Tokyo market in 1972

The story of Shichimi Togarashi

The story of Shichimi Togarashi starts about 300 years ago in the 17th century when it was sold in herbal medicine shops. One particular herb shop in Edo (today’s Tokyo) called Yagenbori, created the seven spices blend in 1625. Some refered to the mix as Yagenbori because of the shop that invented the blend.

It was first sold in pharmacies for its medicinal properties.But it didn’t take long for street vendors to start using the mix as seasoning, turning it into one the best selling products at that time. Mostly served at neighbourhood festivals around shrines and temples.

As with most succes stories, others wanted a piece of the pie and soon other manufacturers started producing the mix as well. Each according to its own liking, depending on regional taste and manufacturer but generally using the same seven spices (garlic, red pepper, sichuan peppercorns, dried orange peel, nori, poppy seeds, white sesame seeds).

Recipes might differ but there’s still one rule to follow: it must be a mix of seven spices, no more, no less. Though there are some that abandoned the rule and created hachimi: “8 flavors”. And that’s the beauty of spice blends; rules can vary.

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