Everything but the Taste: Kyoto’s Shishigatani Squash as Culinary Heritage

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8 Citations (Scopus)


The Shishigatani kabocha, an heirloom squash variety cultivated in Japan’s Kyoto Prefecture, epitomizes the celebrated un-delicious. Farmers, retailers, local officials, and consumers describe this heirloom variety as difficult to prepare and “not delicious.” Yet the squash is valued: Kyoto City restaurants display it outside with other local produce to attract customers, and upscale department stores all over Japan feature it prominently in produce sections dedicated to heirloom vegetables. Kyoto’s Anraku Temple even holds a yearly Shishigatani kabocha “mass” that attracts hundreds of visitors. This paper examines the reasons for the Shishigatani kabocha’s appeal and argues that cultural embeddedness and distinct attributes including an unusual shape can compensate for a less delicious flavor profile. In this paper, data obtained from interviews with farmers, local officials, retailers, and consumers are used, as well as participant observation at events including the annual “mass” at Anraku Temple. Comparing the Shishigatani kabocha with other heirloom vegetable varieties that have had less success reveals lessons about taste, agrobiodiversity, and the market potential of less palatable heirloom varieties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-301
Number of pages21
JournalFood, Culture and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Apr 3
Externally publishedYes


  • Cucurbita
  • Japan
  • Kyoto
  • branding
  • culinary tourism
  • heirloom vegetables
  • kabocha
  • taste
  • tradition
  • value

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies


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