Kyoto’s Spicy Street Gekikara

May 29, 2017

Yu Sakamoto, Kazu Shibao, Taishi Nishikawa

Funny sign

“Danger! Super Spicy!”

 

Do you like spicy foods? There are many kinds of spicy foods all over the world. And although traditional Japanese foods are not spicy, especially those in Kyoto, there are still many opportunities to eat spicy dishes because they have recently become popular in Japan. Nine out of ten people said they like spicy foods when we asked them. They said that spicy dishes are addictive.

Then we heard something interesting —there is “Gekikara Shotengai” in Muko town in Kyoto. Muko is a very small town and its residents wanted it to become more famous. However, they did not have any special attractions. Townspeople thought that if they did not have a selling point, they would create one. From this, Gekikara Shotengai was born in 2009. It has become fpopular and was even the subject of a TV show. ‘Gekikara” means “super spicy”; and “shotengai” is a shopping street.

We went there to try their famous spicy food and find out how it tasted. Was it only spicy or spicy and delicious?

 

Photo spotThe mascot character of Gekikara street named "karakkyi"

On the way there, a lady from NHK interviewed us about spicy food. According to her, Gekikara Street is not only famous among locals, but is also getting a lot of attention from foreigner visitors who come to eat spicy foods.

 

 

 

Sudden death DogFront of the "Only"At first, we went to the crepe shop named “Only” which was recommended to us by the woman from NHK. It seemed like a regular shop, but besides basic crepes, they were also a selling spicy crepe named “Sudden death Dog.” We can choose the spicy level from 1 to 5, so if you are not good at spicy foods but  want to still try this crepe, you can choose level 1. One of us did try level 5 and it literally burned his tongue. Basically, it tastes like a mixture of curry and chili sauce, and tastes very good until the spiciness kicks in.

Next, we went to a café named “Cucina.” This café also seemed normal, but they also had spicy foods on their menu. We ordered gekikara cream soda, gekikara coffee zenzai and habanero ice cream. These were really strange combinations but once we took a bite we were surprised by just how good these tasted.

 

MenuSpicy Sweets

 

For dinner, we went to the okonomiyaki restaurant named “Kyuzo“. The restaurant was so gorgeous that it belonged in Gion. We ordered Gekikara Okonomiyaki, the “spiciest okonomiyaki in the world”. We could also choose the level of hotness from 1 to 5. However, we warn you not to choose level 5. We did try level 3, but that was enough to kill us. If you are don’t have problems with spicy food and even love it, then we would recommend level three.

We ran into some foreigners and asked them some questions. They were an old couple form America. First, we asked, “How did you find out about the Gekikara Shotengai?” They said from a TV program. Next, we asked, “Do you like spicy food?” They answered in the affirmative. When we asked them their opinion of Gekikara Shotengai, they answered, “It is awesome! There have many kinds of spicy food, and the level was so high. We have never eaten such spicy food.”

Gekikara Shotengai in Muko town is a good spot to eat really spicy food. The places that sell a spicy food products are marked by a flag that is placed in front of their shops or restaurants. If you will visit Gekikara Shotengai, you can refer to a map that shows all of the shops that have spicy foods. Many of these foods were broadcast nationwide on an NHK TV program. We think Gekikara Shotengai will be become a huge tourist attraction.

Spicy restaurant flag

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Japanese Sweets at Kanshundo

By Yuri Nonaka, Karen Takeda, Mayu Kuwahara

“Wagashi” are Japanese traditional sweets. The continental culture of Tang China was introduced to Japan by special envoys during the Nara period. At that time so Tang cakes were introduced to Japan. The Tang cake was used as an offering and they became popular among the Heian aristocrats because the cakes were so beautiful. The Tang cake was deeply related to the Imperial Court and it developed forms that were peculiar to Japan. Confectioners who made “wagashi” polished their skills and created graceful wagashi. They named each wagashi after the beauties of nature. Besides, when tea was introduced to Japan by Eisai, a Zen priest who founded Kenninji Temple, “kyogashi” (Sweets made in Kyoto) were already developed here. Kyogashi sweets were made with high-quality water and natural ingredients of Kyoto, so they were praised by Japanese people.

 

kansyundo

 

We went to Kanshundo (甘春堂) confectionary on November 14th to make kyogashi and interview wagashi makers. It took one hour and fifteen minutes to make four different wagashi cakes. One of them was higashi, which is made of sugar and has little moisture.  I made one that was in the shape of a maple (momiji) leaf. The others were jyonamagashi, which contains candies, creams, jam, or jellies, and is very moist. Each wagashi reflects the changing seasons, therefore, we made autumn ones. These days, wagashi makers are taking in Western holidays such as Halloween and Christmas.

 

namagashi

 

  Interview

Q : What kinds of customers do you deal with? Do foreigners also come here?

A : Many high school and junior high school students and families. And recently, foreign customers have been increasing. They are also great at making wagashi, because some of them learn waka and haiku.

Q : How many customers come per day?

A : The number of customers depends on the day, but the maximum is 180 people per a day.

Q : How much does each wagashi cake cost?

A : From 100 yen to 1000 yen. An assortment is usually between 2000 yen and 5000 yen.

Q : What is your recommendation?

A : “Chajyu no utsuwa,” which is a cake shaped like a Japanese tea cup. You can pour drinks in the cup and eat it too.

 

Information

Stores:

in Higasiyama・Kiyomizu

in Arashiyama ・Sagano

 

Open: 9:00

Close: 18:00

 

Timetable for making wagashi

1. 9:15-10:30

2. 11:00-12:15

3. 13:00-14:15

4. 15:00-16:15

Please book a few days in advance.

Charge for wagashi-making class: 2160 yen

 

 

namagashi2

Foreign Impressions of the Kamo River

By Hiroto Shima and Aina Sasaki

Is there a river where you live? Do you often go for a walk there? We are familiar with Kamo River, because our school is in Kyoto. There are paths along both banks where people walk, jog and bicycle. When we come to Kamo River, we always see foreigners there. So, we tried a questionnaire.

First, the Kamo River is the main river that runs through Kyoto, from the north to the south.. In the old days, the Kamo flooded its banks many times during typhoons but now such natural disasters are rare since high banks have been built. Now the river is a place of rest and Kyoto people can spend time there slowly. The Kamo river has some charms. One famous charm is its abundance of nature. Many creatures, such as the giant Japanese salamander and ayu sweetfish are living in the river . There are also many birds—ducks, white egrets, blue herons, cormorants and seagulls in winter.

The Kamo River has many beautiful views and can be recommended in every season. In spring many cherry trees are blossoming on its banks, so it is a popular place for cherry-viewing parties. So the Kamo is loved by many people including locals and foregin tourists.

Cherry tree

Cherry tree

 

The Kamo River is located near the Kyoto Station. The Kamo is a good geographic landmark, so it can help visitors navigate the city. It is good place to have lunch on a bench, take a little break or have coffee at a riverside café. We can often see local people walking or jogging on the mornings and evenings. The Kamo river is one of the symbols of Kyoto. More tourists will visit Kyoto in the future and they are sure to visit the Kamo River.

Jogging at Kamo river

Jogging at Kamo river

We met three foreign people at the river and asked them the following questions:

1. Where are you from?

2. What have you seen at the Kamo river that you will remember?

3. Do you have a river in your hometown? How similar or different to the Kamo river is it?

Their answers were so wonderful that we would like to relate them here:

First of all, we will introduce the answers of a French woman. She said that she recalls the memory of playing in the river when she was young. She lives in Lyon in France and they have a river too. The river is divided into two branches that are named la Saone and la Rhone. There people can run, chat together on riverside benches, play on the grass, skateboard—many people use the river as a place to relax. Her image about Kamo river is that it is more natural and at the Kamo river we can see cherry blossom and autumn leaves and feel the four seasons. Both rivers are similar in that they are places to relax and people can enjoy themselves without spending much money.

The second person we met lives in Finland. She said when she saw the Kamo river she thought that Japan is very beautiful place. Finland has a lake named Uthah lake, it is not river but many people relax there. She said she has never seen the people playing beside the Kamo, but Uthah lake has a lot of people playing. And also she said both are loved by many people.

The third person we met is from America. When she came to the Kamo river it reminded her of her boyfriend. Her boyfriend is not Japanese but he lives in Japan so when they meet in Kyoto, they definitely come to the Kamo River. She told us about a river in Minnesota: it is used only as a place for walking or jogging, whereas the Kamo is a good spot to chill out. Because there are cafes and convenience stores nearby,  the Kamo is very convenient. She also said the Kamo has great nature and is a good place to relax.

Kamo river at night

Kamo river at night

 

 

Make a Wish on Ema

by Nanae Uchida and Yu Nakabayashi

Kasuga

Ema (絵馬) is a wooden plaque with picture or painting on the surface. People write their wishes on its backside and hang it up at a special place at the shrine. It’s believed that gods will receive their wishes and grant their prayers. Ema can be found in most shrines in Japan, as it is a Shinto (one of the Japanese religions) custom. Although people are used to making a wish in writing on ema, especially for success in their entrance examinations, there is no rule when or what kind of wish to write. Each shrine has its own design of the ema it offers visitors, some of them quite unique.

Custom

with instruction

Ema with Instructions

How ema will be dealt with depends on each shrine. After visitors hang their ema with their wish written on it, it is usually kept hanging for while and when time comes, the ema are burned in a ritual. As Ema are burned, the smoke reaches the realm of the gods so that the gods can know the wish. The ritual is sometimes different with various meanings according to the particular shrine.

How to Write a Wish

You can write only one wish on one Ema. You should write your wish on its backside with your name and address (just your country and city is OK) at the bottom. Then you should hang it up at a specific place called emakakesyo (絵馬掛所). If your wish comes true, you should visit the shrine and thank the gods for their generosity.

History

The term ‘ema’ consists of two kanji: 絵 which means ‘picture’ and 馬 which means ‘horse’. Traditionally, in Shinto, horses were believed to be the vehicles of the gods. People used to donate real horses to the shrines when they prayed for more serious wishes so that gods would listen more carefully to their prayers. However horses were so expensive that many people couldn’t afford to buy them. Also, it was hard for the caretakers of the shrine to deal with the horses that were donated. For these reasons, people started using a wooden plate or figure in the shape of a horse instead of a real horse. Thus, ema were born.

How Ema Have Changed

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Because ema originally came from real horses, ema used to have a picture of horse on their surface in the Nara period (710-794). Since that time, however, more animals have been displayed on ema since the Muromachi period (1336-1573), like foxes, snakes, birds, cows and so on. They also seem to serve as messengers to the gods.

Over time, the size of ema has changed, too. Ema of the past used to be much bigger than the ema of today. Also, in the past, paintings were done by artists on very large ema, and they were displayed at halls at the shrine. But these days, people get ema individually and make their wishes on these small wooden plaques more conveniently.

Modern Ema

As mentioned above, ema used to be a pentagon-shaped wooden plaque with a picture of horse in the past, but today, you can see ema with all kinds of different pictures, shapes, and designs. For example, you can get ema in the shape of pink heart at Kasuga Grand Shrine, which is the most celebrated shrine in Nara and where the god of marriage is enshrined. Many people go there to write their hopes and dreams about their relationships and marriages. In a similar way, the color, shape, size, and design of ema varies from shrine to shrine throughout Japan, and it is often related to which type of god is enshrined.

Ema at Several Shrines

As you probably know, there are lots of shrines and temples in Kyoto, so you can get ema just about anywhere. For example, the two shrines below are very famous, in convenient locations, and both have ema of unique shapes and designs.

Yasaka Shrine

This shrine is famous for the god of matchmaking. So, the ema at this shrine are heart-shaped with Japanese character en (縁), which means connection, fate, or chance. Within the grounds of Yasaka shrine, there are a several different shrine buildings and each one of has different gods and different meanings, where visitors can pray for different things. So, you can also find the standard type of ema there, too. You can get heart-shaped ema at Okuninushi-sha, a prayer building that is dedicated to the god of matchmaking located southwest of main shrine building for ¥500.

Access

It’s a 1-minute walk west from the Gion bus stop (City Bus #206)

It’s an 5-minute walk west from Gion-shijo Station on Keihan Main Line

It’s an 8-minute walk west from Kawaramachi Station on Hankyu Kyoto Line

Fushimi Inari Taisha

fox-shaped ema

fox-shaped ema

This shrine is very famous. Every day lots of people visit this shrine, not only tourists but also local residents. It is famous for good economic fortune, so people who run businesses often go there to pray for success.

Ema at this shrine are fox-shaped because foxes are said to be messengers of Inari Okami, god of agriculture. These fox-shaped ema can be found at Okusha Hohaisho, a prayer building located in the Myobu-dani valley to the east of the main shrine building, at the end of the famous Senbon Torii (Thousand Gateways).

The fox-shaped ema are sold for 500 yen, and there is a table, some pens, and some instructions on how to write your wish. It is quite easy to do for visitors.

Access

Take Kyoto City Bus #5 to the Inari Taisha-Mae stop, and walk about 7 minutes to east

The shrine is right next to Inari Station on the JR Nara Line.

If you take the Keihan Line, get off at Fushimi-inari Station and walk about 7 minutes to east.

Hatsumoude – A Japanese New Year Tradition

by Miyabi Saeki, Shiho Tojo, Sakina Nishitsuji

Hatsumode is a Japanese tradition of visiting a shrine or temple for the first time at the start of a new year. Hatsumode is a very important custom for Japanese people because it gives them a chance to pray for happiness in the upcoming year with their family members. People pray for the sake of their health, studies, pregnancies, traffic safety, love, and various other things. For this reason, many people go to the shrine on New Years Day, so it is always very crowded at that time. At larger, more popular shrines, vendors of different types also put up stands on the shrine grounds or even outside the shrine. The whole atmosphere is like that of a festival.

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History of Hatsumode

Originally hatsumode was called toshikomori, and was a time for people to stay in their houses from the night of December 31st to morning of January 1st. This custom was meant to give people happiness by giving them a chance to meet Toshikamisama, or the God of the New Year. Toshikomori changed to hatsumode about 100 years ago, during the middle of the Meiji period. Many years ago, there was little in the way of transportation, so people could not so easily get to a shrine. These days, however, trains run almost non-stop, so people can easily get to the shrine and pray for happiness.

Hatsumode Customs

There are three main customs related to hatsumode that all Japanese people carry out during their New Years visit to the shrine: washing hands, praying to the gods, and drawing a fortune slip.

Washing Hands

When praying for good fortune, people follow a number of steps in order. The very first things people do is wash their hands. This is important because they need to enter the shrine symbolically clean. Here is how to do it:

1. Grab the ladle with your right hand and scoop water out of the basin with it;
2. Use this water to rinse your left hand;
3. Repeat the above steps with the opposite hands;
4. Grasp the ladle with your right hand again and pour the water into your left hand to rinse the mouth;
5. Still holding the ladle in the right hand, scoop water to rinse the left hand again, leaving some water in the ladle;
6. Rinse the ladle using the excess water. To do this, tilt the ladle upwards until the water pours out from the scoop and over the shaft.

Praying to the Gods

After people wash their hands, they walk to the main hall. That is where the saisenbako is, a large wooden box. In front of the saisenbako is a large bell with a rope hanging from it. Everyone stands in front of the saisenbako. Then, they pray to the gods for good luck. The way to pray is as follows:

1. Grab the rope and ring the bell. This is to wake up the god of the shrine.
2. Toss a coin into the saisenbako. Five yen coins are commonly used for this.
3. Bow to the shrine twice.
4. Clap hands twice in front of the saisenbako.
5. Pray for wishes.
6. Bow once, and then walk away from the saisenbako.

Omikuji – The Fortune Slip

In addition to praying to the gods, visitors also draw a fortune slip, called omikuji. These can be purchased at the shrine, often for around one hundred yen. Each omikuji represents different levels of luck for the year: very good luck, good luck, OK luck, bad luck, extremely bad luck and so on. Omikuji also tells you your fortune in specific areas of your life, such as health, romance, money, and education. After reading the fortune, most people hold onto it.

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Famous Hatsumode Locales

There are many shrines for hatsumode in Kyoto. Each one has a unique series of gods and spirits representing different energies.

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

Located in Kamigyouku, Kitano-Tenmangu shrine is famous for the god of studies. Therefore, many students go there to pray. However, not everyone prays for their studies; some people go there to pray for their good health or other purposes.

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Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine is one of the most famous shrines in Japan, and is in Fushimiku. This shrine is dedicated to the god of business, so if you are one of the many businesspeople visiting Japan, we recommend that you go there. Fushimi Inari Shrine has some famous structures. There are the hundreds of torii, or tall red gates, to walk through, each donated by a different Japanese business. The building made from hinoki, or Japanese cypress trees, is the main shrine and is an important cultural property. It was refurbished in 1499. Also, there is a tower gate painted in red, which was made by the contribution of Hideyoshi Toyotomi in 1589. Hideyoshi Toyotomi was a famous Japanese politician who helped to unify Japan during the Sengoku period.

There are two events at Fushimi Inari Shrine for New Year’s Holiday on December 31st and January 1st. December 31st is when the Oharae ceremony is held. It is an event that cleanses people of the sins they committed in the second half of the year, to try to enable them to spend the New Year without impurity. Next is the Saitan festival on January 1st. At the event, people pray for safety and prosperity from the god of Inari Shrine.

Heian-jingu Shrine

Heian Jingu is probably the most famous and iconic shrine of Kyoto. It is in Sakyouku. It was built to memorialize the peaceful removal of the Japan’s capital of 1100 years. Kyoto was laid wasted by war at end of Edo period. So this shrine was built by enthusiasm of Kyoto’s citizens. It is one of the main locations of the famous Jidai Matsuri, which is held in October each year. There is also a Japanese garden and a shrine garden around the main shrine. The total area of the gardens is about 30,000 square meters. Cherry blossoms and irises bloom there during certain times of the year.

Heian Jingu is dedicated to the emperors Kanmu and Koumei. Praying there is supposed to improve your fortune. During hatsumode, many people pray for business prosperity, good luck, sending away evil spirits, matchmaking, and the success in school. New Year’s ceremony is held on January 1st, at 6 o’clock.

Shimogamo Jinja Shrine

This shrine is one of the oldest shrines in Kyoto, and also in Sakyouku. It contains two shrines within: the East and West shrines. Each shrine has its own separate god, the two of them being husband and wife. Shimogamo Jinja is also known for its magnificent cherry blossoms, autumn leaves, and its fresh greenery. The famous Aoi Matsuri festival is held at Shimogamo Jinja each year on May 15th. At Hatsumode, many people come to pray at this shrine for good luck in marriage and having kids.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many kinds of shrines in Kyoto. So before you go to Hatsumode, you should choose which shrine is suitable for you. From the last day of the year to the second day of January, Kyoto city buses and the subway remain in business during the night at no additional fee. You can go to Hatsumode as soon as the New Year begins, but at that time the shrines are always very crowded every year. If you don’t want to go when it is crowded, you should try going to a shrine from 3 a.m to 5 a.m., when there are fewer people.

Enjoy your New Year’s in Kyoto.

Illumination in Kyoto

by Haruka Onishi and Natsumi Hosono

It has become second nature to enjoy Christmas illumination every winter for Japanese people. How did this come about? According to one research (1), the origin of Christmas illumination dates back to the 16 century , when electricity still hadn’t been developed. In Germany, Martin Luther was impressed to see shining stars in the forest and tried to reproduce the beautiful scenery by decorating trees with candles. Afterward, Thomas Alva Edison started bulb illumination. He decorated his laboratory with incandescent light bulbs to advertise his invention. It is said that his decoration is the first bulb illumination in the world.

About 150 years ago, in the Meiji era, illumination came to Japan. Meijiya, the company that sold foreign goods at the time, started turning on illumination every night from December 15th until Christmas day. This event attracted public attention and people started flocking to see the flashy illumination every year. Now, we can see illumination all over Japan every winter. The warm light heals our heart and gives us a feeling of peace.

Then, we will give you some information about illumination in Kyoto that we recommend to you.

Gojo Street Illumination

Gojo street illumination

Gojo street illumination

The Gojo Street Illumination is put on by the ROHM company, a Japanese semiconductor maker. This display first appeared in 1995 as a contribution to society. It is usually held between November 25th to December 25th from 17:00~22:00 of every year. More than 80 trees are decorated with more than 80,000 light bulbs. The main point of interest in this illumination is a tree-lined road. It is free to see, and people like to go there with someone special.

Arashiyama Illumination

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Arashiyama illumination

The illumination display in Arashiyama is called Hanatouro. “Hana” means flower, “tou” means light, and “ro” means road. Its main concept is to color the nights of Kyoto with flowers and lights. This event has been held since 2005. This illumination is held from 17:00 to 20:30 in every year. About 2500 LED bulbs are used in this illumination. Moreover the road is decorated by a lot of flowers and it is beautiful. Moreover, the path through the bamboo forest is also lit up which expresses a sense of the Christmas season in Kyoto. Therefore we can enjoy walking down paths filled with a Japanese atmosphere.

Rurikei Hot Spring Illumination

Ruri Kei illumination

Ruri Kei illumination


The Rurikei Hot Spring illumination is called Illumiere. This term is a combination of ‘illumination’ in English and ‘limiere’ in French, which means ‘light’. They want to give peace and hope to people all over the world from Kyoto through this illumination. It has been held since 2012, from October 29th to April 9th after sunset to 21:30. However it costs a small fee of \1,000 per person. More than 100 thousand LDE bulbs are used, and it is very beautiful.

Joyo City Illumination

IMG_7085

Joyo City illumination

The Joyo City illumination is called TWINKLE JOYO and was started in 2002. This event is held from 17:30 to 21:30 in every year. It was originally held at a large park, but the illumination expanded to the city community center and shopping arcade, a sign of its growing progress. This year is the 15th anniversary, and the number of the bulbs is about 700,000. This display gathers illumination design ideas from various groups and companies. Volunteers decorate the illumination. During the display, a variety of events are held, such as the sale of special local products.

In conclusion, Kyoto has a lot of nice illumination spots, not only these illumination written in this article. However, most of these events in this season have been finished yet. If you have a chance to go to illumination next season, we recommend you go there with your someone special.

Getting There

Gojo Street Illumination

This illumination is located around Kasuga Gojo. Kasuga Street is the west of Kyoto station and Gojo Street is north of Kyoto station. If you are in Kyoto station, first you should take the JR Sagano Sanin Line (#33) and get off at the Tambaguchi station. It costs \140. Then you should take a bus (#32, #43 or #75) and get off at the Nishi-oji- Gojo bus stop. It costs \230. It takes about 10 minutes from Kyoto station to the bus stop.

Arashiyama Illumination

Take the JR Sagano Sanin Line (#33) to Saga Arashiyama station. It takes about 15 minutes and it costs \240. If you are near the Randen station, take the train to Arashiyama, which is the last station on the line.

Rurikei Hot Spring Illumination

Rurikei is in Nantan City, which is in the northwest of Kyoto Prefecture. It is quite far from Kyoto City. If you’d like to go to there, you should use a car. It takes more than 1 hour to get there from the city.

Joyo City Illumination

Take the JR Nara Line to Joyo station. It takes about 30 minutes and it costs \360. From there you should take the private bus – called Joyo SanSan Bus Primein – which takes about 10 minutes.

Reference

(1) http://weathernews.jp/s/topics/201611/250075/

https://sp.jorudan.co.jp/illumi/kyoto.html

Mitarashi Dango

by Yu Nakabayashi and Nanae Uchida

Mitarashi dango is Japanese sweet made of mochi with mitarashi sauce. Mochi is a soft and sticky white-colored food made from rice that is steamed, kneaded and shaped. Mitarashi sauce is a slightly sticky golden-colored sauce with a mix of sweet and salty taste. It made from soy sauce, sugar, water and starch. The shaped mochi is placed on a bamboo skewer and is grilled over charcoal to make the surface of the mochi a little bit burnt (see photo). This creates a wonderful smell. Mitarashi dango is very popular and low priced, usually 100 to 150 yen (about one dollar) for three mitarashi dango. People of all ages love mitarashi dango in Japan.

Where to Get Mitarashi Dango

Mitarashi Dango

Mitarashi Dango at a Convenience Store

Today, we can easily get Mitarashi Dango anywhere in Japan, such as in supermarkets, convenience stores, or cafés. There are even shops in shopping malls that specialize in Japanese sweets using mochi. However, there are differences in quality and between at the dango sold in convenience stores and those sold in the specialty shops in Kyoto. You should be aware of the quality difference before forming an opinion of mitarashi dango.

Features of Mitarashi Dango

Most mitarashi dango at convenience stores and supermarkets is sold as a pack of three dango with bamboo skewers. Also, the sauce is a little bit sticky; not so smooth. On the other hand, the mitarashi dango sold in specialty shops in Kyoto has several differences. First of all, each dango is smaller, and is sold in a pack of five with bamboo skewers. Also, the sauce is smoother and not so sticky. This is probably due to the fact that supermarket dango is made to be easy to carry and store. However, from historical point of view, five small dango with bamboo skewers is original way.

History of Mitarashi Dango

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Dango on Bamboo Skewer.

The famous origin of mitarashi dango is connected with the Shimogamo shrine. This name, Mitarashi Dango, comes from the Mitarashi Festival, which is held at Shimogamo shrine. As mitarashi dango is made up of five dango with bamboo skewers, there are two theories about the origin of this shape. The first theory is that the shape of the dango is based on bubbles in the Mitarashi pond at the shrine. After one bubble rose, four more bubbles came up to the surface of the water. That is why one dango is stabbed at the head of the bamboo skewer, leaving space for other four dango. The other theory is that mitarashi dango represents the human form: four dango for the body and the fifth for the human head.

Differences Between Now and Then

These days, the mitarashi dango you buy at convenience stores or supermarkets is different from the traditional version in taste and appearance. In order to ship it around Japan and sell it on a mass scale, the expiration date must be lengthened. For this reason, supermarket dango comes in packs of three dango and contains more sugar. Traditional mitarashi dango expires within a day, so it is important to eat it fresh. It tastes more like a Japanese food than a sweet due to the flavor of soy sauce. Therefore, people used to eating supermarket mitarashi dango might not like traditional version as much.

Where to Get Mitarashi Dango in Kyoto

There are several places where you can find high quality Mitarashi Dango in Kyoto. The most famous one is near Shimogamo shrine, the place of origin of Mitarashi Dango. You can also make your own Mitarashi Dango at some places in Kyoto.

To eat:Kamo Mitarashi Chaya

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Kamo Mitarashi Chaya

Although you cannot actually buy mitarashi dango at the Simogamo shrine itself, you can get it at a nearby cafe, called Kamo Mitarashi Chaya. It is only a minute’s walk from the shrine. This is a very old Japanese cafe, where you can find original style, fresh mitarashi dango (with five dango) and other food made from mochi. In addition to eating it there, you can also get it to go. It’s said that this is the birthplace of mitarashi dango. Not only is the food delicious, but the atmosphere is pleasing. Not only is it a very traditional place, but it is also a comfortable, modest space where you can experience the old Japanese style. We highly recommend a visit.

Access: Take the Kyoto City Bus #205, alight at Shimogamojinja-mae and walk about 10minutes

Address: 53 Shimogamo Matsunokicho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-0816, Kyoto Prefecture

Phone Number: +81 75-791-1652

To make:Yatsuhashian to Sishuyakata

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You can make your own Mitarashi Dango by yourself

If you want to try to make your own mitarashi dango, then you can go to Yatsuhashian to Sishuyakata. There, you can try to make several kinds of Japanese sweets from scratch, including mitarashi dango. You can experience the entire process of making mitarashi dango, from the mochi to the syrup and to the grilling process. Of course, when it’s all done, you can eat it, too. It is sure to taste much better when you make it by yourself.

Access: Take the Kyoto City Bus #73, alight at Nishikyogoku and walk about 8minutes

Take the Kyoto City Bus #205, alight at Saidaiji-shijyo and walk about 15minutes

Address:36 Nishikyōgoku Nishikoromodechō, Ukyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 615-0877

Phone number: +81 75-313-2151

Hoji-cha

by Sakina Nishitsuji, Miyabi Saeki and Shiho Tojo

Hoji-cha is a kind of Japanese green tea drunk by many people all over Japan, especially in Kyoto. Generally, it is roasted from Sencha, Ban-cha, or Kuki-cha.

  • Sen-cha is a type of green tea. It is simple and a bit tart. It is the most popular tea in Japan.
  • Ban-cha is a tea that people often drink. This tea is a late harvest tea. It has a simple, non-bitter taste.
  • Kuki-cha has a higher sweetness and nicer aroma than other teas. It has a very good taste at a low cost. Almost all people can buy it easily.

Hoji-cha has a unique and nice smell, and the taste is good. So, almost all people, from Japanese children and adults to foreigners, can drink Hoji-cha. Hoji-cha is suitable for drinking with meals. The reason why is that it is not very stimulating and it has a good effect on the stomach. A lot of people come to Kyoto to buy tea from specialty stores, and they buy various kinds of tea. For example, Matcha, Sencha, Bancha, and Hoji-cha. Matcha is a very famous tea. Almost everyone’s idea of tea is Matcha. However, Hoji-cha also tastes good and has many varieties. Each kind of Hoji-cha has a different flavor. The colors of the tea leaves are different too. The picture below is that of Hoji-cha leaves, and it shows the difference in color between Kuki-Hoji-cha and GokujyoHoji-cha.

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Kuki-Hoji-cha and GokujyoHoji-cha are sold in specialized tea shops. Foreign people like tea from Japan. Japanese specialized tea shops have various kinds of tea, and almost all of these shops were built in Kyoto. So, a lot of foreign people visit Kyoto to buy tea from these shops. There are also many people who buy it as a souvenir.

History

Hoji-cha first appeared in the early 1920s in Kyoto. Japanese tea companies tried to use leaves and stems to make tea. The leaves and stems were roasted. This is how Hoji-cha was made. A long time ago, that roasting method gave people a good result. This roasting method created a new procedure for making Hoji-cha and other kinds of tea. It creates a strong smell and flavor. Moreover, it has a fascinating aroma. Sone people drink Hoji-cha like coffee in the morning. Today, many makers of Hoji-cha use large tumbler machines to roast the tea leaves. This process removes some of the caffeine. In this way, it becomes a green tea that doesn’t have much caffeine.

How to Make Hoji-cha

1. Cultivate the tea leaves. One must grow tea leaves in a tea garden.

2. Tea-picking. On the eighty-eighth day of spring, pick the first tea leaves. Plant new tea leaves at the beginning of the year. By the end of April, the leaves develop their flavor. Then, we can pick them.

3. Steam. The next process is steaming. Steam the leaves within half a day of picking them. Steaming can take 15-20 minutes. (It prevents the color and the smell of the young leaves from disappearing.)

4. Drying while rubbing the tea leaves. Rub the leaves that were steamed. This will spread the taste across the whole leaf. Rub it coarsely at the first, and then gradually rub more gently. All the leaves have to be equal. Remove any water to prevent a change in quality.

5. Parch with high temperature. After finishing the process of steaming, sort the stems from the leaves. Roast the coarse leaves with a machine. This process can remove caffeine. The nice smell of Hoji-cha is born.

How to Drink Hoji-cha

1. Warm up an empty cup.
2. Brew the leaves in 100-degree water for several minutes. Then pour the tea into the warm cup.
3. After 30 seconds, you can begin to drink it.

Brewing Guide for Different Teas

Amount of tea leaves The temperature Amount of hot water Time
Gyokuro 3g 50℃ 20ml 150sec
Sen-cha 3g 70℃ 60ml 90sec
Karigane 3g 80℃ 60ml 60sec
Hoji-cha 3g 100℃ 130ml 30sec
Brown rice tea 3g 100℃ 130ml 30sec
Matcha 2g 80℃ 60ml

Ippodo

Ippodo is a very famous store in Kyoto that specializes in tea. The company of Ippodo broadened premium Japanese green tea for Japanese people. The company was founded almost three centuries ago as a shop called Omiya, on Teramachi Street. The name changed to “Ippodo” in 1846. Ippodo gradually became famous in Japan and extended their line of tea products. In the old days, making tea was difficult, but recently it has become easy to make tea step by step.

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Hoji-cha Sweets

There are many kinds of Hoji-cha sweets in Kyoto. For example, Hoji-cha parfait, Hoji-cha pudding, Hoji-cha cake, Hoji-cha chocolate, and so on. The most famous Hoji-cha sweet is Hoji-cha soft ice cream. You can buy and eat it in Arashiyama, Gion, and some other popular sightseeing places. You can also enjoy Hoji-cha sweets in Kyoto where there are many kinds of Japanese sweets shops. Hoji-cha sweets are not as famous as Matcha (powdered green tea) sweets, but they are worth eating. Hoji-cha’s taste is very different from Matcha’s. It is unique and very delicious. If you want to eat some Japanese sweets, why don’t you try Hoji-cha sweets?

Conclusion

In conclusion, Hoji-cha is a kind of Japanese green tea. One can buy it from some vending machines, supermarkets, and also most Japanese tea shops, such as Ippodo. However, its taste is different depending on where you buy it. Vending machines that have Hoji-cha can be hard to find, and the taste is very standard. There also isn’t much variety to choose from. However, it is cheap at around one hundred yen for a 550ml bottle. Hoji-cha from the supermarket is also cheap. This is because a lot is made by some major companies, like Itoen and Suntory. That said, there is still not a lot of variety, the most readily available kinds being generic blends.

Hoji-cha leaves from a tea shop can be a bit more expensive to buy at first, but there are many kinds of Hoji-cha available, and you can make more tea from them. Different kinds of Hoji-cha can have very different tastes and smells, especially when compared to what’s available at the supermarket. Ippodo at Kyoto, Kawaramachi has a varied list of quality Hoji-cha tea leaves for sale. For example, their Gokujyo Hoji-cha has a light flavor, whereas their Kuki Hoji-cha is sweeter and has a stronger smell. Also its taste changes depending on how one prepares it. We wrote about how to prepare it, so if you want to drink tasty Hoji-cha you should try it that way with leaves bought from a tea shop. In short, Hoji-cha can be enjoyed in a lot of different ways depending on what you prefer, whether that be the convenience of Hoji-cha from a supermarket or the quality of tea leaves from a tea shop.

Japanese Traditional Fishing Method

by Hosono Natsumi and Haruka Onishi

Cormorant Fishing at Night

Ukai, or ‘cormorant fishing’ is a traditional fishing method using a cormorant bird to catch ayu (sweetfish). The season for cormorant fishing is from the middle of May to the middle of October of each year. Interestingly, ukai is often practiced at night. Fishermen make a fire on the fishing boat because ayu have a habit of gathering in lighted places in the dark. This allows the cormorants to catch the fish more easily. However ukai is never practiced on the night of a full moon, because the ayu do not gather around the light of the fire so well. The people who train and control the cormorants are called ‘cormorant fishermen’. The number of cormorants used at one time differ by region and fisherman, but the average number is five to ten. Cormorant fishermen have to know exactly when cormorants swallow the fish so that they can call the cormorants back to the boat and have them regurgitate the fish into a basket.

History of Cormorant Fishing

Cormorant fishing in Japan has a long history. It is unknown who began cormorant fishing. However, a history book published in 712 A.D. mentions cormorant fishing. This suggests that it has been practiced for at least 1300 years or more. Not only do Japan and China have a history of ukai in their cultures, but surprisingly ukai was practiced as a sport in Europe from the 16th to 17th centuries. The fish caught by cormorants lose consciousness in esophagus of the cormorant without injury. This keeps the fish fresh and uninjured, making them highly valued in the marketplace. However, due to its inefficiency in comparison with standard methods of fishing with nets and hooks, the popularity of cormorant fishing gradually decreased over time. Now, it is mostly done in Japan for the tourism industry.

Cormorants

Cormorant in Kyoto

Cormorants are highly intelligent birds and can understand hierarchical relationships. They are about 80 cm in length and have a sharp crooked bill. Therefore they are suited for fishing. Cormorant craftsmen catch wild cormorants.

Wild cormorants are well-trained. Cormorant fishermen take care of them every day for 2 or 3 years. In general, the longevity of a cormorant is from 4 to 5 years, but the cormorants used in Ukai are treated carefully. For this reason, their lifespan is from 15 to 20 years. Cormorant fishermen do their work with the birds around the noon. This practice is what is often shown to the public.

What is the life cormorant fishing like? In the morning, after checking the condition of their birds, the fishermen decide which cormorant take to fishing. In the afternoon, fishermen give the birds free time to relax in the water. The fishermen don’t feed them so much because hungry cormorants can catch their own fish quite well. In the evening, fishermen take chosen cormorants fishing. It is important not to tie their throat too strongly because it will decrease the birds’ motivation. On the other hand, if the rope is too loose, most of fish get swallowed completely. After fishing, fishermen feed and stroke their cormorants to thank them for their efforts.

Cormorant Fishermen

Most cormorant fishermen are born into their craft via long lines of cormorant fishermen. Still, they need a long training period to become fully qualified. First, they need a strong grip and skillful hand movements because the power of cormorants pulling the ropes is quite strong. In addition, it is difficult to make cormorants eject the fish from their throats. This is done by holding the birds’ throats in just the right way. Although cormorant fishing is done only in during the warmer months of the year, fishermen must still take daily care of their birds year round. They have to feed them, take care of their bills, and clean their cages with love.

Where to Observe Cormorant Fishing

The best ukai season is in the summer evenings. If you are interested in observing ukai, you should reserve an ukai tour in advance because it is very popular and crowded. Moreover the road to the spot is also crowded, so you ought to arrive as early as you can.

In Japan, there are about a dozen famous ukai locations, one of them being Kyoto. Kyoto actually has ukai areas, one of them is near the Uji River and the other is near Ooi Arashiyama. But it is the one near Arashiyama that is the most popular.

Getting to Arashiyama

From Kyoto station, take the JR Sagano Sanin Line (#3) to Saga Arasiyama station. It takes about 15 minutes and it costs \240. From the Randen station (Keifuku train), take the train to Arasiyama station, the last stop on that line. On the other hand, if you have One-Day Bus ticket, take the No. 28 bus, which takes about an hour from Kyoto station.

Reference

Ukai

Arashiyama