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The Little Radish That Almost Could


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The Times [London] November 18, 2005

Crying shame as streetwise giant radish is cut down in its prime

From Richard Lloyd Parry in Tokyo

UNTIL it was tragically cut short, the life of

Dokonjo Daikon was an inspiration to all who knew

him. Born in obscurity, he overcame the sternest

of obstacles to rise to prominence in his small

town. Loved by his neighbours, he became a symbol

of the Japanese virtue of perseverance against

the odds. People came from far and wide to wish

him well — until a brutal attack this week that

left him critically injured. It is all the more

remarkable because Little Dai, as he is fondly

known, is not a human being, but a plant; a long,

thick, white daikon, or Japanese giant radish.

For the past few weeks newspaper readers and

television viewers have been gripped by the

vegetable drama unfolding in the small western

town of Aioi.

Daikon are among the most common of Japanese

edible roots, and Little Dai was remarkable in

only one respect: rather than growing in the

fields, he was an urban radish who pushed himself

up through solid asphalt on a roadside pavement.

He first appeared in July and, rather than

extracting him and filling in the hole, the local

council honoured him with a signboard bearing the

words: "Observe with affection". Locals

christened him Dokonjo Daikon, "the daikon with

fighting spirit", or, more colloquially, "the

radish with balls".

"People discouraged by tough times were cheered

by its tenacity and strong will to live," Jiro

Matsuo, the Aioi town spokesman, said.

Daikon is a staple of Japanese cooking --

pickled, grated and, above all, cooked with

Devil's Tongue jelly and fish sausage in the

hearty winter stew known as oden. "This is the

time of year when daikon are eaten in oden,"

wrote the Mainichi newspaper. "But even without

being eaten, this daikon provides nutrition for

our hearts."

Imagine the reaction then when Dokonjo Daikon was

decapitated. The attack happened some time during

the night last Saturday.

Neighbours who came out to check on the heroic

tuber found his green leafy crown and the top of

his sturdy body were missing. There were tears

and outrage.

"The source of our energy has been chopped," a

local resident told the Mainichi. Even the

unknown perpetrator seems to have repented his or

her wickedness: three mornings later the daikon's

top half appeared again close to its bottom.

The town council has taken it into care and

placed it in a saucer of water in the hope that

it will stay alive and perhaps even flower.

But Aioi must come to terms with the painful

knowledge that Dokonjo Daikon will be a vegetable

for the rest of his life.


# In Ancient Greece, a husband was permitted to

punish anyone who committed adultery with his

wife by forcing a radish up his rectum

# Eating too many radishes can cause wind

# In Gone With The Wind, the hungry Scarlett

O'Hara tries to eat the only food she can find, a

radish. She chokes on it and vows: "As God is my

witness, I'll never be hungry again."

# Pliny the Elder wrote extensively on radishes,

although he considered them food for the low-bred

# At the Kawasaki annual festival of the penis in

Japan, part of the fun is carving penises out of

daikon radishes


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