Water shield, Brasenia


Water shield (junsai)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: All summer
***** Category: Plant


water shield, Brasenia schreberi, junsai
蓴菜 じゅんさい / ジュンサイ

..... nunawa 蓴(ぬなわ
flower of the water shield, nunawa no hana 蓴の花(ぬなわのはな)

collecting water shield leaves, nunawa toru
boat to collect the leaves, nunawabune 蓴舟(ぬなわぶね)

© Iimachi Akita

You can see an old lady of Akita prefecture, sitting in her boat, picking the plant.


As food, it looks like this. It is harvested in early summer and feels rather slippery.

Quote from WASHOKU

The archaic name for junsai, nunawa, is a kigo used in numerous eighth century documents including a famous anthology of poetry called the Manyoshu.

I recently discovered that in Osaka the word junsai, can be used in a less than complimentary manner, to describe someone who avoids/evades responsibility and duties: a "slippery" creature. Yet the expression itself seems to dodge a single definition; it can also describe an accommodating, easy-going (tephlon-coated) type for whom worry slides away.

Junsai and related Brasenia water plants grow in lakes, ponds and slow streams in many parts of the world, including much of North America and Europe. Yet only in Asia (primarily Japan) does the plant have a long history of cultivation as a food, and consumption for its medicinal properties (in particular delaying the growth and spread of certain cancers, and as a detox agent).

Junsai is a rhizome that can germinate to produce numerous plants from a given "mother" plant and it can easily become the dominant botanical species in a given area. Once established, it tends to cover the entire water surface inhibiting growth of other plants and impeding small boat navigation.

Today, Akita Prefecture (in the northwestern region of Japan's main island, Honshu) is the center for commercial junsai production. Harvesting begins in April and continues through to September with the highest quality ("first sprouts") and greatest volume (more than 300 tons!) picked in June.

Read more about it HERE !
© WASHOKU Copyright 2005, Elizabeth Andoh

Thanks, Elizabeth san, for bringing this to our attention !



JUNSAI grows in clumps in water of one to three meters deep in natural ponds and irrigation reservoirs. It is a perennial water grass with a long leafstalk whose leaves reach the surface of the water. The flower is violet red. The sprout is covered with a transparent, viscous jelly. This jelly contains various kinds minerals and albumin. The taste and feeling of this jelly is characteristic of junsai.

FLOWER of the plant

Boiled junsai is sold in the market in packages and bottles for long-term preservation. A special canning technique was developed in Akita and has been used for long term preservation of boiled junsai before packing. It is a frozen storage method in water having low conductivity.

Thanks to this technique, the unique feeling of biting junsai jelly is increased and the quality of the preserved junsai is improved. Such a package can be stored for about six months. Fresh junsai can be kept about a week in the refrigerator.
© Foods of Akita

Worldwide use

North America

Water shield, also known as dollar pad or water target, is a native plant found in Washington's lakes and ponds. It goes by the scientific name Brasenia schreberi, named after two botanists (Brasen and Schreber) who collected and described plants in the late 1700's. It is found throughout Washington and other parts of the northwest, and also is common east of the Mississippi River and in other parts of the world.

Water shield has long purplish stems that reach from trailing rhizomes in the sediment to the floating leaves at the surface. These stems are slightly elastic, so that when the water surface becomes wavy the leaves can bob up and down without breaking off. Each of the leaves is up to 6 inches long by 3 inches wide with a green top and dark purple underside. The leaves attach to the stem directly in the middle, giving it a shield-like appearance. During mid summer the small dark purple flowers rise above the water surface an inch or two to bloom and set seed.

The most interesting feature of this plant is the thick coating of gelatinous slime that covers young stems and the underside of young leaves. This dense gel is secreted by special single-celled glandular hairs within the plant. It creates such a slippery surface that it can make grabbing onto the plant very difficult. This usually makes Brasenia a favorite with children (and some adults!).

Water shield is sometimes confused with young leaves of the larger water lilies (either our native yellow water lily or the non-native fragrant (white or pink) water lilies). However, water lilies have a split in the leaf from the edge to where the stem attaches. The leaves of water shield are completely oval, with no split.

Brasenia is usually found in water from 2 - 6 feet deep growing on soft nutrient rich substrate. It prefers soft-water lakes, so is mostly found in Western and Northeastern Washington. It is a valuable plant for fish and wildlife; young fish like to hide among the stems, and waterfowl eat the seeds as well as the vegetation. Humans also have used water shield. Native American groups used the tuberous roots for food, and the Japanese use young leaves and stems in salads. The Japanese also have processed and used the plants gelatinous coating.
© ecy.wa.gov

Things found on the way


numa no ha ni tsuma no na no aru nunawa-bune

the bank of a marsh -
a water shield boat named after my wife
being moored

© Yoho Fujii, Senboku-cho, Akita


nunawa-ou numa-no hikari-ni kogi-ni-keri

NISHIJIMA Bakunan 西島麦南(1895~1981)

Das Wasserschild wächst.
Zum Licht des Weihers
rudere ich hinaus.

 (übersetzt:TOGARI Hiroshi)


蓴池 蛇の渡りて 静かなり         
Takahama Kyoshi 高浜虚子

旅人に 遠く唄へり 蓴採          
Iida Dakotsu 飯田蛇笏

仰むいて 沼はさびしき 蓴かな       
Akimoto Fujio 秋元不死男

© yume haiku tabi

Related words

kigo for late spring

mizukusa ou 水草生ふ (みずくさおう) みづくさおふ) waterweeds grow
... 水草生う (みくさおう) waterweeds grow
mogusa ou 藻草生う (もぐさおう) duckweed grows

ukikusa oisomu 萍生い初む (うきくさおいそむ) floating weeds grow
... ukikusa ou 萍生う(うきくさおう)
(kinds of duckweed)
- - -
junsai ou 蒪菜生う(じゅんさいおう)junsai grows
..... nunawa ou 蒪生う (ぬなわおう)


duckweed and all kinds of
. ukikusa 浮草 floating water weeds .




Isabelle said...

Thank you, Gabi san! One of the joys of World Kigo is to learn more about the culture and vegetation of other places. This is a beautiful page.

Workd Kigo Database said...

Junsai and more summer vegetables !