Japanese Wasabi

Wasabi, often recognized as Japanese horseradish, is made from mincing of the wasabi plant. A spicy condiment prepared from the minced root of the plant, it is used on sushi and other Japanese dishes. It has a flavor that is more akin to spicy mustard or horseradish than peppers, it burns the nose rather than the tongue.

Wasabi Paste

Outside of Japan, most wasabi sold is made with western or European horseradish and food coloring. These wasabi imitations may only contain one or two percent of the real thing. A specialty store will often import real wasabi direct from Japan. Often it’s much more expensive but the quality is also very apparent.

Wasabi rhizomes and stems

In Japan, the plant grows wild along stream beds in highland river basins. The first record of wasabi as a meal originates from the 8th century.

Farming wasabi in moving water

Because the Japanese wasabi plants are difficult to cultivate, hence lack of mass plant production has increased its price and limited availability outside of Japan, western horseradish is commonly substituted in many marketplaces.

Minced or grated wasabi once slightly dry will have a dough-like consistency

Wasabi is commonly sold as a rhizome or stem that must be thoroughly ground by mincing or grating before use, as a dried powder, or as a ready-to-use paste in squeezable tubes.

Carefully inspecting the tube will reveal whether or not it is real wasabi and where it originated

At many upscale restaurants in Japan, the paste is made fresh when the customer orders it, using a grater or textured surface to shred the stem into the paste, if left uncovered, the paste loses taste and some flavor in less than 20 minutes.

Grating wasabi into a paste

Japanese chefs typically place wasabi between the fish and the rice in sushi preparation because covering wasabi until it is served will retain its taste, flavor, and potency.

Museum Dedicated to The Powerful Wasabi Plant

Wasabi Museum Izu

894-1 Tsukamoto, Kannami-Cho, Tagata-gun 419-0124, Shizuoka Prefecture

Along the right-hand inner wall at the museum’s entrance is historical information on “wasabi” it is printed in both Japanese and English. 

There is a large selection of “wasabi”-flavored foods available for purchase.

There is an indoor restaurant that sells pre-packaged meals as well as seasonal specialties. A metal grater is included with your order and a small rhizome of fresh “wasabi,” so you may add as much spice to your food as you like.

My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.