Do you have unique and traditional food in your home country?
I think Japan is well known as its unique and healthy food culture – sushi, tempura, soba, miso soup, teriyaki, natto, etc. In addition to these foods, we have a lot of local food culture too. A dried and smelly fish called Kusaya (くさや) is one of them. It is made and eaten in Izu-shoto (Izu Islands – Hachijojima, Niijima, Oshima, Shikinejima, Miyakejima, Kodushima) mainly along with the Ogasawara Islands that are the remote islands farther south of Tokyo. It takes a very long time to get to some of the islands by ship. Kusaya is known as a very odorous, but delicious food. However, please note that many people disagree.
Kusaya is a dried fish, made with flying fish and mackerel that are soaked in a fermented and salted liquid called “kusaya-eki”. First, the organ of these fresh fish are removed and washed with clean water. Then, they are soaked in kusaya-eki and dried under the sun. This kusaya-eki was made of only water and salt at first. However, after being used repeatedly, it is said the mixture started to ferment. It is preserved for a long time (some lasts more than 100 years) and is well taken care of. Like many Japanese fermented foods, kusaya is also very good for your health. By being fermented and dried, it becomes rich in nutrition and is concentrated with different vitamins, minerals, and protein. We can say that kusaya is a great and healthy food that is made by both nature and people.
If you are encouraged to try kusaya, you should at least try it once! If you have the opportunity to visit the Izu Islands, you can try and buy it as a souvenir if you like. It’s nice to learn and know about the nature there and the local food culture of the people living there. We can learn the historical backgrounds of these remote islands. However, be careful when you grill kusaya in your place. If you live in the apartment or mansion, your neighbor might get upset at you for the strong smell. But don’t worry, you can also buy the bottled kusaya or sealed kusaya which does not require any cooking. Oh, for some people who love Japanese sake, kusaya can be a good combination with Izu-Islands’ local sake! And the local food culture in Japan is not limited to kusaya. We have a lot of local unique food, and you can enjoy eating them when you travel.