Aburimochi

August 16, 2011

by Chiaki Imanaka

“Aburimochi” is a traditional kind of sweet found in Kyoto, and its connection to a particular shrine in Kyoto has ancient roots. In the year 1000 A.D., plague spread throughout the Kyoto area. In response to this, Imamiya Shrine was built, in 1001, as a place to worship, and pray that the plague would not decimate even more of the population. Despite this act of faith, the plague returned to wreak havoc again and test the people of the area. Thereafter, people started to put aburimochi in front of the shrine and prayed for good health as part of the Yasurai festival. This festival is a public event held in the spring, and during it people wish for good health as they eat aburimochi. There are people who wear formal dress, dress as demons, dance, play flutes, drums, and so on. This festival takes place on the second Sunday of April each year. Now, it has become a custom, after visiting the shrine, to eat aburimochi in order to prevent sickness.

The making of aburimochi is quite simple. The rice cake is cut into thumb-sized pieces, and dusted with soybean flour. Following this, the pieces are threaded one by one onto a skewer made of bamboo. The tip of the skewer is forked so that the rice cake pieces don’t slide off the skewer during toasting. After visitors have placed their order, the salesperson toasts the rice cakes, until they are a little burned, over a charcoal fire. Next, they are dipped into a sweet sauce made from white miso and presented to the customer. Finally, you can smell the fragrant aroma of freshly-toasted aburimochi, very delicious and not too sweet. You can take aburimochi home with you, of course, but eating it freshly-toasted is the nicest. If you take it home for later, it will likely be hard by the time you get back.

There are two stores selling aburimochi in front of Imamiya Shrine’s east gate; “Ichiwa” and “Kazariya”. Most visitors have a hard time deciding which store they would like to enter, and the staff of each vie for their custom most enthusiastically. Both shops have a long and interesting history, so I would like to introduce Ichiwa and Kazariya to you here.

Ichiwa

Ichiwa

This store has been open since 1002, and there is an old well located here from which water still springs even now, and it is this water that is used in the making of aburimochi. This well has been here since 1002, and has been used as the location for the filming of numerous period dramas. They also have a cooking oven in a recess inside the store, which uses a firewood fire for boiling glutinous rice in order to make the rice cakes. Beyond this, there is a small yard and a Japanese-style room with a tatami floor, a jar and a scroll hanging on the wall. You can stretch out your legs here, relax, and admire the hanging scroll and jar, which are changed according to the season. Why don’t you try to visit here every season to see the changes?

oven

cooking

well

yard

Open: 10:00~17:00
Closed:Every Wednesday, and the 1st and 15th of each month
(When the 1st or 15th is a Wednesday, the store will be closed on the following day, Thursday)
Address: Imamiya Shrine, east gate, south side, 69, Murasakino Imamiya-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu
Tel: 075-492-6852

Kazariya

Kazariya

This store has been open since 1656. They also have a cooking oven, a small yard, a Japanese- style room and a hanging scroll. Many famous Japanese people have paid a visit to this store.

Cooking Oven

In the garden

Inside the garden

Dining Area

Open: 10:00~17:00
Closed: Every Wednesday, and the 1st and 15th of each month
(When the 1st or 15th is a Wednesday, the store will be closed on the following day, Thursday)
Address: Imamiya Shrine, east gate, south side, 96, Murasakino Imamiya-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu
Tel: 075-491-9402

In both stores, you can buy aburimochi for 500 yen for one person. Also, you can get a take-out from 1500 yen for 3 persons. After you have visited Imamiya Shrine, you should try to eat aburimochi at Ichiwa or Kazariya at least once. If you don’t feel you have had enough to eat, why not try to eat a little more in both stores? The salespeople do say there seems to be some difference between the two. Enjoy your visit to Imamiya Shrine and the wonderful Kyoto traditional sweet of aburimochi.

Leave A Comment...

*