A Short History of Japan’s Favorite 7-Flavor Shichimi Spice

A bowl of the Japanese seven-flavor Shichimi Togarashi spice.

The Japanese seven-flavor Shichimi Togarashi spice. (Image: Jun Ohwada via Flickr)

“Variety is the spice of life.” You must have heard this expression many times. Turns out, it is truly more than just a catchphrase. It can also be applied to the foods we eat. Research shows that people who incorporate a variety of food in their diets are healthier, happier, and also live longer. Japanese people have created Shichimi, a particular spice that they love. Seven, in the Japanese language, is “shichi” and “mi” translates to taste. The spice is made with seven ingredients or “seven tastes.”

Yawataya Isogoro

The Yawataya Isogoro Company was founded by a spice merchant named Kan’emon. It all started in 1736 when he began selling Shichimi Togarashi in the area surrounding the Zenkoji Temple, which is located close to Nishiyama, northwest of Nagano City. It’s well known for producing top-quality hemp.

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Receive selected content straight into your inbox.

It was a very active time for merchants who used to carry goods to Edo (Tokyo), and other parts of the country. Nishiyama’s soil was perfect for growing chili peppers, black sesame, ginger, and perilla. But the spice was missing a special flavor, and so orange peel was added. Orange peels were dried and carried from Kamigata.

Yawataya Isogoro was then able to produce a unique blend of 7 spices and called it Shichimi Togarashi. The traveling merchants used to set up small stands in front of shrines or temples where they sold the spice blend. Originally the mixture was first sold in pharmacies for its medicinal properties. Other manufacturers then began to produce it as well.

The Yagenbori Shichimi Togarashi Shin-nakamise head store.
The Yagenbori Shichimi Togarashi Shin-nakamise head store. (Image: Kentin via Wikimedia Commons)

The flavor of shichimi

Traditional shichimi has black sesame, hemp seed, Japanese pepper, citrus peel, poppy seeds, seaweed, and shiso, an aromatic Japanese herb. The spice is hot because it has pepper as its base ingredient. But there are also hotter blends that use takanotsume, which is known as hawk claw chili pepper. The name comes from the pepper’s pointed shape.

The Shichimiya Honpo Shop, one of the oldest spice manufacturers in Japan, started trading in 1655 in front of Kyoto’s Kiyomizu Temple. Shichimiya’s shop still operates there, selling their own shichimi seven-spice blend, dashi soup stock, and sansho pepper spices.

Traditional Japanese cuisine does not usually include hot spices, but shichimi is nevertheless a well-balanced spice. It’s not like the typical Asian “in your face” chilly condiments like sriracha or sambal oelek. Shichimi is generally used on Japanese noodles, or on rice topped with stewed beef.

Shichimi Togarashi on a beef dish.
Shichimi Togarashi on a beef dish. (Image: Jules via Flickr)

A versatile spice

The blend is versatile enough to be used in Western dishes as well. You may add it to tuna dishes or chicken salad for a unique tingle. A pinch of the condiment goes a long way as the heat is a slow flavor burn. Available worldwide, you can also try experimenting with this delectable spice. How about adding a pinch to creamy mayo? It has a sweetish nutty taste from the seaweed and sesame.

You can take it a step further, if you like, by adding sesame oil, chili oil, and lime. Shichimi goes very well with salmon, so don’t be shy to slather it on your burgers. Obviously, you can add a pinch in pasta salads or noodles. On roasted broccoli and brussels sprouts, a smattering is all you need to bring out the flavor. You can also mix it with avocado with a squeeze of lime juice on toast for a morning treat. The lime with the citric orange peel will make your tastebuds just pop, and on your fried eggs, it’s perfect. Try it!

Follow us on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest

Recommended Stories

Doomed star in the Milky Way.

Doomed Star in Milky Way Threatens Rare Gamma-Ray Burst

University of Sydney astronomers, working with international colleagues, have found a star system like none ...

Hong Kong demonstrators holding a large banner.

The Most Memorable Moments Amid Hong Kong Protests (Part 2)

As Hong Kong’s anti-extradition demonstrations persist, more unforgettable moments continue to emerge. We shared the ...

China Cables.

Leaked Chinese Prison Camp Documents Show How Uyghurs Are Brainwashed

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) recently published a series of leaked Chinese documents ...

Strawberries with mold growing on them.

Safe Consumption of Moldy Food: Separating Myths From Facts

Have you ever questioned the age-old advice to chuck out any food with even a ...

A man arriving late to a meeting.

9 Work Habits to Be Successful

A person’s success happens for a reason. If you want to be successful in the ...

Young woman with a sad expression as she looks at the screen of her phone.

How to Let Go of Regrets and Embrace a Happier Life

You’ve all been there — you did something horrible you regret doing or let go ...

GOES-18 image of Hunga Tonga Volcano. (Image: NOAA)

The Tonga Volcano Eruption Caused a ‘Superbubble’ in Earth’s Ionosphere, Disrupting Satellite Navigation

With technology increasingly embedded in our everyday lives, it is becoming more important to understand ...

AI imitating the 'Creation of Adam.'

AI and Art: Deciphering Copyright Ownership of AI-Generated Images

With artificial intelligence (AI) carving its niche in every sphere of life, including arts and ...

Boy's bedroom with stylish furniture.

7 Ways to Encourage Children to Clean Their Rooms

Many parents, particularly mothers, can relate to the exasperating sight of their children’s disorganized rooms, ...

Send this to a friend