This is a Daikon | How this Japanese Tuber Saved My Life

A old Japanese female farmer pulls up a bunch of daikon tubers from the ground

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a daikon (lit. “big root”). Known internationally among culinary circles in English as the daikon radish, this mild-flavored winter radish originally hails from China’s northern reaches. Though common to many Asian countries, the vegetable is regularly referred to around the world by its Japanese moniker. As you can likely surmise from the subtitle of this article, I have a bit of an odd connection to this Asian tuber.

How daikon ultimately saved my life is a bit of a long story. To follow the tale, you’ll need to first understand that I unequivocally love Japan. This should come as no surprise to regular readers but the ferocity with which I adore this country would shock even my most devoted fans. I’ll probably lose a fair amount of clout for putting this to paper but I actually get visibly distraught whenever others in the expat community start to criticize Japan.

For the longest time, I thought I was entirely alone in being a total weirdo when it comes to loving Japan this much. Frankly put, I could never resonate with the other foreigners who have had negative experiences here. Again, I’ll probably get a lot of flack online for saying this but I am of the mind that you find what you want to see in life. Sure, Japan has some minor flaws to fix if you actively look for them but the many positives should be overwhelming.

Getting back to the topic of delicious root vegetables, it wasn’t until recently when I started spending a lot of time with fellow blogger Cheesie that I was able to understand my own love for Japan. From her, I inherited the useful mental imagery of the almighty daikon. This borrowed metaphor gave me a framework onto which I could hoist all of my passion for Japan. Rather than some nebulous sensation, I now had a clear representation of my love.

Prior to possessing the symbolism of the daikon, I had no corporeal means of comprehending my own intense feelings for Japan. As Japan suddenly closed its borders at the onset of the pandemic, the motif of daikon has become a much-needed support for me. Just as a soldier on the battlefield might look reminiscently at a locket containing a photo of his loved ones back home, the daikon allegory helps me remember what I am fighting for.

An old Japanese farmer holds a daikon in her hand while smiling at the camera

Whenever I struggle with corona-induced darkness, I just think of an elderly lady slaving away in her fields to grow delicious daikon and it gives me the courage to keep on moving forward. Not a fan of this delicious tuber? Well, you need to understand it’s just a useful representation. In fact, I think it’s a bit of an odd one myself but you can’t pick what you end up inheriting. Thankfully, daikon can be used to portray any of Japan’s other endless virtues.

In all honesty, I don’t think I would have been able to make it through 2020 without the metal crutch of daikon. It’s been instrumental in helping me shift my priorities from inbound tourism to the much grander mission of assisting Japan itself. While I love traveling and producing content for overseas visitors, I am now working my behind off for the betterment of Japan as a whole (at least until international travel again becomes a thing).

Currently, my top priority is in helping rural regions better make the jump to digital. The coronavirus has made this now a necessity to survive but many of these homely craftsmen lack the skills needed to thrive online. As part of my role as a freelance digital marketer, I want to aid more of these local businesses in setting up their e-commerce marketing. This way, I can better serve the #DaikonCult while also thriving professionally.

Speaking of cults, if you’d like to join Cheesie and I in our infatuation with Japan, be sure to follow us on Instagram (and elsewhere too if you REALLY want to please Daikon-no-Mikoto). We’re both doing all we can to keep the Japan content coming. While we can’t welcome you to this amazing place right now, it’s my hope that our regular posts help to keep the embers of wanderlust alive through these dark days.

Until next time travelers…

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Donny Kimball
Donny Kimball

I'm a travel writer and freelance digital marketer who blogs about the sides of Japan that you can't find in the mainstream media.

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