Sakura Shrimp

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While green tea and tangerines are widely known as Shizuoka Prefecture’s local specialties, the tiny shrimp known as sakura—or cherry blossom—shrimp should not be overlooked as well.

Sakura shrimp are named for their transparent, pink body. In Japan, they are found in Shizuoka’s Suruga Bay and in Sagami-nada, the open sea south of Tokyo Bay, though only Suruga Bay is a designated fishery site. Sakura shrimp are loved for their unique taste and sweet smell, and are widely consumed in washoku (Japanese traditional cuisine), being used in dishes such as chawan-mushi (savory steamed egg custard with seasonal ingredients), and even as an accent for pastas and salads.

While small shrimp from various regions of Japan tend to be collectively referred to as sakura shrimp, true sakura shrimp represent a very specific species. During the day, these shrimp inhabit depths over 300 meters, and only rise to the surface at night. While only about five centimeters long each, their bodies are covered in 155 bioluminescent points that emit beautiful light at night. This mysterious glow is absolutely captivating, leading these shrimp to be known as the “rubies of the ocean.” The bioluminescent points are also said to represent the sweetness and deliciousness of shrimp, so the stronger the light, the better it tastes.

In addition, the whiskers of sakura shrimp are extremely long, extending an average of about 15 centimeters, or three times their body length. Though these whiskers have ordinarily been thrown away, recent research has found that they contain substances that support the excretion of noxious chemicals from the body. It has also been found that they contain rich amounts of minerals, including calcium and magnesium, and have preventive effects against cancer and somatic mutation. Moreover, sakura shrimp themselves are said to promote improved eyesight, recovery from fatigue, lower cholesterol and prevention of cerebral thrombosis, atherosclerosis and osteoporosis.

In addition to offering a number of salutory effects for the body, sakura shrimp are fragrant and delicious, and well suited to a wide range of recipes. Why not try making your own original recipe using sakura shrimp and find out for yourself?

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