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Top Spices Around the World: Japan

28 September 2023

Japanese cuisine is renowned for its carefully balanced flavours. Whereas other countries favour fiery and robust flavour profiles, Japanese cooking prefers the realm of the subtle. Herbs and spices complement the inherent taste of high-quality ingredients, adding complexity and nuance to mouth-watering recipes.

The seasoning of Japanese cuisine has to be precise because it focuses on enhancing rather than dominating. Although used judiciously, Japan’s top spices, herbs, and pastes are flavourful and aromatic and contain various textures.

Their diverse flavour profiles make Japanese spices exciting additions to custom spice blends and food products.

This article will overview eleven interesting, flavourful, and enticing Japanese spices and blends. To learn how to incorporate any of these spices into your product line, contact the food experts at Hela Spice.

The Top Japanese Spices and Herbs

Shichimi Togarashi

Shichimi Togarashi, also known as the Japanese Seven Spice Blend, is essential to Japanese cooking. It contains red chilli pepper, Sansho pepper, roasted Mandarin orange peel, sesame seeds, ground ginger, seaweed flakes, poppy seeds, and nori.

These ingredients represent a typical cross-section of traditional Japanese flavours.

This distinctive Japanese spice blend enhances the flavour of any dish, adding subtle elements of citrus, nuttiness, and umami complexity. The dried peppers also give it a slightly spicy kick.


Although ginger is now a popular ingredient worldwide, it has its roots in Asian cuisine. As with most Japanese spices, ginger is used sparingly to impart a subtle heat to dishes.

Raw ginger is added to noodles and tofu, whereas sliced ginger is used to remove the fishy smell from cooked fish. People commonly serve pickled ginger as a popular palate cleanser.

Although chefs favour fresh ginger, dried ground ginger is best suited for creating spice blends. Since dried ginger has a more intense flavour than fresh ginger, you should add it in small amounts.


Wasabi, or Japanese Horseradish, might be Japan’s most iconic herb. It’s well known as the hot green paste accompanying sushi and sashimi. However, cheap wasabi (such as the kind served at many sushi restaurants in North America) is usually just regular horseradish with green food colouring.

In Japanese cuisine, wasabi appears in various dishes, such as ochazuke (a rice soup) and garnish on cold soba noodles.

Wasabi is a short, stubby root that grows along fresh, clean mountain water streams. Consequently, fresh wasabi is a rare ingredient and quite expensive, even today.

Furthermore, wasabi loses its pungency and aroma with time. These factors (its

rarity and short freshness window) mean that real wasabi is typically served in small amounts.


Shiso, with its green or dark purple leaves, belongs to the mint family. It’s a common herb in other parts of East and Southeast Asia. Japanese cuisine uses shiso, including tempura, salad dressings, and wafu paste.

The leaves, young seed pods, and flower stems provide a garnish on sashimi plates. Red shiso is used to make umeboshi and akajiso juice.

This herb has a refreshing flavour with hints of citrus and sweetness and a slightly bitter finish.


Karashi is a hot Japanese mustard made from crushed mustard seeds and horseradish. This yellow paste has a fiery kick that surpasses any Western mustard thanks to the sharpness of the horseradish.

The spicy flavour is strong and lingers in the mouth. However, Karachi is not sour or acidic since it contains no vinegar.

Karachi is a condiment for Japanese dishes like natto (sticky fermented soybeans), gyoza, and tonkatsu (breaded deep-fried pork). Karashi is available in tubes of paste or powdered form.

Sansho Pepper

Sansho is closely related to the Chinese Sichuan peppercorn and the standard black peppercorn. Although less known in Western countries, it’s a frequently used spice in Japanese cooking.

Sansho peppercorns are stronger and spicier than black pepper and possess a unique citrus element. It feels tangy on the tongue, enhances flavours, and brings a refreshing lightness to heavier dishes.

Furthermore, Sansho Pepper is a crucial ingredient in the Japanese Seven Spice Blend, Shichimi Togarashi.

Yuzu Kosho

Yuzu Kosho is another seasoning paste traditionally used in Japanese cooking. It combines fermented green chilli peppers, salt, yuzu peel and juice. Yuzu is a native citrus to Japan. It has a strong floral taste, connecting with the chilis’s heat in this yellow paste.

The result is a fresh yet spicy flavour favoured in hot pot-style dishes. It’s also paired with tonkatsu, yakitori (skewered chicken), and sashimi.


Mitsuba, also called Japanese Parsley, has three trefoil leaves and a thin stalk. It looks very similar to the parsley used in Western cooking. Regarding flavour, mitsuba is a parsley, sorrel, celery, and cilantro cross. With a crispy texture and refreshing scent, it goes in salads, tamagoyaki, and as a garnish.


Myoga, or Japanese ginger, is the ginger family’s young shoots and emerging flower buds. People harvest it before the flower bulbs can open, and it is pinkish-bronze. The taste is mildly ginger, zesty, floral, and slightly tangy.

Essentially, myoga has a distinctive flavour used across Japanese cuisine.

Look for it as a topping for salads, udon noodles, chilled tofu, or sashimi. Although customarily eaten raw, it is also added to miso soup or deep-fried for tempura.


Aonori is dried seaweed flakes, an essential form of Japanese seasoning. The seaweed is aromatic and rich in savoury umami flavours. Its earthy smell is like matcha green tea powder.

This edible seaweed provides a garnish on okonomiyaki (a savoury Japanese pancake) and natto (sticky fermented soybeans). You can also season soups, noodle dishes, and stir-fries.


Technically, furikake is not a specific Japanese spice. Instead, it’s a broad term that describes dry Japanese spice blends sprinkled over cooked rice. Furikake blends often include combinations of salmon flakes, sesame seeds, wasabi, seaweed flakes, bonito flakes, etc.

Hela Spice: Japanese Spice Supplier in Canada

With its focus on fresh ingredients and precise use of spices and herbs, Japanese cuisine has a harmonious balance of flavour, texture, and aroma.

Seasoning enhances the flavour profile of high-quality ingredients rather than dramatically changing the food experience. It’s a perfect example of how subtly can add depth and complexity to a recipe.

This same principle applies to custom spice blends and food products. Consider how nuanced ingredients can enhance your recipe when developing your next signature seasoning blend. Hela Spice can help.

Whether you want to add a Japanese-inspired product to your line or spruce up your existing spice blends, our culinary experts are ready to assist you.

Are you looking for a spice supplier in Canada? Contact Hela Spice by visiting us at www.helaspice.com or contact us here.

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