Ban-cha, Matcha and Fukujuen

October 16, 2017

By Kazuki Kume and Yoshiki Kawauchi

Kyoto is the origin of Japanese tea culture. It developed forms of serving and drinking tea that were very artistic. There are two famous teas in Kyoto; ban-cha and matcha (green tea).

What is ban-cha?

Ban-cha is a kind of green tea drunk all over Japan. Ban-cha especially made in Kyoto is called kyo ban-cha. Many people have been drinking it since ancient times because it is cheaper and easier to get than other teas. Its taste is refreshing, although it also contains some astringency. The name of this tea has two origins: one name meant the drinking tea on a daily basis, in other words it was inexpensive. Ban means “usually” and “everyday” in Japanese. Until the middle of the Edo period, it is thought that most of the tea drunk by people was ban-cha.The other meaning of ban was “evening”. . In other words, ban-cha is a late harvest tea. Ban-cha is not made from newly sprouting leaves, but it from hard tea leaves. Therefore, the size of its tea leaves is bigger than the others.

the size of its tea leaves is bigger than the others

 

The effects of tea

You may expect that quality of the tea is low if it is cheaply priced. However, that is a mistake. You can get various effects from cheaper teas. For example, such teas contain a lot of tannin. Tannins improve the function of the intestines. So it is said that such teas can help prevent colon cancer. Also, ban-cha has less caffeine than the other teas, so you can drink without worrying about it keeping you up late at night. In addition, catechin, which is contained in the tea, has the effect of reducing body fat. By taking in catechin before meals, it is said you can keep body fat from building up.

Matcha and its famous shop

Fukujuen building

Kyoto flagship tea store Fukujuen is one of the most famous “Uji Matcha” stores in Kyoto. Located between Hankyu Kawaramachi and Hankyu Karasuma this shop has seven floors. Each floor is interesting to visit. In the first basement floor we can blend many kinds of tea together to drink. We can also enjoy a Japanese traditional tea party there. On the first floor is a stand for “Uji Matcha” —probably the most popular item for foreign customers. On the second floor is a café. We can eat matcha sweets and have a light meal. On the third floor is a restaurant. This restaurant offers dishes which mix “Uji Matcha” with  French cuisine. We are able to discover new combinations in these meals. On the fourth floor is a tearoom. In this room, we can have a tea party easily. The fifth floor is like art gallery. There are many great tea implements here. Most of them are original designs of “Fukujuen” and the implements are all hand made.. the last floor is for entertainment. The room is made of marble. The atmosphere is so cool.

You can enjoy “matcha sweets” in Fukujuen.

Tsukemono

by Sakina Nishitsuji, Nami Shinkado and Shiho Tojo

We will introduce about tsukemono. Tsukemono are Japanese-style pickles. Vegetables are pickled in salt, rice brain, miso or sake lees. They are served with rice as a side dish and with drinks as a snack. Tsukemono are beloved by many people in Japan. You can buy them pretty much everywhere in Japan. If you go to a supermarket, you will find them. There are various kinds. For example, takuan (daikon), umeboshi (ume plum), turnip, cucumber, and Chinese cabbage are among the favorites to be eaten with rice as an accompaniment to a meal. Some Japanese people make tsukemono by themselves. The easiest way of making tsukemono is just putting the vegetables with salt into a Ziploc bag. Roughly cut some vegetables of your choice and put them in a Ziploc bag, then add salt and kelp dashi stock and shake the bag. You release the air from the bag to make a lightly vacuum state in the bag and then stick it in the refrigerator for one or two hours. It is complete. This recipe for this preparation is simple but the tsukemono are delicious. Tsukemono are also popular with foreigners, not just Japanese people. And Kyoto has many specialty shops of tsukemono, so you can buy some kinds of tsukemono at Kyoto. It is really great for souvenirs. Tsukemono is known by most people, but they may not know the particulars about tsukemono. Tsukemono has a long history. So, below, we will introduce about the history of tsukemono, three major tsukemono outlets in Kyoto, and how to make tsukemono.

History of Tsukemono in Japan

Tsukemono have a long history in Japan.  Japan is surrounded by the seas, and it was a longstanding practice that food was preserved in salt or with salt water. Not only vegetables but also nuts, meat and fish were preserved with salt in order times. The origin of the tsukemono is not known for sure. However, when vegetables were not yet farmed, it is possible that people soaked the edible wild plants such as Japanese parsley or the bracken in seawater.

We do know that Chinese also used salt to preserve food. It was written that there was something like tsukemono in the old book called by the Chinese, “Shurei“. From 2000 years ago, it is said that a method to preserve food in salt was performed. As the times advanced, the tsukemono developed more, but came to be called “pickled vegetables” because the fragrance of the tsukemono improved when the Muromachi Era began, in 1336, by fermenting. Not only were tsukemono liked as side dishes and the tea cake of the meal, but also pickled plums came to be used in the sterilization of the wounds in the battlefield to prevent bacterial infection and blood poisoning. The Muromachi Era was an age of civil strife. And in Edo era, beginning in 1603, the tsukemono shop called the pickled vegetables shop appeared. From this era, tsukemono came to be eaten by the people at large. In addition, the kinds of vegetables grown in Japan increased, and during the Edo Era, beginning in 1603, many merchants came from all over the country to study some techniques and innovations in seasoning and how to make tsukemono. In the Meiji Era, beginning in 1868, Takuanduke and Naraduke became the important side business in the farmhouses in the suburbs of major cities, including Tokyo. During Taisho Era, from 1912, and the Showa Era, from 1926, the pickle manufacturing industry developed into a major commercial business. Recently, an important point is focus on the health. Fermented foods, according to recent scientific research, are important for intestinal health. That information made tsukemono even more desirable all over Japan.

 

Three Popular Varieties of Tsukemono

There are 3 famous kinds of tsukemono in Kyoto. One is Shiba-zuke. Shiba-zuke are made of eggplant, perilla leaves and cucumber pickled in natural lactic fermentation. Shiba-zuke vegetables are sprinkled with salt and are matured in a barrel for some months. Shiba-zuke was first made in the latter half of Edo period, about 300 to 150 years ago. A second kind of popular pickled vegetables is senmai-zuke. It is pickled turnip. Senmai-zuke which are sold in supermarkets are traditional pickles in Kyoto and are produced by marinating paper-thin slices of turnips with pieces of kelp, red peppers and vinegar. The third type of pickles is Suguki-zuke. Suguki-zuke is made of suguki, a kind of tunip, pickled with its own leaves. It is a kind of pickle which preserves both the leaf and the root of the Brassica campestris in salt. It features clear acidity. Recently, it gradually has become famous as a health food around the world. These pickles are called three best tsukemono in Kyoto.

The Old Tsukemono Shops of Kyoto

“Kyotsukemono” or Kyoto style Tsukemono includes various kinds of pickles. Pickles are available in many places but there are 5 famous old shops in Kyoto which still the. The first is Daitou. It is the shop which is the birthplace of the senmai-zuke. This shop was built in 1865. It has long history for about 150 years. Senmai-zuke is very popular in Daitou. The reason is rich taste. The second shop is Murakamiju. It is the shop which became the model of the pickle shop when it appeared in the NHK drama “Kyohutari” broadcast in 1990. The third shop is Akaoya. This shop is the oldest of them all. It was built in 1699. It has been making pickles and history for over 300 years. Pickles in Akaoya are made with a moderate amount of salt. The next shop is Narita. It is famous for suguki-zuke. It was built in 1804. The traditional taste continues now. Finally, there is Kinse. This shop was built in 1764. There are various pickles in Kinse. At Kinse, they do not use any preservatives or additives. On the other hand, this shop also makes an effort in new product development.

In conclusion, tsukemono were called the Chinese “Shurei” in long time ago.

After having passed for years, that name changed from “Shurei” to “pickled vegetables”, and it gradually became famous in Japan. Nowadays, many people buy tsukemono. There are 3 famous tsukemono, Shiba-zuke, senmai-zuke, and suguki-zuke in Kyoto. Speciality shops of tsukemono are long established businesses in Kyoto. For example, Daitou, Murakamiju, and Kinse.  These shops are very popular among Japanese people and foreigners. If you want to eat tsukemono, we recommend that you visit Kyoto.

Cafe

By Shiho Tojo, Nami Shinkado and Sakina Nishitsuji

A cafe is a type of restaurant which usually serves coffee and snacks.

The term “cafe” comes from French, and means “coffee”. A cafe is sometimes called a coffeehouse or a coffee shop in English. A Japanese person opened a coffee specialty shop in Japan. It hired barista. A barista stands at the counter of the bar, and receives orders from visitors, and pours the coffee or espresso. That style is known by most people. The famous shop is Starbucks. It is also popular all over the world. In some countries, cafe is closer to restaurants, because cafe is able to provide customers with hot meals, and alcohol. However, British cafes do not sell alcohol. In Japan, the first coffee shop was opened at the end of the Meiji period at Minou city in Osaka. Cafes have improved year by year. There are many cafes all over the world. If you want to relax sometimes, you can go to a cafe and relax there. You can talk with your partner or friends in the cafe. Recently, people can pick up a lot of new information from SNS. People take nice pictures, and post them on the Internet. Especially, Instagram can be connected to many people. We would like to introduce some cafes  in Kyoto. These are really talked about cafes now in SNS.

MACCHA HOUSE

MACCHA HOUSE is one of the most famous cafes in Kyoto. It was built recently. Customers have to wait for about 2 hours every day, because it has a matrix in front of shop. The shop is really popular in Kyoto among young people. MACCHA HOUSE recommends maccha tiramisu to customers. They also seek it. It is really delicious and give a fun impression. Its price is 500 yen. So you can eat it for a reasonable cost. There are many items on the menu as well as maccha tiramisu. For example, green tea, ho-ji cha tiramisu, and maccha parfait. If you visit Kyoto, you should visit MACCHA HOUSE, and eat maccha tiramisu with your friends.

Location

It is near Kawaramachi station. It takes about 3 minutes by walking from exit 3B.

JOUVENCELLE

This cafe is one of the famous cafes in Kyoto.  JOUVENCELLE was built on Oike-street at the time of the Gion Festival in 1988. JOUVENCELLE means “maiden” in French. This cafe uses the seasonal ingredients. This cafe reserves many Japanese confectioneries to customers. It is very popular as an experience of Kyoto.

Location

It is near Karasumaoike station. It is about a two minute walk from exit 1.

GREEN TEA FONDUE

Green tea fondue is the most popular sweet in this cafe. The other popular dishes are pound cake, Dango and other Japanese sweets. Another dish is banana, strawberry, baked orange, sweet potato and Warabi-Mochi. A popular drink served here is chocolate flavored with green tea. It is a little hot and smells of green. Bitterness of the powdered green tea offset the sweetness of the chocolate.
It looks beautiful and cute. So, this cafe is very famous among young people. Green tea fondue is about 1500 yen. You can enjoy eating it.

Location

This cafe is about 100 meters south of south tower gate of Yasaka.

IPPODO-CAFE

Ippodo is a famous shop of Japanese tea in Kyoto. It sells just Japanese tea. Tea is good for the health. Every year, the flavor of tea changes with the temperature. However, this cafe blends their tea so that the taste does not change. In addition, to its café, Ippodo has a classroom and a shop. Classes are held at Ippodo. People can learn how to drink tea with proper manners and rituals, and learn about Japanese tea more deeply. Ippodo-cafe is in the head office. Everyone makes tea by himself or herself in this cafe. Customers can order green tea, gyokuro, gen-tea, ho-ji tea and genmai-tea. These Japanese teas all have different tastes. Each tea has a different level of bitterness. The important points are how to drink, temperature, quantity of the tea leaf and time to brew. Ippodo’s staff tell the customers how to make each tea. People can drink tea with Japanese sweets. You can go with family or friends or just by yourself. There is a menu in English, for the convenience of foreign visitors to Kyoto who come to this cafe. So, foreign people can have a good time. This cafe also has take-out available. The design of the take-out cup is so cute. If you ever visit Kyoto, I recommend visiting Ippodo.

Location

Ippodo is near Kyoto Shiyakushomae Station. It takes about 5 minutes to walk there from the station. There are some antique stores and galleries on this street and people can feel Kyoto.

There are many cafes in Kyoto. Sightseeing spots in Kyoto have many green tea shops. That is because Kyoto is really famous for Maccha within Japan. Particularly popular are Maccha HOUSE, JOUVENCELLE, and Ippodo. Maccha HOUSE is famous for Maccha tiramisu. JOUVENCELLE is famous for green tea fondue, Ippodo is famous for Japanese tea. As for the popular key points, desserts of those cafes are not only tasty but also beautiful to look at. The appearance of these shops is fashionable and there are English menus for foreign tourists.
Nowadays, Maccha is popular all over the world. Maccha is green tea powder. Japanese green tea can be bought from some supermarkets, vending machines, and also in most Japanese tea shops. Recently, Japanese green tea is becoming well known around the world. Japanese green tea shops became famous in Twitter and Instagram. Many people visit cafes in Kyoto and eat a dessert made of Maccha. They also take a stylish picture of food and put down that photo on SNS. After that some other people see that picture on SNS. The popularity of these cafes has spread a lot thanks to SNS.
However, you must line up for approximately two hours on weekdays if you want to visit there, thanks to the popularity. This is a problem caused by popularity and widespread use of SNS. However, people never stop lining up. In this way, the cafe of Kyoto is popular with people from around the world who are able to feel at ease, and able to enjoy an atmosphere only in Kyoto. It is pleasant to visit the cafe of Kyoto on an occasion of the sightseeing of Kyoto. Please try and go.

Kyoame

by Mayumi Otsuka, Mai Takezawa and Kanako Wakamatsu

If you come to Kyoto, what are you going to buy as a food souvenir? There are very popular food souvenirs in Kyoto, such as yatsuhashi, matcha, and so on. However, have you ever heard of kyoame? Kyoame is a candy and is one of the historical Japanese sweets in Kyoto. It has a pretty design and a very beautiful color, such as pink, purple, green, and yellow. Also, in Chinese characters, ‘candy’ means ‘be delighted by eating’. Therefore, you can be happy by eating the candy called kyoame.

Yatsuhashi

 

History of Kyoame

There wasn’t any such thing as candy in ancient Japan. Instead of candy, there was starch syrup (the literal translation is ‘water candy’ in Japanese) that was made with rice and malt. However, it was used only as seasoning. In the late Muromachi era (1392~1573), Portuguese explorers came to Japan, bringing their religion and culture. One of the things they introduced was white sugar. However, it was not famous among the common people at that time. It was not until the end of Edo era (1600~1867) that ordinary people found out about white sugar. However, it was very expensive, so some of them could not eat it yet, much less see it. In the Meiji era (1868~1911), Japan began to engage actively in foreign trade. In addition, the skill of making candy was developed, so many kinds of candy were produced. In this way, kyoame was born by using traditional candy-making techniques with starch syrup and the new ones with white sugar.

How to Make Kyoame

At the beginning, the kyoame craftsman makes the paste of the candy. First of all, she boils the sugar up to 110° C, which is raw material of kyoame. Then he keeps boiling the sugar until it reaches 160° C. Then, she uses a special machine to drain the candy of its water. After that, she puts the candy paste on a cooling plate and blends in the flavor and food coloring. This is the basic process of making the kyoame candy paste.

Once the candy paste is made, what happens next depends on what type of Kyoame is desired. In general, there are two methods of making kyoame. One is made by pouring the candy paste into a variety of molds. Another is done by combining some big candy parts together, which differ by color and taste, to make one big candy paste mass. The craftsman then makes the candy paste long and thin and then cuts it into small pieces. That part is very similar to European-style candy making.

The craftsman work is very sensitive because the craftsman needs to adjust his work to a variety of conditions, such as season, temperature, humidity, and so on. To be a kyoame craftsman is a very difficult job because it requires both technical skill and management skill. As proof, some kyoame craftsman have been commended for their sensitive skill by officials from Kyoto city.

Of course, making kyoame is very difficult and almost impossible for ordinary people. However, there is one kyoame store that offers visitors the experience of making kyoame themselves. So, if you go there, you can try to make your own original version of kyoame. Many kyoame stores do not use machines much, as mostly the candy is made by the craftsman’s hand.

Kyoame is popular souvenir for foreigners because the design is very beautiful and it really has the feeling of a traditional Japanese souvenir. On the other hand, kyoame is also a popular souvenir amongst the Japanese, because it is so affordable. Often, Japanese people feel guilty for receiving a souvenir that is too expensive. And in the season of school trips, students often buy kyoame as a souvenir for their family or for their seniors. Kyoame is not so expensive, but the design is beautiful, so it is easy to buy for students. In sum, kyoame is suitable as both a formal or casual gift.

Kyoame

 

Where to Buy Kyoame

In Kyoto there are several famous Kyoame stores. We would like to introduce two of them.

Ayanokouji

The first one is called Ayano Kouji. It was founded in 1876. They have 5 kinds of kyoame and the names of each are related to traditional Japanese culture. For example, Shun is related to the change of the seasons, so you can enjoy a different taste at different times of the year. They also make specific Japanese tastes, like like plum, yuzu, kujyou welsh onion, etc.

http://www.ayanokouji.co.jp

TEL 075-351-0593

Open 9:00-18:00 (Monday-Friday)

Crochet Kyoto

The second kyoame shop is named Crochet Kyoto. Unlike Ayano Kouji, it is a very new shop, just founded in 2013. They offer 21 kinds of kyoame. All of them are flamboyant and their name is related to both Japanese and European culture. For example, Shiromuku is kind of traditional clothing that brides wear, and it’s taste is that of sakura, or cherry blossom. Another is named Antoinette, from Marie Antoinette. It is related to Europe and its taste is strawberry.

http://crcht.com

TEL 075-744-0804

Open 10:30-19:00

Kinds of Kyoame

 

Surprising Fact About Kyoame

In 2004, a company that makes fashion accessories with kyoame was established. It is called Nanaco Plus+. It reproduces traditional Kyoto confectionery with their accessories. If you go there, you can see jewelry or key rings that look just like kyoame. They want us to watch, wear, and eat kyoame. Their goal is to revive the heart of beauty and sensitivity that Japanese felt in times long ago.

Their accessories are made with real kyoame. The company invented a technique to cover the real candy with clear resin. Each piece is hand-made, so you can enjoy differences in size and design. In addition, they also sell cosmetics, such as a lip cream which smells like kyoame. In this way, traditional kyoame can be loved forever.

As you can see, kyoame is a traditional sweet in Kyoto that requires a special technique to make. There are a variety of kinds and tastes, and they have names related to both Japanese and European culture. In addition, you can enjoy Kyoame not only by eating them, but also by wearing them as accessories. Therefore, we recommend you buy a beautiful kyoame as a souvenir during your stay in Kyoto.

The Best of Nishiki Market

by Yu Sakamoto, Tashi Nisikawa and Kazu Shibao

Entrance

Inside Nishiki ichiba

In recent years, the number of tourists who come from overseas has been increasing. In 2003, for example, the number of visitors was 5,211,725. However, that exceeded ten million people in 2013 and recently hit almost 20 million. Even Japanese who are not good at speaking English have struggled to help foreigners be more comfortable during their visit. Simply put: Kyoto is flooded with tourists.

There are many chances to get written information about the recommendable spots in Kyoto. However, theses spots are popular and are therefore always crowded. This can make you irritable. One of these famous spots is a 400-year-old market called Nishiki Ichiba, which shouldn’t be missed. Below is our advice on how you can enjoy Nishiki Ichiba in spite of the crowds.

Nishiki Ichiba is nicknamed Kyo no Daidokoro by the Japanese. Kyo means ‘Kyoto’ and daidokoro means ‘kitchen’. So as you can imagine, Nishiki Ichiba is the place where you can find food from all over Kyoto in one place. The market is a straight path running east and west, and is 390 meters long and only 3.25 to 5 meters wide. Nishiki Ichiba is typical of the structures of Kyoto. As mentioned previously, it has existed for more than 400 years, so it has a long history.

How to Get There

Unfortunately, Nishiki Ichiba is not located near Kyoto station, which is where most tourists usually arrive first. Although people can get to the market by both bus and subway, taking the subway is faster and easier than taking the bus.

Kyoto station has many train lines. You should take the train that is the Subway Karasuma line. Simply buy a ticket to Shijo station, which costs 210 yen. When come out of the station at ground level you should walk down Shijo street to the east and turn left at the second corner. The entrance to the market is on the right as you walk north about 100m (see photo at the top).

In Nishiki Ichiba, there are a total of about 126 stores. So when you go there, you can easily become confused. Therefore, we have put together a guide to the best shops in Nishiki Ichiba.

Raw Oyster Shop: Daiyasu

At the very beginning, when you first enter the market, you can see the shop on your right. This shop provides the fresh Oysters to customers. In the summer season, you can eat a kind of oyster called iwa kaki, and in the winter you can eat ma kaki. Iwa kaki is much bigger than ma kaki. (see the photos below). Its taste is juicy. Ma kaki is smaller than iwa kaki, but its taste is much creamier than iwa kaki. You can eat them either raw or grilled. We suggest you try eating raw oyster. The taste is amazing. If you visit Nishiki Ichiba, you should definitely go to Daiyasu.

Inside “Daiyasu”

Up “Iwa kaki”, Down “Ma kaki”

Soybean Shop: Kyo no Omamehan

A lot of flavor in the store.

Just nearby Daiyasu, you can find a soybean store named Kyo no Omamehan. If you can’t find it, don’t worry. Your nose can lead the way, as the smell of beans will attract you. Inside, there are so many different kinds of bean snacks, as you can see in the photo. Also, you can sample every flavor of bean snacks on offer. Therefore, you can discover your favorite before making a purchase.

Also in this store, you can get some bean-flavored ice cream, which has an unusual, but pleasant taste. There are 3 flavors: black vanilla, tofu milk and black soy bean. These are limited to only 50 a day, so if you want to have some, you can’t be late. Otherwise they will be sold out. These bean-flavored ice cream prices are all 380 yen, so it’s quite reasonable.

We ate Ice cream.

Matcha Sweet Shop: Sawawa

Front of SAWAWA

After Kyo no Omameha, walk to straight to the east about 50 meters. There you will see a shop on your left that provides freshly ground matcha, or powdered green tea. The shop uses tea grown in Uji, which is a region in the south part of Kyoto. It is famous for its high quality green tea. Of all the sweets make with matcha in the shop, we suggest that you eat matcha warabimochi, which is similar to a jelly-like sweet made from bracken starch and covered in powdered green tea. The taste is mild and you can enjoyed the aroma of matcha. Of course, it goes well with freshly brewed tea.

 

 

 

Spice Shop: Ochanoko Saisai

Front of “Ochanoko Saisai”

After walking 1 minute more to the east, you will come upon a Kyoto-style spice shop named Ochanoko Saisai. There, you can buy the spiciest ichimi togarashi and shichimi togarashi in the world. Ichimi togarashi means ‘one flavor chili pepper, while shichimi means ‘seven flavor chili pepper’. Ichimi is made from dried red chili pepper flakes, while shichimi contains seven spices, some of which are uniquely Japanese.

Also, at the storefront you can try ichimi and shichimi togarashi rice crackers. I can tell you one thing that if you want to try this one, get a bottle of water beforehand. You’ll need it!

Click here to learn more about Shichimi.

 

Deep Fried Chocolate Shop: Inoue Tsukudani

Have you ever eaten deep fried chocolate before? At the bento store named Inoue Tsukudani, you can have a chocolate croquette. You might think this is gross, but once you eat it, your thinking will be changed. According to one of the shop’s workers, the chocolate is hard to melt, so you can also take it back to your hotel if you are full. In this store, there are a couple of seats, so if you want to eat comfortably, you can go inside and sit down. And if you ask politely, you can get cold or hot tea for free. Also, like in the picture below, you can leave your message on the wall. This is a great place to have a little fun time while you eat something delicious and unique.

We wrote messages.

Mochi Shop: Mochi Tsukiya

Front of “Mochi Tsukiya”

After your chocolatey visit to Inoue Tsukudani, walk straight to the east for about 2 minutes. You will then see a shop on your right, just east of Yanagibamba street. It is called Mochi Tsukiya and it is famous for mochi, or Japanese pounded rice cake. If you are hungry, you can eat high quality mocha filled with red bean paste. You can also sample mochi made with different ingredients, such as seaweed, cheese, fish eggs, pickled plum, grated white radish, and shiso (perilla) leaf. And if you feel hot, you can cool down with some kakigori, which is made with mocha and shaved ice. They have some chairs and tables, so you can take a break here. We suggest you eat kakigori. You can also order a half-size mochi with kakigoori. This shop was is so good that it was featured on a famous TV program. Don’t miss it!

Liquor Store: Tsunoki Shuho

You can buy this sake only here.

Near the east end of the street, you can find a liquor store named Tsunoki Shuho. It is over 220 years old. In this store, there are so many unique types of Japanese sake. Even you can taste the sake which Barack Obama drank during his visit. You can also sample sake inside the shop; just make sure do not drink too much. This is good place to buy a gift for your father.

 

 

Well, that brings us to the end of our recommendations for visiting Nishiki Ichiba. Did you find anything of interest? We think it is the best way to complete your visit of Nishiki Ichiba. In addition, there are a lot of other stores in the market, so it’s a good idea to explore some of the other shops in addition to following our guide. You might discover something even better. Anyway, enjoy your Kyoto trip!

Kyoto’s Spicy Street Gekikara

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

 

 

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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.

Syojin Ryori Restaurants

by Sachina Matsumoto, Shin Okano & Kyousuke Maruyama

Shojin ryori is Japanese Buddhist cuisine. Since there are many Buddhist temples in Kyoto, one can find shojin ryori being served not only in temples to the monks, but also in restaurants around the city. Shojin means ‘work on a task hard’ and ryori means ‘cooking’.

History

Shojin ryorii was introduced into Japan with Buddhism by the Chinese around 6th century. For this reason, shojin ryori is practiced by monks and other believers from areas of Japan historically influenced by Chinese Buddhism. Buddhists monks were prohibited from eating meat by the Tennmu emperor in 675. Therefore, shojin ryori has traditionally been a vegetarian style of cooking.

In the Nara era (around 1300 years ago), shojin ryori was served in temples. These temples were open to visitors who ate shojin ryori while they were there. A few of the temples even ran shojin ryori restaurants, especially in Kyoto. Kyoto has had a strong influence of Shojin ryori’s style of cooking, eating, and table manners.

In the Kamakura era (around 1000 years ago), Buddhism became even more prominent. At this time, shojin ryori started to become more common outside of the temple, in the kitchens of ordinary homes. People in Kyoto tended to cook shojin ryori for special people who visited their house. In this sense, shojin ryori became associated with a high quality meal. This is why Kyoto now has so many well-known shojin ryori restaurants.

Philosophy

Shojin ryori is founded on Buddhist beliefs and principles. For example, it is based on non-violence. For this reason, historically Shojin ryori didn’t contain any fish or meat.

Also, shojin ryori treasures using seasonal ingredients. For example, in the spring it uses sprouts; in the summer green leaves, in autumn fruits and nuts, and in the winter, root vegetables. This closeness with nature and the season reflects the Buddhist value placed on being one with nature.

Over the years it has influenced Japan cuisine.. For example, Japanese food is well-known for being healthy. Shojin ryori mostly uses vegetables and soy beans, including tofu. It emphasizes the use of fresh foods only. When foods are fresh, they tend to be healthier.

Also, the Japanese mottainai spirit (what is this? explain it. Mottainai mean is “ don’t waste”) comes from Shojin ryori. (How does it come from Shojin ryori? Are you saying that without shojin ryori, there would be no mottaiani spirit? Because syoujin ryouri doesn’t make garbage. For example they use daikon greens and skin of daikon)

Common Ingredients

Shojin ryori can be made with all kinds of different vegetables, but these are some of the most common.

Daikon

Daikon is called ‘Japanese white radish’ in English. Japanese radishes are in season from the autumn to the winter. Daikon is very healthy. It has a lot of vitamin A, vitamin C and dietary fiber. It is also easy to digest, and it can provide relief from constipation. Shogoin daikon is a special type of daikon grown in the Kyoto region. It is shorter, smaller, and more rounded than the typical daikon of Japan. You can find shogoin daikon in many shojin ryori dishes.

Shiitake mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms are most important when making Shojin ryori. In addition to eating, they are also used to make dashi (What is this? Dashi is a kind of soup. It called stock in English). Shiitake mushrooms contain eritadenine, which helps to prevent arteriosclerosis. They also have lots of vitamin D when they are in dried form. Vitamin D makes your bones strong and helps prevent osteoporosis. Moreover Shiitake mushrooms are low in calories and good for dieting. They are delicious, too.

Gobo

Gobo is called ‘burdock’ in English. The gobo root is primarily only eaten in East Asia. Horikawa gobo, which are grown in Kyoto, carry three times the amount of Vitamin C as normal burdock roots. The main season for harvesting and eating gobo is the winter. In recent years, gobo has become known as an anti-cancer agent.

Nasubi

Nasubi is called ‘eggplant’ in English. Nasubi has been cultivated in Japan for more than 1000 years. Moga nasu, which grown in the Kyoto region, is well known throughout Japan. The main season for nasubi is in the summer. Nasubi has many medical benefits that guard from food poisoning, toothache, mouth ulcer, eyestrain and arteriosclerosis.

These are only a few of the very fresh ingredients that we find in shojin ryori.Nasubi is called eggplant in English. Nasubi is cultivated in Japan for more than 1000 years. Mega nasu which made in Kyoto is very famous bland in Japan. Nasubi is seasons in summer.

Restaurants

There are a number of restaurants in Kyoto where visitors can enjoy syojin ryori. Here are three of them.

Manpukuji

The first place where you can experience shojin ryori is Manpukuzi Temple in the south of Kyoto City. On the temple grounds, there is a restaurant where you can eat a kind of shojin ryori called fucha. Fu means ‘normal’, while cha means ‘tea’. The way to eat fucha dishes is with a group of people sitting around a table who eat without leaving. This restaurant has a 5,000 yen course and a 7,000 yen course. In the 5,000 yen course, 2~5 people sit at one table and eat in a Chinese style. In the 7,000 yen course, 2 people can enjoy all the fucha dishes they serve. Furthermore, visitors can order a lunch box made with shojin ryori for 3,000 yen.

Access
This restaurant is open from 11:30 to 14:30. It is near Obaku station and it takes about 5 minutes on foot to arrive.

Address: Kyoto prefecture, Uji City, Gokasho Sanbanwari 34
Tel: 0774-32-3900

Shigetsu

Shigetsu is a restaurant under the direct management of Tenryuji temple (where is this?68, Sagatenryuji Tsukurimichicho, Ukyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 616-8384, Japan), where you can enjoy shojin ryori. This restaurant has 3,000 yen course, a 5,000 yen course, and a 7,000yen course. The menu changes depending on the seasons. Shigetsu is open all year round and can hold up to 250 people.

Access
It takes about 13 minutes on foot from Saga Arashiyama station, or 15 minutes on foot from Arashiyama Station.

Address: 68 Susukinobaba-cho, Saga-Tenryuji, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 616-8385
Tel: 075-882-9726

Izusen

The concept of this restaurant is to express gratitude for food. You can enjoy several kinds of traditional dishes such as kaiseki (what is this? Simple meals for tea ceremony. Kai means ceremony and seki means seat ) dishes, shojin ryori dishes, makunouchi  (what is this? It use to eat during intermission by audience. Maku means curtain and uchi means inside. ) dishes and so on. Costs start at 2,000 yen.

Izusen has three restaurants in Kyoto, with the one affiliated with Daitokuji Temple in Murasakino being one of them.

Access

Address: Daijiin nai Daitokuji-cho Murasakino Kita-ku Kyoto
Tel: 075-491-6665

As you can see, shojin ryori is a unique type of Japanese cuisine. People who want to eat shojin ryori should visit Kyoto and go to one of the restaurants listed above. If so, they will experience a once-in-a-lifetime kind of meal that they will never forget for the rest of their lives.