I went to Nara on day 3 of my Japan trip last year and one of the things I look forward to besides meeting the deers, was eating kakinoha sushi 柿の葉ずし aka persimmon leaves sushi. Kakinoha sushi is a local specialty in Nara and it really means what it says, that is sushi wrapped with persimmon leaf. Pickled mackerel and salmon are the common fishes used. Other varieties are sea bream, eel, prawn, etc.
Because Nara is located inland, it doesn’t have access to sea products easily. There was no such thing as refrigeration in the olden times. The fishes and other seafood were pickled with salt and brought into Nara. The usage of persimmon leaves is due to its healing properties and also because Nara has abundance of persimmon trees. This suaku tourist (me!) was ohh-ing and wah-ing along the road whenever a persimmon tree is spotted. LOL
Just outside of Kintetsu Nara Station where we alighted, there is a kiosk selling kakinoha sushi called Hiraso 平宗. You can also visit its Nara branch store, a further 8-10 minutes walk from the kiosk.
I was a bit flustered with the many choices presented initially. Thankfully I knew what I wanted. The labels are 99% in Japanese and I didn’t bother asking if they have English menu. I just pointed to the one that I want. My plan is to get a box of kakinoha sushi and enjoy it while sitting at a bench at Nara Park later.
I carried this box for 4 hours and along the way have to fend off many mischievous deers. Whenever I encounter one, I had to raise the box to prevent it from making into the deer’s mouth. Oh yes, Nara’s deers are fearless. And the reason I carried it for so long is because I couldn’t find a safe spot to eat it. Everywhere I got, there’s deer. LOL Eventually I ate the kakinoha sushi standing amongst the crowds at the food stall-shops area in front of Nara Park.
I bought 8 pieces @ 1306 yen. It has 4 pieces of mackerel and 4 pieces of salmon and shared between 4 of us. So two each. Perfect!
Salmon kakinoha sushi. Nope, the persimmon leaf cannot be eaten. However it lends its fragrance to flavor the fish and rice slightly. And what you’ve got with the combination of cured fish are something totally different from the regular sushi. Oh God, I love kakinoha sushi!
If you give me a choice between regular sushi and kakinoha sushi, I’ll take the latter without a doubt! Make sure you give kakinoha sushi a try if you’re visiting Nara. There are many shops selling this local specialty, so get one where it’s the most convenient to you.
平宗 Hiraso (kiosk)
2-1 Higashimuki Nakamachi
奈良県 奈良市 東向中町 2-1
1st December – end of February: 9am-6pm, daily
1st March – end of November: 9am-7pm, daily
5th August – 15th August: 9am-10pm, daily
Nearest stations: Kintetsu Nara