Asakura Sansho is a Japanese pepper grown locally in Yabu City of Hyogo Prefecture. The pepper has a numbing sensation like the Chinese Sichuan pepper, but has fresh citrusy undertones giving it a refreshing taste. The pepper contains more limonene, an active citrus ingredient, than any other sansho pepper and is also known for its high polyphenol content.
The pepper has a long and honorable history of over 400 years and great figures including Hideyoshi Toyotomi who was known for uniting the nation of Japan requested the magistrate of Ikuno Mine to plant these trees. They were also later on presented as medicine to Ieyasu Tokugawa, a Shogun general who ruled Japan after Hideyoshi. Asakura Sansho was exclusively produced and was regarded as a prized gift that was desired by the Japanese feudal lords.
Throughout May and June is the harvesting season for Asakura Sansho, and in around 20 or so areas throughout Yabu there are several sansho tree groves. In the Omori District of Yoka-cho a local group, ｢やろう会」"Yarou-kai" led by Hiroshi Nakajima have harvesting sessions where members of the group come together during the early mornings to help harvest the spice. The group originally had a more professional name, but is now called "Yarou-kai" meaning the “let’s do this group”. Mr. Nakajima says that he gave it this name so that people would feel “welcomed and not intimidated” to join. Other harvests including soba (although this year’s harvest was consumed by birds), clementines and figs are grown in the area.
The pepper can be enjoyed in dessert form including soft serve and roll cake sold at “Michi no Eki Yoka” a roadside station located right next to the tourist information center. Various gifts are also sold including yuzu sansho paste, sansho soba and sansho miso. Asakura sansho is truly a universal spice that can be enjoyed in any and all forms of dishes. A must try when you visit Yabu!
For more information regarding Asakura Sansho please go to https://asakurasansho.net/