We often read about Japanese foods that foreign residents and tourists don't much care for. But which items do Japanese themselves disdain, with the reaction Kuwazu, kirai. (I won't eat it -- I hate it)? Nikkan Taishu (May 8) ran the results of a survey conducted by Voice Note, a web site that wants to know what people think about, well, everything.
The 200 subjects of this particular survey, conducted nationwide, were males and females ranging in age from their 20s to their 80s. The five most unpopular foods were gleaned from their responses.
In 5th place, with 3% of respondents was namako (sea cucumber). An invertebrate related to starfish and sea urchins, the sea cucumber can be found in all parts of Japan. Three species are distinguished by their colors, which are red, blue and black. In past times it was often served in soups, but now it's common to slice it up and consume with a vinegar topping. Its entrails, referred to as konowata, can be pickled in brine and eaten. Namako is considered a delicacy in China, where it is preserved by drying and then prepared by stewing it. The creature appears to owe its unpopularity to both its inelegant appearance and its jellylike, slippery consistency.
In 4th place, with 4.5%, was celery, an import that was originally brought to Japan by Dutch traders during the Edo period. "I don't like its smell or its taste," remarked one subject, a man in his 40s. This distinctive aroma comes from apiol, a substance also found in parsley that is said to calm moods and have beneficial effects on the stomach lining.
Two items tied for the next places both with 6.5% of the replies. One was natto (fermented soybeans), and the other goya, also known as bitter melon. Natto, which can be consumed in a variety of dishes such as in omelets or mixed with raw tuna, is a regional food and people in the Kansai area are known to heartily dislike it, both for its pungent odor and slimy consistency. The article notes that a new odorless type of natto has been marketed, and suggests readers keep an open mind because it is, after all, an inexpensive source of protein with numerous health benefits. As for goya, some people apparently have trouble with its bitter taste. The food has been riding the crest of the boom in Okinawan cuisine, and its consumption has been said to help people recover from summer heat. More Japanese have been growing it in their gardens and grind it into a paste to use as sunscreen, but avoid consuming it.
Finally, the least popular food, stated by 7.5% of respondents, was the green pepper. It is widely cultivated by farmers in Ibaraki, Miyazaki, Kagoshima and Kochi prefectures, and contains both vitamins and flavonoids, so it's certainly beneficial for health. The problem is, many people don't like its characterstically bitter taste -- which can be reduced to some degree by cooking in oil, for instance as an ingredient in tempura.
From the above, the writer notes, it's clear that many Japanese have a low resistance to bitter foods. There were plenty of others in this category they avoid due to their being nama kusai (having a fishy smell), as well as tomatos, liver, umeboshi (pickled plums) and cucumbers.© Japan Today