21 Jul 2014

So, I was at one of the ramen shop in Akihabara with my lovely clients the other day and we were chatting about the spice they also see at the ramen shop in Seattle.

It was a seasoning we call "Shichimi togarashi"

chili with six different seasoning mixed in a small bottle,which we often see in Japanese restaurant.

How do you read this Kanji... "Shichimi" or "Nanami" ??
After they flew back home,they sent me a picture of this seasoning they saw at the restaurant there.
The spice was from the same company,but I noticed that it was named differently to what we call here in Japan.
How do you read this Kanji... "Shichimi" or "Nanami" ??
Here,this seasoning is sold with Chinese character(kanji) printed on as below. 
七 "seven"
味 "flavors"
唐辛子 "chili".
Some people might already know when learning how to count in Japanese,but when "7" is written in kanji,it has two ways of reading, which is "Shichi" or "Nana". 
So this seasoning can be read "Shichi-mi" or "Nana-mi" and both are correct ("mi" at the end means flavor),but we know that this type of seasoning is called "Shichimi" so we read it "Shichimi".
Yes,tricky thing about Japanese is that you just need to KNOW how to read kanji.
Even this kanji can be read "nanami",we would read "shichimi" just because we know it is "shichimi".
There are over 2100 kanjis we use daily and each of them normally have more than two ways of reading.We,Japanese will be able to read most of the kanjis pretty much by highschool because we learn and know how to read words correctly. Of course there are still so many kanjis that we can't read unless there are little notes showing how to read it correctly.
Place names and people names for example could be hard to read without any help sometimes as there can be so many combinations to pronounce the word when written in kanji .
Back to the story of this packaging...
I thought it would be pretty funny if the spice was actually pronounced "nanami" but for some reason someone had started reading "shichimi" and it just became like that.
So I went to this spice company website and found that "Nanami" was the name they use only outside Japan to prevent mishearing "Ichimi" which means "one flavor" as in JUST the chili powder. Looks like this is the only company selling it with different name oversea but I found this pretty interesting.
By the way...
Six different spice this company mix with chili are
Sansho(Japanese pepper),orange peels,seaweeds,sesame,hemp seeds,poppy seeds. These seeds are non toxic;)
Seems like the spices in this seasoning will differ country to country as all have different regulation on food.Outside Japan, ginger and black sesame are used for hemp and poppy seeds alterenative.
Japanese seasonings you find in your local supermarket might have different taste in Japan.
Don't forget to try them if you find one here;)

Plan a Trip to Japan

Request a tailor-made tour from our community of guides.
Guides will create the best plan for you, according to your preferences.

Request a Custom Tour