The Japanese flavor [ Tsukudani ] was originated in Tokyo!
What’s the difference between [Tsukudani] and [Shigure] and [Kanro]?
Let’s taste Tsukudani at a long established store in tsukujima
>Tsukudani Maruhisa
>Tsukudani tenan main store
>Tsukugen Tanakaya

Tsukudani is an essential part of Japanese food. I wonder if any Japanese people have ever tasted it before. Tsukudani is perfect for rice and is made by soaking kelp or clams in soy sauce or sugar. And in Japan, it has been enjoyed as a preserved food for a long time.
Although it is such a simmered dish, it originated in Kashiwajima,Tokyo. This time, we will introduce not only the roots of tsukudani but also three recommended long established tsukudani that still inherit the traditional taste of Kashiwajima.

The japanese flavor [ Tsukudani ] was originated in Tokyo!

Assorted Tsukudani

[ Tsukudani ] is a popular japanese food

Tsukudani is very  familiar to Japanese people. Boiled simmered small fish, kelp, seaweed, etc. with soy sauce and sugar have long been loved as the best side dish for white rice. Its history is over 400 years. It is a traditional food that was born in the Edo Era and has been loved by Japanese people.

Tsukudani was Created in Tsuku-jima in Tokyo

Did you know that Tsukudani originated in Edo Tsukuda-jima (currently Chuo-ku, Tokyo)

tsukujima bridge

Tsukukobashi Over the Island (Tsukujima)

In the Edo Era, Tsukujima was a remote island separated from Honshu by the Sumida River. Nowadays, a bridge is built on the Sumida River, and a subway is created so that you can easily go back and forth. At that time, the only way to get there was by a boat from Edo to Tsukudajima. Many of the people who lived on the island were fishermen and lived in Tokyo Bay by fishing. By the way, the fishery in Tokyo Bay is called “Edo-mae”, and “food in Edo-mae” refers to food made from seafood caught in Tokyo Bay. The familiar “Edo-mae sushi” also refers to sushi made from seafood.

The wide Sumida river

Tsukudajima is One of the islands that was built as a landfill for the Sumida River

Well, it was born in the Edo era with its name on Tsukujima, but in fact it is a food related to the first shogun of the Edo Shogunate, Ieyasu Tokugawa. Thanks to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the boiled simmered rice (tsukudani) have spread.

In the first place, the name “Tsukujima” was given by Settsukunitsu Village (currently Nishi-Yodogawa-ku, Osaka City). Tsukudani was born in 1582 due to the attack of Honnoji Temple. This is the case where Oda Nobunaga was defeated by a coup caused by Akechi Mitsuhide.

At that time, Ieyasu was staying in Osaka meeting with Nobunaga Oda, but Nobunaga Oda died due to an attack in Honnoji, and Ieyasu escaped from Sakai(Osaka). However, escaping from the Akechi Army was extremely difficult. Meanwhile, the fishermen of Settsu Kunitsuku Village helped Tokugawa's party. The fishermen not only rented the boat to them, but also provided a road meal that seasoned the salty fish for preservation. With their cooperation, Ieyasu was able to reach Mikawa (now Aichi Prefecture) safely.

Later, Ieyasu started the shogunate in Edo, but there were few fishermen in Edo at that time.In order to flourish the fishing industry in Edo, Ieyasu called the fishermen from Settsu Kunitsku Village to Edo.Their land of residence is the current land of Tsukujima,separated by the Sumida River. Taking the letter “佃” of the fishermen ’s hometown, Tsukumura,Ieyasu named this island “Tsukujima”,and the preserved food made from seafood made there was called [Tsukudani].

Sumiyoshi Shrine

The relationship between Ieyasu and Tsukujima is also written on the signboard on Sumiyoshi Shrine in Tsukujima.

From salty preserved foods to soy sauce flavored Tsukudani.

The fishermen who came from Tsuku Village had fishery rights by catching fish on Tsukujima and offering them to the Shogunate. However, the habitat of Tsukujima, where they live, is a small island separated by the Sumida River. On a Bad Day, you can't go fishing, and of course you can't go out to buy food in Edo because you can't get out of the boat. so they started making their original preserved food with some seafood.  At that time, it seemed that small fish, etc. were boiled and preserved in salty water, but after that soy sauce came to Tsukujima, it seems that Tsukudani was made with that soy sauce.

##What’s the difference between [Tsukudani], [Shigure],[Kanro]?

Tsukudani is a Japanese food that has been popular for a long time, but “Shigure-ni” and kanro-ni” are similar flavored foods. All of them are eaten as a snack for sake or white rice. Are there any differences between them?

###Originated in Kansai [Shigure-ni]

Shigureni is known as a preserved food born in Kansai, whereas tsukudani is believed to originate from Tsukujima in Kanto. Both are made to preserve, so the seasoning is deep and sweet and a little spicy.The main difference from Tsukudani is the birthplace and plenty of ginger for seasoning.


{Shigure Hamaguri] with shredded ginger

Now Tsukudani is made with various ingredients, but originally it’s based on seafood caught in Edo. As it was a classic way to use seafood such as clams and trout in the boiled fish, Shigureni was the classic “Shigure clam” used with clams that best season in early winter. In Kuwana, Mie Prefecture, which is said to be the birthplace of Shigure-ni, this “Shigure hamaguri” is famous as a place where clams are often caught.

Kanroni is good for your health

Along with “Tsukudani” and “Shigure-ni”, it is one of the preserved foods that are seasoned sweet and spicy. As it is named “Kanro”, it is not only soy sauce and sugar, but also simmered in syrup, and is characterized by its shine and strong sweetness.


Kanro-ni of smelt that is often contained in osechi etc.

There are multiple theories of the origin of the name, but there is a theory that the ancient legend of Chinese ancestry “Kanro” and the long-lived spirit “Kanro”, which has been spoken as a legend in India, have been merged and conveyed to Japan. Kanro-ni is not from Japan, but from China and India.

These three things are not so different in appearance, but when you eat them, you can surprisingly taste the difference. The basic tsukudani,simmered ginger, sweet and glossy honey Kanro-ni. How about finding your preference?

Let’s taste Tsukudani at a long established store in Tsukujima

Tenan show case

Meet the long established store taste of Tsukudani in Tsukujima

The island of Tsukujima, where fishermen migrated during the Edo Era and produced Tsukudani. There is still a long established store in this area that continues to make Tsukudani while protecting its history.
We visited  three long established stores that can be found in Tsukujima, a traditional Tsukudani, in an area about an 8 minute walk from Tsukishima Station on the Toei Oedo Line.As time went on, the seasoning of Tsukudani has changed, however, locals still continue to make this traditional dish.

Tsukudani Maruhisa

Outside of Maruhisa

Tsukudani Maruhisa Where its located from Sumiyoshi Shrine from approximately 1minitue

With a stylish white appearance, this is “Tsukudani Maruhisa”. The store with a modern impression was rebuilt in 2009 for earthquake resistance. Established in 1859 (Ansei 6), it is a long established store with a history of 180 years. On this day, twelve kinds of Tsukudani such as kelp, shirasu and goby were lined up. Although it was past noon, there were a few Tsukudanis remaining. It seems that not only local people but also sometimes elementary school students visit to learn about the history of tsukudani as part of their education.

This store makes traditional Tsukudani. Although the materials used vary according to the season, clams are the most popular, and many regulars come to buy when the refrigerator is out of stock. Boiled clams that are soaked in the sauce are not only delicious with white rice, but also great with pasta and perilla leaves and seaweed.

Clams Tsukudani

Clams Tsukudani(100g 734yen)

Also,a mixture of bonito, pine nuts, and sesame seeds is another popular one. With a light texture, the store staff  told me that “you can eat it with tofu instead of soy sauce”.
When I talked to Mr. Kobayashi, the 15th store owner, he told me that the old Tsukudani had a completely different seasoning than now.
The Old Tsukudani that was made by products of fishermen during the Edo Era when there was no refrigerator, was very salty, and it was very hard because it was made by blowing off moisture to enhance its preservation. The salty and hard Tsukudani  was excellent in preservability as it lasted half a year without a refrigerator. It was not originally made for sale, it was for the people of Tsukujima island to eat, so the emphasis was on “how long lasting” rather than “taste” like now. 
However, with the changing times, fishing in Edo became difficult, and fishermen decided to give up the fishery. In the meantime, the thing that saved them was to improve and sell the familiar preserved food “Tsukudani”. Originally, he was giving them to worshipers at Sumiyoshi Shrine (about a 1-minute walk from the store). So that Tsukudani had gained popularity and became a commercial product.
The Tsukudani  that fishermen had eaten this dish as a side food were now soft and delicious, changing to a taste that Japanese favorite tasted.

Maruhisa’s Tsukudani

The classic Tsukudani of Maruhisa

Even now, Maruhisa's Tsukudani has a slightly different sauce in the summer and winter seasons, and is seasoned to suit the season. In the summer it is a little bit salty, and in the winter when it is good time to preserved, the seasoning is a little milder. It may be a good idea to compare the subtle differences between summer and winter taste.

Tsukudani tenan main store

This is the long-established Tsukudani Tenan Honten(Main store), founded in 1837 (Tempo 8). The name was taken as “Tenan” by taking “Ten” from Tenpo and “A” from the first Yasukichi.

Outside of tenan

Tsukudani tenan main store where you can feel wooden building

The Tenan main store, which has continued to preserve its unchanging taste since its founding 182 years ago, uses a secret sauce based on the thick soy sauce “Miotsukushi” produced in Chiba Prefecture, to produce a sweet and rich tsukudani. If you use seafood such as small fish but put it in the refrigerator, it will last for 3 weeks. You can feel the high preservability of the Tsukudani.

Tsukudani is lining up in the show case

Mothers(ladys) pack Tsukudani in the tatami mat behind the showcase

There were 19 types of tsukudani lined up at the store that day. In addition to the classic “Ami” (like a very small shrimp, well-known in Edo-mae and known as the standard of Tsukudani), the basic boiled eel, kelp, clams, squid and other things are lined up too. Alternatively, you can purchase ginger and cod eggs that have been introduced as varieties. It features a seasoning that allows you to feel the umami of each ingredient while changing the cooking time depending on the ingredients.

cod eggs and ginger’s Tsukudani

Tarako(cod eggs) is on the right(100g 1,230円),Ginger on the left(100g 550円)

Tarako(cod eggs) Tsukudani is a gem that soaks the sweet and spicy taste of salmon into each of the eggs, and the scent of Tsukudani in your mouth as soon as you feel pops of this eggs. Although it is a little more expensive than the classic Tsukudani such as Ami and goby, but it is a different type of Tsukudani and  you should definitely give it a try

Tsukugen Tanakaya

The last place, [Tsukugen Tanakaya] along the Sumida river.

Outside of Tanakaya

"Tanakaya" that retains the scenery of the time while repairing

If you pass in front of the store, the scent of Tsukudani will drift to the outdoors. Because the shop is adjacent to a factory that makes Tsukudani the scent of Tsukudani  overflows from the store. Along with a single plate table and bench where you can feel the history, a number of  Autographs were displayed in the store. This is the proof that it is a long-established store that has been loved by so many people.

Tanakaya’s Tsukudani

Tanakaya’s Tsukudani   

Inside the store, a bunch of Tsukudani protecting the taste of many years will be lined up in the showcase. On this day, 16 types of tsukudani were prepared. The Tsukudani in the restaurant is characterized by a taste that matches the taste of everyone. The Tsukudanis are not too sweet, not too much spicess, and you can feel the flavor of the ingredients.

Ami Tsukudani

Packing the Tsukudani with these skillful hands

This is Ami Tsukudani. Tanakaya uses fine and smaller Ami instead of a bigger one.. Of course, if you eat them in Ochazuke as well as with white rice, the sweet and spicy taste oozes out from the Ami Tsukudani.

Eel’s Tsukudani

Eel’s Tsukudani(100g 1,000yen)

Seasonal Tsukudani using the seasoned eel is also popular. Rather than simmering anago as it is, it is baked and then boiled to make it soft and fragrant. Each time you chew it, the sweetness of the eel will melt, making it a great snack for your Sake.

Let’s enjoy more Japanese foods through the Tokyo born Tsukudani

In a city filled with famous foods, don’t miss out on tasting the more traditional tastes from the Edo period.
The preserved foods from the Edo period prioritized preservation above all. Visit the 3 stores still standing in Tsukujima. Souvenirs from these stores will definitely bring joy to all.

※All prices in the article are at the time of interview (August 2019)