Nakamura Tokichi—Experiencing the Green Teas of Uji

June 29, 2014

By Miki Hamada and Emiri Iwagami

 

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A long time ago, Yoshimitsu, the Third Shogun of the Ashikaga Shogunate ordered a tea plantation be made in the hills around Uji, a town southwest of Kyoto. It is know for Byodoin Temple and the Uji River. Ever since, Uji has become well known for its fine green teas. The surrounding environs are especially good for growing tea because of the morning mists that come off the Uji River. Today, Uji is a first-class Japanese tea producing area, and so naturally there are many teashops in the city. Nakamura Tokichi is one of them.The Nakamura family, the founders of Nakamura Tokichi, has been entirely devoted to tea for the past 160 years. Nowadays, their long-established shop has become popular with all kinds of people. In addition to its regular clientele, new customers include young women and Japanese and foreign tourists. Why is Nakamura Tokichi so popular today and loved by so many?

 

Recently the shop embarked on a new project to revitalize its traditions. In 2001 they made café space to sell sweets. There you can try Japanese tea, powdered green tea (macha) and sweets that are made with powdered green tea. Among their sweets are macha chocolates, macha soft ice cream, and jellies. Nama-cha jelly, along with green tea and teabags, are their most popular products. The shop sells various traditional teas as well, both bitter and sweet. Information about each product has been translated into English and is included in the packaging. The opinions of customers are included as well. Seasonal products are also sold. In the spring, the first tea of the season comes in. This is called shin-cha in Japan. Nakamura Tokichi also makes shincha jelly from fresh new leaves. In summer, cold-brewed green tea is sold; in winter, green tea of medium quality is available. Customers can choose from many different tea products all year long.

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There is a beautiful garden in back that has a 200-year-old pine tree. Because its shape resembles that of a boat, it is called Horai-funa-matsu —“the pine in the shape of the boat to Mt. Horai.” Mt. Horai is a mythical mountain where Chinese immortals lived. The tree is 6meters high and the trunk is 1.3 meters in diameter. It is said that it was planted by the second generation of the Nakamura family. The garden has been regularly kept from the second generation. From café terrace you can see this beautiful pine. It received a famous tree award from Uji city.

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In 2009 Nakamura Tokichi was selected as an official “Cultural Landscape,” a UNESCO designation that places value on the mosaic of natural environment, climate and a human livelihood that has been maintained over generations. This designation was created at the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. Nakamura Tokichi was chosen because its head office building is representative of a tea merchant’s house from the Meiji Period. The Nakamura Fujiyoshi Byodoin shop is an historical building that was once the restaurant-inn Kikuya in the Edo period.

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Tea Ceremony Experience

  1. Make macha powder by grinding tea on the millstone.
  2. Enter the special tearoom built in the Genroku era (300 years ago).

You will be served macha jelly.

3. Drink koi-cha by turns. Koi-cha is a thick and strong macha made from high-class green tea powder

4. Drink usu-cha by turns. Usu-cha is a light and weak macha.

Place: tea room Zuishou-an

Time: 45~60 minutes

Expense: 2,160 yen per person

Application: To participate, you have to make reservations.

Tel: 0774-22-7800 / E-mail: shop@tokichi.jp

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Cafe

Business hours:

Weekdays : store 10:00~17:30

Café 11:00~17:30 (last Order17:00)

Holidays:   store 10:00~18:00

Café 11:00~18:00 (last Order17:15)

 

Menu

Macha jelly        Usu-cha                  Kitsune cha soba

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Iemon/Fukujyuen: A Tea Shop in Kyoto

by Yuki Iwata ; Shoma HOrikawa

The History of Iemon/Fukujyuen

Iemon was established as a business in 1790. At first, it exported tea from the port of Kobe and sold tea wholesale in Japan. In 1952 it opened its first retail shop in Kyoto Station and later opened other tea shops around the country. Iemon decided not to open any branches in Japan’s department stores.

Iemon produces and sells teas from Uji, an area near Kyoto that is famous for its tea. The company uses only containers made in Kyoto to store its teas. It is also particular about the water it uses, choosing pure water from Yamazaki, an area between Kyoto and Osaka, which is considered to be among the 100 best water sources in Japan. The company’s factories have facilities to dry, pack, and refrigerate the tea it produces.

Iemon manages its tea production with a state-of-the-art computer system and with cost-efficient and laborsaving measures, while, at the same time, preserving its reputation for producing the highest quality tea. As a result, the company has been able to expand its business into overseas markets. In 2001 it established a store in Singapore and later, another one in Taiwan. In 2004 Iemon changed its company name to Fukujyuen. It has acquired an international reputation for its tea. The main store is still located in Kyoto.

A Visit to the Iemon/Fukujyuen Main Shop

We visited the main shop of Iemon/Fukujyuen in Kyoto near the intersection of Shijyo and Tomokoji Streets. The building has six stories and a basement. We will tell you what is on each floor:

• In the basement, customers can produce their own original mixture of green tea with the help of a tea professional.

• On the first floor is where teas and related products are sold.

• A restaurant and café are found on the second floor.

• On the third floor is a French restaurant where Japanese green tea is used as an ingredient in French dishes. The chef is Tetsuya Nakano who was chef at Maxim’s de Paris in Ginza. His philosophy for cooking includes the principles of food being “more delicious, more cheerful, more healthy, and more beautiful.”

• A tearoom is located on the fourth floor where customers can experience being served green tea in the traditional way.

• You can buy Kyoto pottery on the fifth floor of the Iemon/Fukujyuen building. The pottery is very beautiful but expensive.

• On the sixth floor is a conference room. The floor of the room was built using beautiful stones brought in from many local areas in Japan. It’s very impressive.

During our visit to Iemon/Fukujyuen we asked a helpful salesperson, “Where do most of your foreign customers come from?” He said many Europeans stop in at the shop during their trips to Kyoto, with especially a large number of Germans visiting. It seems Japan is very popular in Europe. We came to realize that the Iemon/Fukujyuen tea shop offers a comprehensive survey of Japanese culture. Not only foreigners but also Japanese should visit.

Access

Iemon/Fukujyuen is located on the southwest corner of the Shijyo/Tomokoji intersection. It is about halfway between the Karasuma and Kawaramachi stations of the Hankyu Rail line. The phone number is 075-221-2920 .