October 3, 2012
by Yuria Shinya
Kyo-tsukemono are Japanese pickles that are made in Kyoto, Japan. The image of kyo-tsukemono is one of simplicity and a refined taste. However, there is no exact definition of kyo-tsukemono. Yet, pickles play a very important role in Japanese meals. It is often said that if tsukemono taste bad, the entire meal will be spoiled, no matter how delicious the other dishes are.
Clear water and fresh vegetables from Kyoto are essential in making kyo-tsukemono. Softness is a key characteristic of the water in Kyoto. Furthermore, since the city lies in a basin surrounded by mountains, Kyoto is blessed with rich groundwater. That’s why many products—and arts—developed by using kyoto’s clean water. Just a few examples among food include sake, tofu (soybean curd), and kyo-gashi (Kyoto sweets); and most notable among the arts is sado (the tea ceremony).
Kyoto is also famous for its own unique, local varieties of vegetables. They are popularly known as “kyo-yasai” in Japanese. Of course, these vegetables are grown with Kyoto water. Most kyo-yasai have unique shapes or distinct flavors, and so they often cost more than other vegetables. Kyo-yasai are therefore treated as high-grade vegetables in Japan, and so many first-class restaurants use them in their dishes.
Kyoto’s climate is also a key factor in the taste of Kyo-tsukemono. From olden times, a special technique for preserving food was developed because Kyoto’s summers were so hot and humid, and foodstuffs would quickly spoil. Combined with this traditional technique, Kyo-tsukemono are made from superb ingredients—clean water, vegetables, and Kyoto’s specific climate. The result is that kyo-tsukemono are regarded as one of the best varieties of pickles in Japan. No doubt, then make a good souvenir from Kyoto.
Three Top Tsukemono
1. 千枚漬 Senmaizuke
Senmaizuke pickles are made from the Shyogo-in kabura, a traditional Kyoto turnip. The origin of Senmaizuke can be traced back to Tosaburo Ofuji, who after serving the government in Kyoto, invented these pickles and started selling them at his own shop. However, Senmaizuke didn’t become familiar with everyone in Japan until it was exhibited at a national exhibition in Kyoto about 140 years ago. “Senmai” literally means “one thousand slices” in Japanese. One of senmaizuke’s main characteristics is that is very thinly sliced, hence its name. The thin slices give it a light and fresh taste.
2. すぐき Suguki
Suguki are pickles made from suguki leaves. Suguki is another kind of turnip. Cultivation of suguki began in the Momoyama period (1381～1614) when Shinto priests had obtained some seeds. It was treated as a luxury food and often used as gifts for the upper classes during the Edo period (1603~1867). It is difficult to like its strong salty taste.
3. しば漬 Shibazuke
It is said that Shibazuke pickles were the creation of a monk who lived in Ohara, an area in the northern part of Kyoto. Shibazuke is a mixture of chopped eggplants, cucumbers, and myoga (native Japanese ginger), and is salted with shiba (red perilla). Ohara is suited for the cultivation of shiba because there is plenty of clean water from the surrounding mountains. Furthermore, the fragrance of shiba is really nice and distinct.
The Tsukemono Restaurant
AKOYA-CHAYA is on Ninenzaka lane near Kiyomizu temple which is one of the most famous tourist spots in Kyoto. This restaurant offers a buffet of kyo-tsukemono for ￥1,280. You can enjoy 25 different of kinds of tsukemono with Ochazuke which means “soaked in green tea”. So ochaduke is bowl of rice with green tea poured over it. It is considered a light meal in Japan and eaten with salty food such as pickled vegetables or dried fish and seaweed boiled in soy sauce.
AKOYA-CHAYA(阿古屋茶屋) is on the way from Ninenzaka(二年坂) to Sanneizaka(産寧坂). It is a 6- to 10-minutes walk, from Kiyomizu temple. >>Access Map
– Open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. / no holiday
– WEB http://www.kashogama.com/akoya/index.html (in Japanese)