Pickled Daikon

One of the more unique features of Japanese is their love of onomatopoeia. Usually a two syllabled word repeated such as nuru nuru, bashi bashiand pika pika. The last one, for example, translates as “twinkle twinkle” and I would thank old ladies that said this to me as I gave my bike its weekly wax and polish. You can find a few more that feature in manga here.

My favourite is kari kari which is what you use to describe something crunchy, in this case my ideal pickle. They’re not hard to make and here’s how it’s done:


Take one large daikon and peel it, slice down the middle, and then slice into 5mm rounds.


One of the main reasons for this is to draw out moisture. A fair assumption is that if the moisture comes out then the pickling flavour can go in. Place the daikon in a bowl, sprinkle with two tablespoons of sea salt. The more salt, the longer it’ll keep – this amount will keep it for a week or two. Rub the salt in and place a plate on top with a weight on it. The bowl must not be metal or it will taint the flavour. Leave for half an hour and then drain.

Pickling Liquid

1/4 cup of vinegar; 1/2 tsp salt; 1tsp of sugar; 1/2 cup of water Place the daikon flatly in a pickling jar, adding two small chopped chillies and 8cm of konbu (for that mysterious MSG flavour of umami). Fill with the liquid, topping up with a little water to cover.

Left it for four days and it’s nice and sharp and kari kari,

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  1. Sweetie Guy Hutchinson’s avatar

    Interesting! I may have learned something!

    Great site!

  2. Santos’s avatar

    hey anthony

    in tagalog, the main filipino dialogue, there are a lot of the double-double words, which i take to mean that it’s the same as the root word, only moreso (so nice they named it twice?). there is even a word halo halo which literally means mix-mix. perhaps it’s the same in japan?

    pika, btw, in chamorro (native guam language) is “spicy” and pickled daikon is a typical school bus breakfast for kids, as it’s sold in pre-packed baggies or from a large jar near the cash register in the village stores….

  3. Reid’s avatar

    Hi Anthony,

    Great post! I hope you enjoyed making your takuan. My grandfather makes a ton of this. Usually, he adds in some yellow food coloring. Couldn’t tell you why though. He also makes all types of wonderful tsukemono (which is something I need to learn how to do).

  4. Anthony’s avatar

    Good to hear but easy on those exclamation marks though.

    Cheers. I know very little about Tagalog so thanks for the information. All I can observe is that we don’t use them a lot in English. The closest would be the rhyming nudge nudge wink wink of “rumpy pumpy” and “hanky panky”. It can sound a bit childish to English speakers but I never noticed that with Japanese speakers (I could be wrong), is it used naturally in tagalog? The double sounds are a real delight and there seems a lot of playfulness and a lack of abstraction in it all.

    I think “pika” was the basis for “pikachu” of pokemon fame. There aren”t any kids around and I think if I did ask, they’d look at me like I was something from the 20th Century.

  5. Anthony’s avatar

    Hi Reid, you must have snuck in there.
    Most of the pickled daikon in Japan is that bright yellow colour, and I don’t have any idea how or why but it loks good in a bento. Tsukemono (make things) indeed, they have another name pickles but it is only one “o” from being the word for urine so I usually don’t use it in case I get it wrong.

    Don’t want to pin you to locality but any ideas on the Pacific “word word” pattern, isn’t massage lomi lomi?

  6. Santos’s avatar

    sadly, i know the basis for pikachu, my favourite electrified rodent. it is indeed pika as in “pika pika hikaru”, which means what? something like “lightning bolt” or “stroke of lightning” but also denotes typical male patterned baldness with that little patch of nothing on the crown of the head, surrounded by hair. pretty funny if you think about it.

    oh, kare kare, besides being in new zealand and a crowded house song, is an oxtail-peanut stew in the philippines…not crunchy at all. but then again, what a difference a vowel makes….

  7. AnthonyJ’s avatar

    Reduplication is common in Austronesian languages such as Tagalog and Indonesian, and has a range of functions including plurality, iteration, diminution and… well, you know, a bunch of things. In Makassarese a reduplicated verb X means ‘do X for fun’, and a reduplicated noun Y means ‘a toy (or model) Y, a Y-like thing’. Japanese mostly uses reduplication in giseigo and gitaigo, those ‘onomatopoeic’ words. (‘Sound symbolism’ is a better term than onomatopeia because they aren’t confined to representing sounds).

  8. Anthony’s avatar

    I love my commenters.
    I can’t remember on the hikaru for lightning but with a very narrow Japanese learning focus (music, bikes, booze and food) kaminari was thunder and at the start of a Guitar Wolf song, and inazumi was one name for lightning and a Suzuki. Hikari was also the name of the round nosed Shinkansen (and I’m happy to be proven wrong on that one).
    Nice point pattern baldness and I’ll add that the combover is called ba- kodo.

    Subliminal bat signal distracts from work. So if I flew model gliders, I’d be (‘scuse syntax) plane plane plane plane fly fly. Plularity rings a bell and good point on onomatopiea. Not only is ‘sound symbolism’ less susceptible to roving vowels (blush…fixed) but my bike going “twinkle twinkle” is ridiculous and demeaning”.
    Now how can I get me on an island to do further research?

  9. Anthony’s avatar

    foog! I’ve spelt it worng again.

  10. AnthonyJ’s avatar

    “So if I flew model gliders, I’d be (‘scuse syntax) plane plane plane plane fly fly.”

    Well, that wouldn’t work in Makassarese, because RDP doesn’t denote plurality, unlike in Indonesian, where it unfortunately doesn’t have the ‘toy’ meaning. You can’t have everything.
    Also, in Makassarese there is a problem because “plane” is kappala’-anri’ba’ “ship fly” and you can’t reduplicate compounds. So you’d probably have to say kupari’ba’-ri’baki kappa’-kappala’-anri’ba’ [I-cause-fly-fly-it ship-ship-fly], “I cause small flying ship-like object(s) to fly, for fun”.

  11. Santos’s avatar

    oh zooks. can’t follow the anthony anthony thread, can only comment on budak budak stuff (you lost me about plane plane plane ago)

    ah, shinkansen. if hikari means “light”, then wouldn’t hikari shinkansen be oxymoronic as it is a “heavy rail” system? whatever. the hikari was indeed the round nose train, until it switched to the newer model that is decidedly duck-billed.

  12. Santos’s avatar

    oh wait. speaking of “sound symbolism” (reminds me of wind up percussion monkeys), giseigo, and trains there’s also byun byun, the sound a bullet train makes when it goes by.

  13. Robert’s avatar

    I’m pretty sure “twinkle” is not onomatopoeia. It describes something visual, not aural.

    I have heard things splash, crash and crackle. I have heard things whoosh and screech.

    I have not yet heard a star twinkle.

  14. Anthony’s avatar

    Language! Trains! [head explodes in joy]
    Anthony I can’t remember where I saw “languages that could be played on a trap set” (did I ever) but I think Makassarese is up there. What a great translation.

    Santos – I’d like to test pointing that out on an actual Japanese person. Traditionally a punny society in an associative way kaeru is return and frog so you put a small (ceramic) frog in your purse to make you money come back – I don’t know if I’m supposed to chuckle or nod sagely though. As for trains, look at these beauties.

    Seussy Robert- if you’ve never heard a star twinkle, you’ll never be a romantic.

  15. AnthonyJ’s avatar

    What’s the giseigo for a tram? This Melburnian needs to know. ガタンガタン comes to mind, any thoughts?

  16. Anthony’s avatar

    You’ll have to ask the folks at Hiroshima where they still have the trams. As for Melbourne trams I guess they still must be mumbling ケンネット ケンネット

  17. AnthonyJ’s avatar

    Nah, that sound is a distant memory. It’s ブラクス ブラクス now (or even バチャラー バチャラー for trams who pay attention to the proper ministerial chain of command).
    Actually, since the spiceblog comments crew came up empty handed I had to spend seconds of my time Googling to find the answer to this important question, and found this page.
    Which tells me that both gatan-gatan and katan-katan are the ones I want.

  18. Santos’s avatar

    i believe that the actual hikaru/light pun may have something to do with “speed of…”?

    according to an incredibly annoyed-with-adults 12-year old, pika pika is the gitaigo for “flash flash” which of course corresponds to the whole pikachu thing (lightning *flash*, durrrr). i am still all for the romance of “twinkle twinkle”, although i suppose you should be relieved to know that those old ladies thought you and your bike to be slightly more manly than a mere twinkle or two.

    a quick peek at my (shut up) snes kirby game sort of confirms that kira kira is the actual giseigo for twinkle x2.

    english giseigo? knock knock

    tram: katankatan. found it on the brain short-circuiting onomatopées japonaisesmy head hurts.

  19. obachan’s avatar

    Our elementary school teacher taught us that a giseigo describes sound/voice and a gitaigo represents a movement/condition etc. This site says gitaigo also “resemble what that event would sound like if it made a sound”, and I agree.

    BTW, we still have very old fashioned tram here (a very small town in Shikoku island). I guess in Japan “Gatan Goton” is more widely used to describe its sound.

  20. Anthony’s avatar

    I’m glad the trams are still there and there are four google states in blogland- unnecessary/used/used but unreferenced/completely ignored in favour of idle speculation.
    Santos – Who’s there?
    Obachan – Thanks for that. Shikoku is a fine and mountainous place: shyashin of pika pika baiku, which town are you from or is that himitsu?

  21. Reid’s avatar

    Hi Anthony,

    I’m a third generation Japanese American living in Hawaii! LOL! Yes, you are correct that lomi lomi is a type of massage in Hawaii.

    There is also lomi lomi salmon (or just lomi salmon), which is a hand-mixed dish comprised of chunks of raw salmon, Maui onions (sweet), green onions, tomatoes and rock salt.

    There’s also lau lau, which is a made by wrapping luau leaves around a filling consisting of pork and salted butterfish.

    And the classic, muu muu, which is a type of woman’s dress.

  22. AnthonyJ’s avatar

    My failing memory tells me I took a tram to get to the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. Or maybe it was a zeppelin.

  23. Anthony’s avatar

    Nice work, tempt me with all that food and then give me an image of clothing of very large men.
    There is a line that goes from Ikebukuro to somewhere near Takadanobaba. I’m not sure if it’s a tram or light rail and discussions on these technicalities can get very nasty indeed. A Mr T Goat lives a mere 5 minute walk from one of the stations, perhaps her can let us know.

    Just a further point, I miss Don Martin, such hope for a bold new lexicon.

  24. obachan’s avatar

    Nice photos! I live in Kochi where people eat a lot of fish and also drink like fish. ;)

  25. Anthony’s avatar

    Ahhh I never made it to Kochi just Takamatsu and Matsuyama because I was rushing too much (24hrs in Kyushu!).
    Fish and drink – mmmmm – is Kochi a sake place or a shochu place or a we don’t care place we’re thirsty place.

  26. obachan’s avatar

    We make more sake than shochu here, but we drink beer the most.
    How? Gui Gui!

  27. Anthony’s avatar

    tokyo goat has the answer to the train/tram dilemma for those wondering.

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