Nishiri – Unusual Sushi and Japanese Pickles

November 3, 2014

By Haruka Chaya and Ayaka Endo

 

Special Sushi

Visitors to Kyoto often take back Japanese pickles for souvenirs. Nishiri is one of Kyoto’s famous tsukemono, or pickles, shops. It is located in Arashiyama, but it is not quite like other pickle shops. It offers something different. Japanese have been eating pickles since olden times and they usually eat them with rice. Like this:

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The traditional basis for a Japanese meal is often referred to as “one soup; one dish.” Rice and pickles are givens, so the fundamental Japanese meal consists of one soup, one dish and then rice and pickles. This is the usual manner in which Japanese eat.  However, we’d like to recommend another way of eating Japanese pickles.

In the Nishiri pickle shop, there is a meal that looks like a box of carefully prepared sushi called Kyo-tsukemono-sushi. Almost everyone likes sushi, don’t they? So this  bento meal looks quite appealing.

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However, the individual items are not raw fish placed on cakes of rice. In this case, all of these toppings are different types of Japanese pickles that are made from eggplant, radish, ginger, daikon and shibazuke (chopped vegetables pickled in salt and shiso leaves). This really suits the Japanese taste.

Furthermore pickles are good for you. They have a lot of dietary fiber, vitamins and lactobacillus. Also, they are low in calories, and are good for your skin. If you get tired after walking through Arashiyama, you can take a rest at Nishiri and eat pickle sushi. Besides experiencing  traditional Japanese tastes in a novel way, you will get health and beauty.

If you decide to buy a box of pickle sushi for your family or friends, please be careful because it spoils easily and needs to be kept refrigerated. It is worth giving to a friend at least once; imagine their surprise!

 

Other products

Nishiri also sells small servings of pickles in what is called a “cutting cup.” This enables customers to try a wide variety of pickles without spending a lot of money. The price of just one cup of pickles is 108 yen. Three cups are 324 yen. You can enjoy sampling many kinds of pickles this way. At Nishiri, the foods are dished up so beautifully. This is an example of Japanese sincerity when it comes to guests.

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UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage Certification

Traditional Japanese food —washoku—was recently added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural heritage list . Japanese food was evaluated as being fresh, healthy, well-balanced in nutrition, and beautiful.

 

Where is Nishiri?

Nishiri is in Arashiyama in western Kyoto and is near the famous Arashiyama landmark, the Togetsu Bridge. From the bridge please go straight east down the bustling road and you will see Nishiri on your left side.

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Mamezushi

Junya Kitagawa and Miki Suzuki

 Mamezushi

As sushi is now well known all over the world, there are many sushi bars located in many different countries, and a lot of people have become familiar with it.  All over Japan you can find sushi bars serving many different kinds.  “Mamezushi”, which we would like to introduce here, is one type that originated in Kyoto.

“Mamezushi” is often called “Maiko zushi”, too, because its birthplace was Gion, in Kyoto, an area which is also famous for Maiko, or apprentice Geisha.  Maiko have a cute little button for a mouth, with the perfect size and shape for eating sushi.  Mamezushi means small sushi bean in English, as the shape is small and spherical.

In top-class Japanese restaurants, 15 kinds of Mamezushi are presented in a box and served to customers.  The kinds of mamezushi shown here, are from the upper left, squid sandwiched between sheets of kelp, mackerel oshizushi, bamboo shoot, pickled tuna, masuzushi, pouch of fried bean curd stuffed with vinegared rice, shrimp, butterbur, egg, pickled rape blossoms, kelp boiled in sweetened soy sauce, eel, Japanese ginger, with squid and pickled ginger to the lower right.  When the customer first removes the lid to begin to eat, they cannot help but be impressed with the beautiful colors before them, and almost always feel the urge to take pictures of it.  However they not only look elegant but also have a very refined taste.  Each one tastes different to the others, and we do not have to put on any soy sauce, which makes it a little healthier for us.

Mamezushi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Restaurant Mametora

There is really only one place where we can eat Mamezushi in Kyoto, and this is the top-class restaurant “Mametora”.  This restaurant has a calm atmosphere and is peaceful and comfortable.  The restaurant is located on Hanami-Koji Street, which is actually quite  noisy, however, you do not notice that once inside the restaurant.  There are 3 types of seating available here:  the counter seat, where you can see the inner garden, a private room, where you can eat lunch or dinner in privacy and relaxation, and on a covered table placed over a recess in the floor of a Japanese-style room.  Of course, you can enjoy a special lunch or dinner whichever seating arrangement you choose.

The restaurant has two service times, lunch time and dinner time.  Lunch time is from 11:30 a.m. to 02:00 p.m. and dinner time is from 05:00 p.m. to 09:00 p.m.  At lunch time two options are available, one is “Mamezushi-Zen”, which consists of five courses.The main course Mamezushi, is served 4th, and before that courses containing foods in season are offered, with the final course being a dessert.  The other option is “Mamezushi-Sara Zen”, which consists of 6 courses, and offers many kinds of foods in small dishes in addition to the courses of “Mamezushi-Zen”.  At dinner time there are other options.  The first is ”Mamezushi-Kaiseki”, with different courses.  With this you can eat Mamezushi, deep-fried food, grilled fish, meat, or chicken, and 4 courses containing foods in season.  The second is “Choice Mamezushi-Kaiseki”, which offers 6 courses.  In addition to the courses offered in “Mamezushi-Kaiseki” we can eat one-pot type dish cooked at the table.  “Mamezushi-Kaiseki” costs ¥3,800 per person, “Mamezushi0-Sara Zen ” costs ¥5,800 per person, “Mamezushi-Kaiseki” costs ¥9,680 per person, and “Choice Mamezushi-Kaiseki” costs ¥13,200 per person.  As the dinner courses are so expensive, we recommend you try the lunch courses.  They are very reasonable and you can enjoy plenty of Mamezushi.  Fundamentally, the restaurant does not close on a regular day, however, on holidays, there will surely be a lot of customers and few empty seats.  Therefore, making a reservation before arrival is certainly a good idea.  You can actually now make reservations either by telephone or online.

Access

 There are a lot of ways to access this restaurant because it is located in the heart of Kyoto city, and near some famous places, for example, Kiyomizu-Temple and Yasaka-Shrine.

・Kyoto City Bus: you can take the “Gion Express” bus from Kyoto Station to Gion Bus Station, and thereafter it is a 3 minutes   walk to the restaurant.

・Keihan-train: if you take the train, please get off at Sanjo-Keihan Station, and thereafter take a 5 minute walk to the restaurant.

・Hankyu-train: if you take this train, please get off at Kawaramachi Station, and then take an 8 minute walk to the restaurant.

・phone number:075 532 3955

Additional informationI

In addition to enjoying this great traditional cuisine, please visit the two places of interest mentioned before.  Kiyomizu-Temple is very famous, and many travelers wish to visit it.  The view from this temple is really beautiful, and will give great memories.  Yasaka-Shrine is also famous, and especially for its connection to the “Gion festival”.  If you have time, please visit these wonderful places, too.

Funazushi

by Keita Matsui and Shiho Tanaka

What is Funazushi

Funazushi is fermented funa (freshwater carp). The biggest lake in Japan is Lake Biwa, in Shiga prefecture. Because the lake is filled with carp, funazushi is a special food product of Shiga. Mainly, it is the nigorobuna carp species used in the production of funazushi. Nigurobuna is a species indigenous to Shiga. The funa used in making funazushi is usually pickled in salt and rice. After the fermentation process, the funa are cut into slices and are ready to eat. However, funazushi has an extremely peculiar smell and taste, causing some people to like it very much, while other detest it. By the way, smell of funazushi is stronger than natto.

Funazushi

Way to make Funazushi

Basically, most funazushi is made with funa caught in springtime. Once captured, the funa’s internal organs are removed, except for its scales, gills and ovaries. One interesting point is that people do not cut out the funa’s stomach, but instead stuff the stomach full of salt. This is repeated with multiple fish. After that, all the funa are placed into a pail and are covered in salt. This process of placing the fish into a pail and covering with salt is repeated until the pail is full with stacked fish. Finally, people put a final layer of salt on the top and put a lid on the pail. Then, a heavy stone is placed on the top of the pail, which is then put in a cool, dark place. Again, this is done in the spring of each year.

In summer, it is time to harvest the fermented funa. People start by taking the funa out from the fermentation pail and washing it clean. Next, people stuffed each funa with boiled rice. Along with this, they also add salt and alcohol (sake) to the boiled rice. This pail put cold and dark place, too. Then, when everything is ready, people can eat their funa with rice containing vinegar and sugar. This is way to make funazushi according to the traditional methods from Shiga Prefecture.

History of Funazushi

According to historians, funazushi has been around since the Heian age, from about 794 to 1185. So as you can see, funazushi had been being eaten by Japanese people from a very a long time ago. And, the books in Nara age ware wtitten the ward funazushi. Funazushi made their ages is same way to make with now. There are the reason that people made funazushi. Funazushi used a lot of salts and rice. In Nara age, salts and rice harvested near Lake Biwa. Funa harvested in Lake Biwa. So, there are salts and rice near and used funazushi. And, there is prospect that funazushi was conveyed China. Funazushi wasn’t pickled salts and rice to save, and to taste. Funazushi used a lot of salts and rice, so it is high-quality food.

How to eat Funazushi

There are a number of ways to eat funazushi. Even if funazushi is called ‘sushi’, implying that it is eaten with rice soaked in vinegar and sugar, eating it straight, without any condiments or accompanying foods is actually quite common. One delicious way to eat funazushi is to dip it in ginger and soy sauce. Another way is to deep-fry funazushi to make tempura. Furthermore, you can put funazushi on crackers with cheese, and eat them Western style. Funazushi is also adored by some as the perfect accompaniment to Japanese sake (rice wine). We recommend you Boiled rice in tea of funazushi. And this is very light, so we can eat at any time.

Funazushi on rice

Where can we eat Funazushi

It goes without saying that because funazushi is a traditional food from Shiga, you can buy it just about anywhere in Shiga. It is sold in supermarkets, in shops that that make it, and in Japanese food stores. When you buy funazushi in the supermarket, you should choose funazushi made nishikibuna . In supermarket, there are cheaply funazushi made mabuna . Looks of funazushi made mabuna is biger, but taste is OK. We recommend you buy funazushi made nishikibuna. Nishikibuna and mabuna is a kind of funa .In Kyoto, funazushi is sold in Nishiki streets and Japanese food stores, because Kyoto is near to Shiga. But, you can’t buy wherever in Kyoto. If you want to eat funazushi possibly, we recommend you buy funazushi in the Internet. But, you should be careful about season, because funazushi may don’t be made.

Revolving Sushi Bar

by Miki Yamanaka, Yukari Shimono and Saya Ninai

History of the kaitenzushi bar

Sushi is one of the traditional Japanese dishes. In the old days, sushi was not so expensive. However, since fish and rice were perishable, cooks made sushi that would keep for a whole day by using vinegar or salt. Japanese ate sushi as often as Americans today eat hamburgers. Around the 1950s, however, the price of sushi was getting high. That’s one reason why refrigerators became popular and the techniques of the fishing industry improved. Therefore, fishermen could catch rare fish and sell them for a large amount of money at wholesale markets. That is when sushi became an expensive food.

In the 1950s, one sushi chef who managed a standing style sushi restaurant was an opponent of the high prices. He was wondering how to cut down the costs and offer sushi cheaply. How could he offer sushi efficiently and cheaply to many customers? Around that time, he happened to visit a beer factory at which bottles lined up on a conveyer belt were filled with beer and closed tightly with stoppers. He adapted what he saw there to make a revolving sushi bar and opened the first such seated restaurant in 1958. This was the beginning of the revolving sushi bar, known as kaitenzushi in Japan.

How to eat sushi

When you sit down at a table in a revolving sushi shop, you will see a hot-water tap and a container of powdered green tea. If you put a spoonful of the powder into the teacup and push the tap, you can make tea by yourself. Now it’s time to eat sushi! You can choose any kinds you want to eat. There may be a transparent cover over each plate of sushi, so you will pull over the dish and lift the cover. You will pour a bit of regular soy sauce or slightly sweet soy sauce (which ever you like better) over the sushi. Soy sauce matches low fish like tuna and salmon. Slightly sweet soy sauce matches sea eel, eel and octopus. These are already steamed or boiled. You will put “wasabi” which is kind of horseradish on the sushi. It is spicy, but wasabi kills germs and prevents food poisoning. If you are used to it, you may not be able to eat sushi without it. If you want to eat tuna, but it won’t come readily to your table, you can order it by using a touchscreen. Your sushi will come soon through another conveyer belt. After eating, you will insert the plates one by one into a slot. A machine inside will automatically count how many plates of sushi you ate and it’s easy to pay. If you put 5 or more plates into the slot, you will be challenged to play “bikkurapon,” which is a little game. If you win it, you will get a plastic toy shaped like sushi. When you are full and have finished eating, you will touch oaiso on the touchscreen, and then a shop assistant will come and give you the bill. You will then go to the cash register with your bill and pay.

Ingredients for sushi

What kind of ingredients do foreigners like?

The most popular ingredient for sushi among foreigners at one popular chain of inexpensive kaitenzushi restaurants is tuna, called maguro in Japanese. This is one of the most famous and common types of fish for sushi. Most Japanese people like it and they often order maguro at a sushi restaurant.  The second one is salmon. We also sometimes call it “salmon” in Japanese — but also sake (sah-kay) or shake (sha-kay). Salmon is loved in northern Europe, too, so a lot of foreigners order it when they visit Japan. However, since it is not the custom to eat raw fish in most other countries, some foreigners hesitate to eat these foods in Japan. Sushi and raw fish are very tasty, so you should try them both!

Recommended type of sushi

Many foreigners still need to try yellowtail, called hamachi in Japanese.  It is said that yellowtail tastes more natural than other types of fish used for sushi.  Furthermore, farmed yellow tail tastes better than wild fish of the same type. Yellowtail has different Japanese names according to its stage of growth.  People call medium-sized yellowtail hamachi, but when it grows over 80 centimeters, it is recognized as buri. You will be able to try buri at a sushi restaurant, too.

Safety of sushi

tunasalmon

Food safety is a priority for kaitenzushi chains lately. Many are careful to buy food that is free of chemical additives, so they can advertise their products as additive-free. Also, they ensure the safety of their food by putting into practice the freshness managerial system of time restrictions. Four major additives - chemical seasoning, artificial sweetener, artificial coloring and artificial preservative - are not used. Having their own factory allows kaitenzushi chains to enforce these strict standards. They can check the quality control every day. Moreover, the processing of fish is performed in a central kitchen with thorough supervision of hygiene. Every fish is delivered to a franchise store as the fillet that is finally used for sushi. The information of the place of origin is also usually released to emphasize the safety of sea products. Also the sources of native seafood — octopus, shrimp, scallop, yellowtail and bream, etc. — are written concretely. This is classified by prefecture. In the case of imports from overseas, all the countries of origin containing seafood, vegetables and grain are shown clearly.

The Japanese kaitenzushi industry wants foreigners to enjoy safe sushi in their own countries. Unfortunately, there is no custom of eating raw fish in many other countries. Also, since these automated shops have few waiters, foreigners distrust the shops in which sushi is only turning on a conveyor belt. When people overseas know about safety of sushi, kaitenzushi will spread more. By putting quality control into practice, kaitenzushi chains offer safety as well as enjoyment.

Petite Sushi: Temarizushi

by Takuro Yoshida
Sushi comes in a wide variety of forms and can be made with many different ingredients. Even if you know a lot about sushi and enjoy it often, you have probably never eaten temarizushi. Temarizushi are small rice balls wrapped tightly with thinly sliced fish. This petite sushi is a bit hard to find and It is easy to eat, especially for women — even those who are wearing bright lipstick! Let me introduce you to temarizushi.


Generally, sushi costs a lot because the raw fish is expensive and the chef needs highly skilled techniques. If we want to eat perfect sushi, we have to go to some pricey sushi shops or sushi bars and spend a lot of time and money.


Temarizushi, however, is a less demanding kind of sushi. Thanks to its simple recipe, almost anyone can prepare it. You can make temarizushi by hand by pressing rice and fish into a ball-shaped form using a small sheet of plastic wrap. Just unwrap the rice ball when it’s formed to your liking. Comparatively, sabazushi (mackerel) or other sushis are difficult to make and need much time. This is why temarizushi is the “easygoing sushi”.

The ingredients are also different. Sushi is sometimes processed because it is sometimes brought to eat as a picnic lunch under the warm sun. For that reason, the fish used are sometimes processed so as to prevent food poisoning and to look appetizing. For example, salmon is smoked, conger eel is steamed, shrimp is poached and bream is pressed by kombu (this is called kobu-jime). Temarizushi gives us an unusual sushi taste.


Temarizushi is said to have a long history but no one actually seems to know when it was invented. With its easy recipe, temarizushi probably began in family kitchens. Today it can also be found in Japanese restaurants as one of the dishes in the course cuisine. Some cafes in Kyoto offer it for lunch. And recently, it has comes to be popular and started being sold at the famous Isetan Department Store in the JR Kyoto Station complex.

While researching this article, I began to wonder why ― if temarizushi has such a long history ー it is not more famous than sabazushi or other sushis. I decided to ask the chef at the traditional Kyoto restaurant Rokusei (六盛). As the chef explained: “Think about sabazushi. It has been made when festivals or parties were held. But temarizushi is usually made as one of the dishes in course cuisine and it is also made at home. Temarizushi is more homey than sabazushi, so I think temarizushi is remarkable for forigneers.”

Temarizushi may not be well-known, but it is such an interesting sushi! I hope you understand now how different it is from other kinds of sushi. How would you like to try eating this uncommon kind of sushi?

Click here to enter Rokusei Restaurant “六盛”