shredded and served as an accompaniment to deep-fried foods. This is because the leaves are too soft and do not stand up well to shredding.