January 23, 2017
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’.
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.
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)
Shojin ryori can be made with all kinds of different vegetables, but these are some of the most common.
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 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 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 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.
There are a number of restaurants in Kyoto where visitors can enjoy syojin ryori. Here are three of them.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Address: Daijiin nai Daitokuji-cho Murasakino Kita-ku Kyoto
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.