Doi-Master Picklers Of Kyoto

December 15, 2016

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Have you ever tried Japanese style pickles? If you imagine they are like foreign pickles, you would be wrong, because they are very different. Nowadays, there are many pickles in the supermarket, but the pickles in this shop are much nicer compared to them. “Doi no Shibazuke” (Doi’s Pickles) might be the perfect Kyoto souvenir for your relatives or friends.

 

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Doi-master pickles shop

Doi no Shibazuke is one of the most well-known pickle making companies, and is famous for its shibazuke. It has a very long history and has been loved by many people for years.  The company was founded in Ohara, Kyoto, in 1901.  Ohara is a famous red perilla (Japanese basil) growing area, and is the birthplace of shibazuke, which are pickled summer vegetables.

 

Mr.Doi

Mr.Doi

The first CEO of the company wanted many people to know about shibazuke, so he founded this company there, first of all selling tsukemono (regular pickles) just in front of the family home. After years of struggle, they finally managed to build the main store in Ohara, and thereafter opened more branches, one after the other, throughout Kyoto.  Now, they currently have 15 stores including a sub-branch in a department store. There are also branches in 6 other prefectures: Osaka, Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, Fukuoka, and Kagoshima.  This company has only had five presidents in its history, and the current Mr. Doi is the 5th CEO of the firm.  He has worked at Doi no Shibazuke as a staff member since he graduated college, and in 2001, when the company celebrated its 100th anniversary, he was inaugurated as the new CEO.

 

 

Doi no Shibazuke has their own farm for growing perilla leaf, and the reason for this is that they can have greater control over the taste of the product. They grow perilla leaf from seed, so they can have the same level of quality year on year.  They don’t use agricultural chemicals to grow their perilla and use a cultivation method that is more than 800 years old.  From June to July is generally the season for growing perilla leaf, but they extend their growing beyond this to make sure they can provide more pickles. DSC_0704

Importantly, Doi’s way of making shibazuke is to use eggplants only, and not cucumber. A cheaper way to make shibazuke is to use cucumber instead of eggplant because it reduces the cost and the process is easier, but Doi insist on eggplant for the sake of quality.

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First they get the best eggplants from their partner farms. Secondly, they use a machine to chop the eggplant into smaller pieces.  Thirdly, the employees hop into a big wooden barrel containing the eggplant, fine perilla leaves and salt, and then tread the mixture

with their feet, just like they do with grapes for wine making. The reason they tread the eggplant mixture is to help retain the taste and smell of the vegetable.  If they don’t tread it, the good smell will disseminate and the great taste of the perilla will not be mixed in.

Finally, the mixture, along with added ginger, is packed into a wooden barrel and left to ferment for around one month, with a large stone placed on the barrel lid to seal everything in.  Every year, this company makes 120 huge wooden barrels full of pickles and keeps them for shipment.  Overall, they produce an average of 200 tons of pickles in a year, so in the busy period they can make up to one ton of pickles a day.

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So where can you buy them? Doi no Shibazuke has 6 shops in Kyoto, and they are also sold in department stores in Japan, so you should be able to locate them easily.  If you do have a problem hunting them down though, you can also buy them on the Internet. (http://www.doishibazuke.co.jp/)

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The best 3 tsukemono are; shibazuke (475 yen), senmaizuke, which is made from radish and tastes slightly sweet (691 yen), and assorted tsukemono, which offers a variety of different pickles (2,025 yen).   When you buy pickles on the internet, there are some different assortments that are very special and cost around 4,000 or 5,000 yen.  We are sure if you buy these for your family or friends they will be really happy.  The shop manager also told us a good way to eat pickles is to put them on a cracker with some cheese.  Japanese pickles also go well with pasta as a topping, and some match well with certain wines.

 

Japanese pickles are not like foreign pickles, and this company is a much nicer shop compared to other shops. They have their own farm, grow their own perilla leaves, and make pickles on the premises.  If you plan to come to Kyoto, we really recommend you visit and buy some pickles at Doi no Shibazuke – an Ohara and Kyoto tradition.

(permission to use photos given by Mr. Doi)