Sanshoo sansho


Japanese pepper, "Mountain pepper"(sanshoo)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: See below
***** Category: Plant / Humanity


kigo for early autumn

Mountain pepper, sanshoo 山椒 (さんしょう)
fruit of the mountain pepper, sanshoo no mi 山椒の実
Japanese pepper, Japan Pepper; Sanshō; Zanthoxylum piperitum

This plant is not related to black pepper.

The character 椒 means: hot, spicy, so the tree was called "a spicy something from the mountains".
It is also read hajikami はじかみ.

sansho pepper / Reference

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We can enjoy the flowers from April to June.
see kigo below.

sanshoo no me 山椒の芽
Young leaves can be cooked or added raw to salads and soups. Crushed leaves have a very strong fragrance.
Top left photo.

mi sanshoo 実山椒
The still green fruit of the plant.
Top right photo.
In autumn, it has red fruit, whith black seeds.

kona sanshoo powder 粉山椒
. . . CLICK here for Photos !
The ripe and dried fruit is prepared into a powder to sprinkle on food, so is the bark.

The dry-roasted ground fruit is an ingredient of the Chinese 'five spice powder'.

It is often used in the Japanese kitchen to "overpower" otherwise strongly flavored dishes.


kigo for mid-spring

山椒の皮 (さんしょうのかわ)
bark of the mountain pepper

karakawa からかわ
sanshoo no kawa hogu 山椒の皮剥ぐ(さんしょうのかわはぐ)
peeling the bark of the mountain pepper

The bark is easy to peel once you have made an incision into the branch after the branch is soaked in water over night. It is then boiled in water and maybe some soy sauce or rice wine is added.
It was used as an addition to simmered food like tsukudani or added into onigiri rice balls.
The MA 麻婆豆腐 in mabo dofu seems to refer to the bark of this sansho.

CLICK for original .. rakuaji.exblog.jp

This is the bark of the tree, not the cover of the seedpods. Speciality of Kyoto.

The bark can also be produced to powder. This powder is often used to put on unagi no kabayaki, grilled eel.

sanshoo no tsukudani 山椒のつくだ煮
. . . CLICK here for Photos !

sanshoo shio salt 山椒塩
. . . CLICK here for Photos !
Mixed with salt, it can be used to sprinkle on tempura and other fried dishes.

hana sanshoo 花山椒 mountain pepper blossoms
kigo for late spring


two kigo for spring

ki no me miso, kinomemiso 木の芽味噌 (きのめみそ) tree buds in miso
sanshoo miso 山椒味噌(さんしょうみそ)mountain pepper in miso
sansho miso
for example
kakuni braised berkshire pork belly in sansho miso

kinome ae, kinomeae 木の芽和 (きのめあえ) tree buds in dressing
sanshoo ae 山椒和(さんしょうあえ) mountain pepper in dressing
sansho ae, sansho-ae


kigo for late summer

aozanshoo 青山椒 (あおざんしょう) green mountain pepper


kigo for all winter

fuyuzanshoo 冬山椒 (ふゆざんしょう) Sansho in winter
futan sanshoo ふだん山椒(ふだんさんしょう)
. . . CLICK here for Photos !


sanshoo surikogi boo 山椒すりこぎ棒 pestle
Branches of the tree are also used to make surikogi pestles.
. . . CLICK here for Photos !

Worldwide use


japanischer Pfeffer; Gelbholz

Things found on the way

Sansho (Prickly ash)

By LINDA INOKI, Japan Times

Isei: And do you remember using cyanide to catch fish and insects?
Seinosuke: Oh yes. It seems incredible now, but I just used to hang the jar, full of poison, on the wall at home.
Isei: What we did with fish was wrap the powder in a piece of cloth, tie it on the end of a stick, and dip it in the river; and in no time at all, fish would float up to the surface. You could bring them round by putting them in clean well water. Surprisingly enough, we even ate the things later; it didn't seem to do us any harm. Another way of doping them was with a mixture of crushed prickly-ash and tea berries.

From "Memories of Silk and Straw, A Self-Portrait of Small-Town Japan,"
by Junichi Saga, translated by Garry Evans (Kodansha International)

In mid-autumn, the small tree known as sansho, or Japanese prickly ash (Zanthoxylum piperitum) , produces red berries. As they ripen they turn brown and split to reveal shiny black seeds. Traditionally, the seeds are ground with a pestle made from prickly ash wood, and this produces one of the few spices used in Japanese cuisine. The resulting sansho pepper is pungent with a lemony tang, and it is popular sprinkled over unagi (grilled eel). The tender spring leaves are also aromatic and make attractive garnishes for dishes such as goma-dofu (sesame tofu).

However, there is a spectacular insect that also finds the leaves tasty.
The beautiful swallowtail butterfly often lays its eggs on prickly ash shrubs, so at this time of year you might find large, bright-green caterpillars steadily munching their way through the last of the autumn leaves. They are very neat eaters, and can pick the small leaflets clean, leavingjust the prickly veins behind. Last year I found several of these caterpillars on a small prickly ash tree, and one day, around the end of October, I watched one of them attach itself to the spiny tree trunk with a silk thread. A few minutes later it started to change color, and soon it became a chrysalis, well camouflaged against the rough bark where it would sleep the whole winter through.
source : Japan Times 2004



sanshoo wa kotsubo demo piriri to karai

even if the seeds are small, they are very spicy

refering to a person who might be small of stature, but with a sharp intelligent mind.


sanshoo tengu 山椒天狗
tengu made from wood of the mountain pepper

with one more photo
. Folk Toys from Gunma .


omoshiro ya tsuki ni sanshoo no kawa hageba  

how interesting !
peeling the bark off the mountain pepper   
in moonshine

Masaoka Shiki 正岡子規
Tr. Gabi Greve

Illustration by terry steudlein, September 2008

Further discussion of this haiku
Happy Haiku Forum


nuriwan no omokute haha no kinomi ae

the laquer bowl
feels so heavy ...
mother's tree buds dressing  

Katsura Nobuko 桂 信子

Related words






Unknown said...

Gabi san thank you for sansyou topics.
Why did he feel interest to peel the bark of the tree?
I couldn't understand.
Please don't say, you're a an ordinary person and Shiki is a genius.


Anonymous said...

I found this translation of a short story, by Kenji Miyazawa, which mentions pepper-tree bark being used as a fish poison!

In the short story, there is a recipe for preparing the fish poison:

"Peel the bark from a pepper tree at midnight of a springtime Day of the Horse. Dry the bark twice, but only during the 18 days before the seasons change. Grind the dried pepper bark finely in a mortar and pestle. Then, on a sunny day, take 1 kan-me (about 4 kg) of this powder and add 700 mon-me (about 280 g) of maple ash to it. Keep the mix in a cloth bag. When you go fishing, put the bag in the water and rub it between your hands so that the poison powder seeps out.

When the fish drink the poison powder, they will gasp for breath for a short time before rolling over and floating to the surface dead, white underbellies to the sky."

In the Prauhanian language, this technique is known as "Eppu-kappu" and the most important job of the Prauha Police Force is to make sure that nobody does it and to arrest anyone who tries.


But maybe this is a different kind of pepper tree, and Prauha might be somewhere in the Indian sub-continent.

Happy Haiku

Oliver Slay i Texidor said...

The branch is also used as a pestle with a suribachi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surikogi grinding with a pepper stick adds to the flavour of the ground food.

Sanshou is also known as Sichuan Pepper.

News said...

Sansho, spice and other seasonings nice
by Ananda Jacobs

In the hunt for vegetarian-friendly fare in Japan, it’s easy to forget that what often makes the dish is not the main ingredient but the seasoning.

I was reminded of this on a recent shinkansen ride. With 10 minutes to board my train, and it being dinner time, I picked up a few items to eat along the way. Steering clear of the many bento (boxed lunch) stands (the search for the elusive vegetarian bento is one I’ll have to save for another time), I found some skewered vegetables behind one glass case. Easy enough, I ordered some potatoes, brussels sprouts, bamboo and a yellow tofu-looking thing (which I later found out was not tofu but namafu, or wheat starch).

... Japan offers a plethora of spices and seasonings to match its cuisine, but here are a few of my favorite staples.

Sansho, it turns out, is one ingredient of shichimi, Japan’s pervasive “seven-flavor” spice concoction. Made with red pepper, sansho, orange peel, black and white sesame seeds, seaweed and, depending on the region, hemp seeds, shiso (perilla) or ginger. Usually shichimi sits out on the table in little bamboo or gourd containers at noodle shops. The color and mix varies from place to place, but it is essentially a mild chili topping with a bit of zest. A bowl of udon noodles is not complete without a dash or two of this on top.

Gabi Greve - Washoku said...

にしんのさんしょう漬け / にしん山椒漬 nishin no sanshoo tsukemono
herring pickled with Japanese pepper

speciality from Fukushima

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

hisomi tatsu dokufu no haka ya hana sanshoo

the lonely grave
of the poisonous woman -
mountain pepper blossoms

槫沼けい一 Kurenuma Kei-Ichi
MORE about the dokufu women of Japan

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

oni no tsue 鬼の杖 Bisquits of the staff on an Oni
flavored with sansho 山椒 "mountain pepper"
speciality from 大月市 Otsuki city

Gabi Greve said...

Legend about Inuyama Sansho

oobaku 黄柏 Obaku and Inuyama sanshoo 犬山椒
There was a family famous for bone setting.
They used the powder of Obaku and mountain pepper from Inuyama to make a plaster. The plaster if put on the place that pains most and the pain will soon be gone.