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

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.

Unique Souvenirs in Kyoto

by Sachina Matsumoto, Shin Okano & Kyosuke Maruyama

Kyoto is a traditional city in Japan. It has a lot of history and culture. Kyoto is one of Japan’s leading tourist destinations. As a result, the souvenir culture has prospered in particular. And when it comes to souvenirs, Kyoto can be said to have more tradition than other prefectures. In this article, we will introduce souvenirs that are uniquely Kyoto-style.

Kyoto Souvenirs You Can Eat

The culture of sweets in Kyoto has grown remarkably over the years. Visitors to Kyoto can choose from a wide variety of edible souvenirs to enjoy and take home with them. Below are some of the most popular.

Yatsuhashi

Perhaps the most famous edible souvenir in Kyoto is yatsuhashi, which is a traditional kind of rice cracker that is classified as a type of confectionery due to its chewy, sweet flavor. It is made with rice flour, sugar, and cinnamon, which results in a sweet dough that is stretched thinly and cut into different shapes. It can either be baked or eaten raw. The baked form is like a hard, sweet rice cracker. The raw form is soft and is often wrapped around red bean paste.

In 1689, during the Edo period, yatsuhashi was first served at the teashop in Kurodani temple, on the east side of Kyoto city. In the Meiji era (From 1868 to 1912), yatsuhashi became very popular and was sold at Kyoto Station. After the Second World War, raw yatsuhashi was invented, and in modern times this raw version is more popular that the original.

A lot of people who visit Kyoto will buy yatsuhashi. There are also a lot of varieties visitors can buy, such as green tea, white sesame, cherry blossoms, chocolate, blueberry, and so on. Tourists can purchase yatsuhashi in sightseeing spots, major train stations, or specialty shops.

Konpeito

The next edible souvenir is called konpeito. It is a colorful, sugary hard candy. The word ‘konpeito’ originally comes from Portuguese. It also has a long history. The way of making this candy was introduced to Japan in the 1600s by Portuguese traders. In 1847, Senkichi Shimizu began a konpeito specialty shop in Kyoto. For many generations, the Shimizu family has perfected the art of making konpeito.

Konpeito is made with simple ingredients: sugar, water, and some flavoring. The candy made by slowing covering a grain of coarse sugar with syrup in a large, rotating gong-shaped tub. It is a slow process, taking 1 or 2 weeks to make a batch of konpeito.

There are now many flavors of konpeito that tourists can buy, such as strawberry, peach, mandarin, apples, giant pine, vanilla, natural water cider cherries, yogurt, coconut, ripe mango, roasted chestnut, muscat, and so on. The flavors are often subtle, not strong.

Like yatsuhashi, konpeito can be found in sightseeing spots or specialty shops throughout Kyoto. But perhaps the best place to buy it is from the original source: the Shimizu family at their shop called Ryokujuan Shimizu, near Kyoto University.

Tsukemono

Another edible souvenir from Kyoto is tsukemono, a word which means ‘picked vegetables’. Japanese people eat tsuekmono with many of their meals.

Kyoto’s tsukemono has a long history and has been a part of the Japanese diet for a long time. The roots of tsukemono are not exactly clear. However, many believe that tsukemono originally came from China.

The land around Kyoto is rich, so it is a place that can produce quality vegetables. For this reason, there are many kinds of vegetables to be pickled. In fact, there are more than 800 kinds of pickles in Japan. Most kinds are made with vegetables such as cabbage, white radish, or eggplant. The taste changes according to different factors, such as time, environment, weather and soil conditions, and so on.

And there are various pickling methods such as with salt, bran, and vinegar. Tsukemono can taste sour or salty or both. It depends on the vegetable used and the pickling method.

Most people like tsukemono. It is very tasty, healthy, and colorful. It goes very well with many Japanese dishes and is often served with everyday meals. You can buy tsukemono in most supermarkets and souvenir stores.

Non-Edible Souvenirs

Furoshiki

Furoshiki is a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth. ‘Furo’ means bath, while ‘shiki’ means cloth. In old days, Japanese used to wrap their pajamas with furoshiki.

The history of furoshiki goes back 1,200 years. Furoshiki were widely used until the end of the Edo Period. During the Nara Period (710-784), furoshiki were customarily used for keeping valuables. The oldest wrapping cloth used in the Nara Period is now in safe keeping at the Shosoin, a wooden storage house at the famous Todaiji-temple in Nara.

While older furoshiki are fairly bland in appearance, modern forms are very stylish and elegant. Designers use auspicious patterns that transmit a historical feeling of Japan.

These days, Japanese people use furoshiki to wrap a gift, like wine, for example. Also, they use furoshiki when wrapping lunch box.

One place where you can buy furoshiki is a store called Kakefuda. This store offers many stylish patterns. If you just want normal Furoshiki, you can get them at most souvenir shops.

Tabi

Tabi is a traditional Japanese type of sock, originally from the 15th century. They have a separation between the big toe and other toes. Tabi are suitable for wearing with Kimono or other types of traditional clothing. Tabi are worn by both men and women, with sandals like zori or geta, and other thonged outer footwear. Even construction workers wear them with boots on the job.

You can buy tabi at most souvenir shops in Kyoto. However, a shop called SOU SOU has more stylish Tabi.

SOU SOU: 583-3, Nakanocho, Nakagyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 604-8042, Japan

Swords

What we commonly call the Japanese sword originated in the Heian period. That’s why Japanese swords are so famous in Kyoto. You can buy Japanese swords in any souvenir shops. They are great for interior decoration. Indeed, many Japanese style houses have traditional swords hanging on the wall. If tourists prefer, they can buy Japanese sword-shape umbrellas instead of a sword itself. You can usually find them in souvenir shops, and occasionally convenience stores.

Nanaco Plus+ Souvenirs

Finally, one unique type of souvenir from Kyoto is made of real candy and covered with resin. The candy looks delicious and has a very bright color. You can buy these at a store called Nanaco Plus+. Not only do they sell key rings, but also other things, such as earphone jacks, earrings, and so on. Most of these souvenirs are priced between 540 and 5,400 yen.As you can see, Kyoto is a city with various charms.

Kyoto is very attractive not only for scenery but also for food, festivals, and souvenirs. I think that we should know about Kyoto more, and inform other people who don’t know about the charm of Kyoto. I will be happy if you read this article and you are interested in Kyoto.

Doi-Master Picklers Of Kyoto

2015UA0042 Mina Ito, 2015UA0064 Shiori Iwawaki, 2015UA0067 Hinako Uematsu

 

Have you ever tried Japanese style pickles? If you imagine they are like foreign pickles, you would be wrong, because they are very different. Nowadays, there are many pickles in the supermarket, but the pickles in this shop are much nicer compared to them. “Doi no Shibazuke” (Doi’s Pickles) might be the perfect Kyoto souvenir for your relatives or friends.

 

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Doi-master pickles shop

Doi no Shibazuke is one of the most well-known pickle making companies, and is famous for its shibazuke. It has a very long history and has been loved by many people for years.  The company was founded in Ohara, Kyoto, in 1901.  Ohara is a famous red perilla (Japanese basil) growing area, and is the birthplace of shibazuke, which are pickled summer vegetables.

 

Mr.Doi

Mr.Doi

The first CEO of the company wanted many people to know about shibazuke, so he founded this company there, first of all selling tsukemono (regular pickles) just in front of the family home. After years of struggle, they finally managed to build the main store in Ohara, and thereafter opened more branches, one after the other, throughout Kyoto.  Now, they currently have 15 stores including a sub-branch in a department store. There are also branches in 6 other prefectures: Osaka, Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, Fukuoka, and Kagoshima.  This company has only had five presidents in its history, and the current Mr. Doi is the 5th CEO of the firm.  He has worked at Doi no Shibazuke as a staff member since he graduated college, and in 2001, when the company celebrated its 100th anniversary, he was inaugurated as the new CEO.

 

 

Doi no Shibazuke has their own farm for growing perilla leaf, and the reason for this is that they can have greater control over the taste of the product. They grow perilla leaf from seed, so they can have the same level of quality year on year.  They don’t use agricultural chemicals to grow their perilla and use a cultivation method that is more than 800 years old.  From June to July is generally the season for growing perilla leaf, but they extend their growing beyond this to make sure they can provide more pickles. DSC_0704

Importantly, Doi’s way of making shibazuke is to use eggplants only, and not cucumber. A cheaper way to make shibazuke is to use cucumber instead of eggplant because it reduces the cost and the process is easier, but Doi insist on eggplant for the sake of quality.

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First they get the best eggplants from their partner farms. Secondly, they use a machine to chop the eggplant into smaller pieces.  Thirdly, the employees hop into a big wooden barrel containing the eggplant, fine perilla leaves and salt, and then tread the mixture

with their feet, just like they do with grapes for wine making. The reason they tread the eggplant mixture is to help retain the taste and smell of the vegetable.  If they don’t tread it, the good smell will disseminate and the great taste of the perilla will not be mixed in.

Finally, the mixture, along with added ginger, is packed into a wooden barrel and left to ferment for around one month, with a large stone placed on the barrel lid to seal everything in.  Every year, this company makes 120 huge wooden barrels full of pickles and keeps them for shipment.  Overall, they produce an average of 200 tons of pickles in a year, so in the busy period they can make up to one ton of pickles a day.

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So where can you buy them? Doi no Shibazuke has 6 shops in Kyoto, and they are also sold in department stores in Japan, so you should be able to locate them easily.  If you do have a problem hunting them down though, you can also buy them on the Internet. (http://www.doishibazuke.co.jp/)

京のはんなり漬 WS40   (秋冬)【送料無料】イメージ

The best 3 tsukemono are; shibazuke (475 yen), senmaizuke, which is made from radish and tastes slightly sweet (691 yen), and assorted tsukemono, which offers a variety of different pickles (2,025 yen).   When you buy pickles on the internet, there are some different assortments that are very special and cost around 4,000 or 5,000 yen.  We are sure if you buy these for your family or friends they will be really happy.  The shop manager also told us a good way to eat pickles is to put them on a cracker with some cheese.  Japanese pickles also go well with pasta as a topping, and some match well with certain wines.

 

Japanese pickles are not like foreign pickles, and this company is a much nicer shop compared to other shops. They have their own farm, grow their own perilla leaves, and make pickles on the premises.  If you plan to come to Kyoto, we really recommend you visit and buy some pickles at Doi no Shibazuke – an Ohara and Kyoto tradition.

(permission to use photos given by Mr. Doi)

 

 

 

Oimatsu and Ohta Toru—Preserving a Kyoto Legacy

By Shiori Iwawaki, Mina Ito, and Hinako Uematsu

Wagashi

Wagashi

Did you know that Japanese sweets are taking over the world? They are colorful and beautiful and often eaten with a cup of green tea. We would like to introduce wagashi. Most wagashi consists of a combination of some or all of the following ingredients; azuki bean paste called anko, a fiber-rich gelatin called kanten, and a special type of Japanese sugar called wasambon. Wagashi is becoming known all over the world because it is unique, beautiful, has a long history and many shops.

A Very Short History of Wagashi

Ohta Teru

Ohta Teru

The origin of wagashi dates back to the Yayoi Era. Wagashi was influenced by the skills that people learned from China after the 7th century. At that time, Buddhist culture entered Japan during the Nara Era, and people started to make mochi(steamed and pounded glutinous rice cakes) and dango (rice-flour dumplings).Also yokan and manjuwere introduced from China during the 12th to 16th centuries. However, these were used for religious purposes. Japanese sweets became more common during the late Muromachi Erawhen Japan was had trade with Portugal and Spain, these countries introduced new recipes to Japan. However, the art of making wagashi became very refined during the early Edo Era. Back then there was great competition among sweet businesses in Kyoto and Edo, as well as in other regions. Wagashi was still expensive for average people, but gradually they came to afford them. Wagashi started to appear in tea ceremonies, as afternoon snacks, and gifts. During the Meiji Era, Western cakes and desserts came to Japan. These influenced the development of wagashi. Although wagashi has been influenced by foreign cultures up through today, it has always retained the Japanese sense of beauty.

Wagashi Oimatsu

Oimathu

Oimathu

Nowadays there are many wagashi shops in Kyoto. One of them is the traditional shop called “Oimatsu.” Oimatsu was established in 1904 and there are three branches in Kyoto ―Kyoto Kitano Kamigyoku, Arashiyama and Daimaru Kyoto.In the Kitano shop, there are about 43 employees and in the Arashiyama shop there are about 10 employees. We interviewed the head of the company, the fourth generation to run this shop, Toru Ohta. He is a leader who protects Kyoto tradition and Kyoto sweets.

Through talking with him, we could find out many interesting things that we could not find on the Internet. Oimatsu has about 120 varieties of wagashi and an average of five custom orders per day. This shop has the greatest variety of wagashi in Kyoto, and Oimatsu offers wagashi that other shops don’t have. One example is honbuku iwai. This type of sweet is often given people who have recovered from illness. However it has been sold only one time within the past 20 years. Many people ask Oimatsu, “why don’t you stop making this,” but Mr. Ohta said if Oimastu stop making this kind of wagashi then it would be gone from Japan. Even though they make the some wagashi that do not sell so well, their average sales per year is five hundred and forty million yen.

In Oimatsu, they make wagashi by hand, never using machines, so they just make it when they get an order. There is a difference in purchases between Japanese and foreigners. Japanese purchase wagashi for tea-ceremony sweets, and for foreigners, they want to bring cute wagashi samples back to their own countries.

We asked what is the secret of making wagashi delicious? Then Mr. Ohta told us that his core staff study about ingredients, classics, art and go to places where the ingredients are made with their employees. So Oimatsu could continue long time and many customers love this shop.

However, Oimatsu also faces serious problems. The management of Toru Ohta’s father was very bad, so the shop was almost closed down, but Mr. Ohta succeeded in rebuilding the business. As the head of the company he has tried keeping the place where employees can work happily and remember each employee’s face.

Oimatsu has a strength that other shops don’t. Every employee in Oimatsu can make wagashi even though they are just selling a package wagashi in Kyoto Daimaru, but they can also make wagashi. It is because when customer comes to consultation about wagashi, they can write a recipe or draw a sketch. Mr. Ohta said that he doesn’t think about just sales, but just tries to protect traditional culture with creative ideas. Moreover, wagashi connect peoples so he would like to spread wagashi culture all over the world.

In side of Oimasu

In side of Oimasu

In this research, we could find how wagashi became popular in Japan and the feelings of a man who is concerned with it. We are very proud of such a person like Mr. Ohta who is trying to keep our Japanese culture. We hope that wagashi will continue spreading all over the world.

Enjoying Tabe-aruki

by Yukari Kimura and Shoko Ota

 What is “Tabe-aruki”

In English, tabe-aruki means ‘eating while strolling.’ It may seem similar to food sold on the streets because it is bought and then eaten right on the spot or while walking. However, the concept of “tabe-aruki” did not exist in past. The action of eating while walking was considered bad manners for Japanese people even just a decade ago. So, this can be viewed as a new trend in Japanese culture.

 

 Selected Tabearuki-foods

 

 Shinkyogoku street

 

Rondon-yaki

Rondon-yaki is a bite-size castella filed with white bean paste. Its taste is light and sweet. It is very cheap, so it is suitable for snack time! One piece is ¥50!
This shop does not accept credit cards, so please prepare cash.

 

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Rondon-ya (Location:京都市中京区新京極四条上ル中之町565)

Rondon-yaki

Rondon-yaki

Mamezen Cafe

Mermen cafe is an excellent soft ice cream shop.

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Mamezen Cafe (Location: 京都市中京区新京極六角下る中筋町487-4 TEL: 070-5263-1552 Open: 12:00〜18:30)

We recommend the Kuromamt-Kinako and the Chirimen-Sansho flavored ice creams.

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Kuromamt-Kinako

Chirimen-Sansho flavor

Chirimen-Sansho flavor

 

 Kiyomizu area

清水順正 おかべ屋(’Okabe-ya’ A Tofu restaurant)

This restaurant is a tofu restaurant but also has the cafe and the souvenir shop next to it. You will enjoy tofu, yuba, kinako (soybean powder) and other soy foods there.

Okabe-ya

Okabe-ya(Location: 京都府京都市 東山区清水2丁目239 TEL: 075-541-7111 Open: 10:30〜17:00 )

The shop, which you can see on the right side in this photo, is their souvenir shop. And you can buy some tabe-aruki food there.

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The Kyo-yasai castella is ¥350 for 15 pieces.

The Kyo-yasai castella baked in the shape of Kyoto vegetables. And the castella contains some kinako. So, it is savory and tastes like soybean powder a little bit.

 

馬鈴 (‘Bazu’―A Japanese sweets cafe)

Bazu

Bazu(Location: 京都府京都市東山区五条橋東6丁目583−37 TEL: 075-525-0100)

You can sample various kinds of Japanese sweets in this cafe. For example, rice dumplings, warabi-mochi, shiratama and so on. We want to introduce warabi-mochi. In this cafe it is made in the shape of a rabbit. You can choose from three different kind of sauces: Kuromitsu-kinako (black honey-kinako), matcha (green tea), yuzu (citron).

 

 

Fushimi area

Kyomame-an

Kyomame-an is a sweet made from soybean milk. They use only soybeans grown in Japan. This shop’s most popular item is soft ice cream made from soy milk. You can chose from many different flavors.  They also have monaka (wafer) with silky tofu and green tea tofu.

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Black Sesame, Yuzu, Purple potato, soda, mango, cassis, chocolate, apricot, strawberry

 

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monaka(wafer) with silky tofu & green tea tofu

 

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Kyomame-an (Location: 京都市伏見区深草祓川町16-20)

Matsuya

Fushimi Inari Shrine is one of the largest and most famous shrines in Kyoto. It is a fox shrine, so a lot of souvenirs with a fox motif are sold there. That is the same for foods; the shrine’s famous miso rice cracker is modeled after the face of the fox. Matsuya has been selling these miso rice crackers for a very long time. Of course it is the stores most popular item. It comes in two sizes: large, Kitsune-chan, and small, Kogitune-chan―kitsune means fox in Japanese; kogitsune is a young fox. They are parent and child and are the representative characters of this shop.

 

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Kitsune-chan rice cracker

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Matsuya (Location: 京都市伏見区深草一の坪町27)

Nishiki market street

花よりキヨエ(’Hanayori Kiyoe’ An olive oil shop)

Hanayori Kiyoe

Hanayori Kiyoe (Location: 京都市中京区御幸町通蛸薬師下ル船屋町399番地さしあのビル1階 Open:10:00-18:00(Mon-Fri)/10:00-19:00(Sat-Sun))

Although this shop sells mostly olive oil, it also sells a variety of tabe-aruki food. For example they sell nishiki-ika (fried squid), karaage, (fried chicken) Nishiki croquette,  and many other flavored croquettes. All croquettes made by this shop use olive oil. (When Japanese people make croquette, they often use salad oil or lard.)

Soy milk skin cream croquette

湯葉クリームコロッケ One is the soy milk skin cream croquette which costs ¥290.

コロコロコ(’korokoroko’ A traditional snack shop)

korokoroko

korokoroko(Location: 京都市中京区東魚屋町185-3-1 TEL: 075-256-2108 Open: 10:00-18:00)

 

Hannari soft icecream

はんなりソフト The Hannari-Soft is a type of ice cream that has 3 flavors: milk, matcha, and matcha and milk swirl that costs ¥380. The Hannari-Soft ice cream is covered with a topping called arare (rice ball cracker).

井上佃煮店 (‘Inoue’ A prepared food shop)

Inoue

Inoue(Location: 京都市中京区錦小路通柳馬場西入ル中魚屋町485 TEL: 075-221-4357 Open: 9:00-18:00 Close: every Wednesday/first Sunday, Third Sunday)

This shop began on Nishiki street in 1884. You can buy many prepared foods that use kyo-vegetables (vegetables grown in Kyoto). In addition, we would like to focus on a special product from this shop: the chocolate croquette (¥100).

the chocolate croquette

the chocolate croquette cost only ¥100

The croquette’s middle is chocolate! Does that even go together? We would like to recommend this and want you to try it and judge if it’s good or not.

The Treasures of Japanese Taste—Dashi 

 by Shoko Ota & Yukari Kimura

Kombu (kelp, sea cabbage)

Kombu (kelp, sea cabbage)

Katsuo-Bushi (dried bonito)

Katsuo-Bushi (dried bonito)

 

 

 

The new Popularity of Japanese Food

 

Recently, the number of tourists who are visiting Japan have been on the rise. Japanese food is becoming famous worldwide as a healthy cuisine. One of the basic tastes of Japanese cuisine comes from dashi, which is stock for soup and sauces.

 

 What is “Dashi”?

 

Simply, “dashi” means Japanese soup stock. There are many different kinds of soup stocks that are used around the world. Japanese Soup stock doesn’t use any animal products, however, instead it uses products from the sea: katsuo-bushi (dried bonito) and kombu (kelp). These are important tastes in Japanese food culture. Other alternatives that are sometimes used in soup stocks are mushroom, beans, and other dried fish.

 

How to make “Dashi”

 

Althjough fairly simple, it is said that to make a real good dashi is very difficult and only very skilled cooks can make it. The way of filtering dashi is the same as making coffee. It’s very simple and easy for beginners. It takes only 1-2 minutes to make authentic dashi (first soup). You can also change the thickness of dashi as you like.

 

1. Set up the filter and put in packs of dried bonito, dried tuna and dried kelp into the cup.

 

2. Pour in hot water and cover the top (about 500cc). Wait 1-2 minutes

 

3. Place the dripper over another cupp. Dashi will automatically filter into the cup.

 

Source: Dashi Atelier Soutatsu Products Catalog

 

 

 The Difference between Western Japan and Eastern Japan

 

Did you know Japanese people often use dashi in cooking, and the ingredients differ from place to place? Traditionally, in Eastern Japan dashi is made from katsuobushi. Once it is mixed in udon (a type of noodle dish), the color becomes dark brown and has a taste like soy sauce. Whereas in Western Japan, dashi is made from kombu. Again, when the dashi is mixed in udon, the color becomes yellow, and has a little salty taste.

 

How did this difference occur?

 

Although there are various reasons why this difference in dashi occurred, basically it comes down to the main types of fish use in the regions: western = white meat fish; and eastern = red meat fish. From the history of Eastern Japan, people ate red meat fish very frequently. For example, skipjack and sardine are types of akami (red meat). The taste is known to be very greasy. This is why people from eastern Japan like strong taste. Nevertheless in western Japan, people have been eating white meat fish all the time. For example, herring and Pacific cod are types of shiromi (white meat). The taste is light and simple. Furthermore, Western Japanese people eat it on a daily basis. This is the reason why people from western Japan do not like strong tastes.

nishitohigashi

Bonus fact

Did you know that long, long ago in Japan, the capital in Japan was Kyoto? Of course back then, the distribution of foods to Kyoto flourished. For example, since Hokkaido’s sea cucumber is known to be the most delicious in Japan, a lot of fresh, delicious sea cucumbers were delivered to Kyoto before Tokyo. Therefore, many good quality sea cucumbers were consumed by Kyoto people. Since the transportation technology was not very advanced as it is today, it was very difficult to send products across the Pacific Ocean. If products were sent by land, it would take a long time to get to Tokyo from Kyoto. As a result, the freshness will decrease enormously. This means perhaps the sea cucumber was unpleasant once it arrived.

 

 

Special Thanks:

だし工房宗達京都店 (Dashi Atelier Soutatsu Kyoto store)

 Address: 〒604-8115, 京都市中京区蛸薬師通堺町東入雁金町375-4

OPEN: 11:00~19:00

CLOSED: Tuesday, Wednesday