Most of my early trips to Japan involved visiting my brother, back when he was living in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture. One day while waiting for a train at the station, I passed the time by staring out at one of the many lotus farms the town is known for.
“Ah, Japan!” I thought as the plants swayed almost hypnotically in the hot summer breeze. “So appreciative of the beauty of nature!” The lotus must be so highly prized that it’s economically worthwhile to use large tracts of what little arable land the country has to cultivate and sell the flowers, I concluded.
I found out later that I was only half right. While it is true that Japan tends to get more excited about blossoming flora than other nations, all those lotuses weren’t being grown for aesthetic reasons. Lotus root, called renkon in Japanese, is edible, and not only is it delicious, it can also help you cope with one of the absolute worst parts of life in Japan: hay fever.