京都の逸品30

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Kyoto-style fans and round fans

Fans originated from mokkan (narrow strips of wood used to write on) and were originally developed as objects to write on. Used in the royal court during the Heian period, as time passed and arts such as incense appreciation, the tea ceremony, and dance progressed, fans began to be used by Buddhist priests and in the entertainment world, and separate fans for each specific use began to be made. After the start of the Edo period, the use of fans spread to the common people. For many years, fans were only needed in Kyoto due to its status as the cultural capital of Japan, and this is said to be the reason behind the development of Kyoto-style fans. Initially, these fans were exported to China, but later in the 16th century they were also exported to Europe, and now many different types of fans are produced.

Behind this preservation of tradition and the graceful beauty inherent in the use of these objects lies more than 20 processes performed before a fan is completed. This division of labor system includes artisans such as manufacturers of fan frames, picture artists, folding craftsmen, and artisans who finish the fans. Each process is performed by hand. Within these processes, it is said that the most difficult is the finishing process called "tsuke". This process requires years of technical expertise.

Fans can be roughly divided into three groups: light fans made of wood, paper fans, and silk fans. The manufacturing techniques and materials differ for each. There are celebratory fans, Noh fans, fans for Japanese traditional dance, summers fan, and tea ceremony fans that are for practical use. There are also specialty fans such as iron-ribbed fans, scented fans, and hinoki fans as well fans such as Yusoku fans (shrine or temple fans) that have continually been used for centuries.

In present-day Kyoto there are nearly forty shops known as fan shops. While some shops specialize in manufacturing of fans, the selling of fans is also minutely subdivided by shop into locations that specialize in one specific type of fan such as summer fans. The reason for this is that some shops exist to satisfy demand for a specific fan and also to supply various styles and shapes of that specific fan. Picture artists such as Yuzensai Miyazaki, Sotatsu Tawaraya, and Korin Ogata created various designs as municipal picture artists in the Edo period.

Kyoto-style fans, with Kyoto being the cultural capital of Japan, are characterized by brilliant and refined design and account for 90% of the fans produced in Japan. At the same time, the Kyoto-style round fan descended from the Korean round fans which has many bamboo bones inserted in formed paper, and a major characteristic is the "insert stalk" structure of the fan in which the face and handle are made separately. Kyoto-style round fans are also called "Miyako-style round fans". They were used at the royal court and were decorated with very elegant pictures. These fans have become commonplace and, instead of being used just for cooling down, their elegance brings joy to many people.

Kyoto-style knives

Kyoto was the representative knife production center in Japan up until the beginning of the Meiji era owing to its geographical advantage of being the capital of Japan from the Heian period. In Kyoto, where various cultural fields such as arts and crafts, landscaping, architecture, and flower arrangement thrived in an expression of the capital's prosperity, Kyoto-style knives were developed as tools for leaders in each of these areas and are still used today. The Kyoto-style knives created by Kyoto blacksmiths play a major role in supporting the culture of Kyoto behind the scenes.

A highly-skilled group of blacksmiths emigrated from Nara to Kyoto during the relocation of the capital to Kyoto (794), and this is when the history of Kyoto-style knives began. When Kyoto was made the capital, it took a leading role in politics and economics as well as distribution of goods, and so it was also an excellent location for making knives. Iron sand and raw steel from the Izumo area for use as steel material, soil from around Fushimi for use in the manufacturing process, pine charcoal and high-quality water from the Tanba area, and Narutaki natural whetstones needed when sharpening a knife are all examples of items that were easily acquired in the area. Using this geographical advantage, Kyoto became the representative knife production area until the beginning of the Meiji era.

Kyoto-style knives have developed as tools for specialists in all of Kyoto's traditional industries such as Nishijin fabric, fans, bamboo arts and crafts, wooden arts and crafts, landscaping, architecture, cooking, tatami, roof tiles, and flower arrangement and they continue to be used today. Kyoto-style knives have played a large role in supporting culture in Kyoto behind the scenes.

One characteristic of Kyoto-style knives is that even today they are not produced using a division of labor system. In many cases, one blacksmith completes all work processes in a single-craftsman manufacturing method. Although Kyoto-style knives include products ranging from various daily items such as kitchen knives, scissors, saws, hatchets, sickles, tools for digging bamboo shoots, and carving knives to professional tools, the current trend sees the number of blacksmiths decreasing in number every year.

Kyoto-style seals

Using seal with engraved characters leaves a distinct impression.

In countries with a culture of seals, in actual business transactions, a person carrying a seal is regarded as the person or the genuine proxy of the person whose name is engraved on the seal. Different calligraphic styles tend to be chosen based on how a seal will be used. Calligraphic styles with thick and heavy lines are used for seals with an important purpose.

Kyoto-style seals were strongly influenced by the style of the Chinese Han dynasty period, with the characters giving off an angular and orderly impression. It is believed that seals developed in China came over to Japan at the time of Prince Shotoku. Many types of seals such as official seals were made in Kyoto where the Heian capital was situated. Suitable technical skill and artistic style for producing seals that could function as a means for authentication and sanctioning as well as act as symbols of authority were constantly in demand. As the Edo period began, the use of seals spread to common people and demand rapidly increased. As the city where Japan's first seal engravers resided, Kyoto developed as a center for seal production.

Kyoto seals are characterized as having the copper seal style of the so-called Han dynasty seals of the golden age of seals in China. Many of these seals display a very refined style with thick and heavy lines called the Han inten seal engraving style. Traditional Kyoto-style seals are produced using Japanese boxwood, water buffalo, and ivory as materials. Production of Kyoto-style seal is closely based on the owner of the seal and use of the seal. Seals are made with traditional carving technology to give the characters a distinctive style. Each Kyoto-style seal represents the tradition, wisdom, and high-degree of craftsmanship passed from generation to generation, and this artistic style will continue to advance through future generations.

Kyoto-style needles

In Kyoto there is a word "kidaore" or "extravagance in dress".

This means that for a important occasion a person from Kyoto will use all of their money to wear a luxury kimono made from Nishijin fabric or made using yuzen dyeing. This word is used sarcastically to refer to people from Kyoto as ostentatious. At the same time, this word also has some good meaning as it indicates that people from Kyoto will go to great lengths to please a guest. Kyoto-style needles were an indispensable part of this culture in Kyoto. Kyoto-style needles, the merits of which have been sung about in traditional Japanese songs and poems, were very popular as compact and high-quality Kyoto souvenirs, and their quality was made known throughout the country by travelers who had made trips to Kyoto.

Misuya needles are known as high-grade representative Kyoto souvenirs. In 1651, an exclusive needle craftsmen for the royal court was designated, and in 1655 Emperor Gosaiin gave this store the name of Misuya. Production of needles within the Imperial Palace was done in a space hidden behind misu (bamboo blinds) in order to purify the needles and also to make sure the manufacturing method was not revealed. The name "Misuya" derives from this practice.

Needles are classified into Japanese sewing needles, Western-style sewing needles and special needles. Japanese sewing needles such as Misuya needles have pinholes that are round and tips that gradually become finer, and they are characterized by easily passing through fabric and being resistant to bending. The most prominent feature of Misuya needles is that there is little resistance during sewing. In order to prevent fiber from breaking, there are small indentations that are impossible to see on the tip of the needle. There are extremely fine vertical lines on the surface of the needle created by grinding in order to decrease friction when passing a needle through fiber and to improve the ability of the needle to pass through cloth. The tip of the needle is a round hole with a polished inside in order to prevent thread from catching and make it harder for thread to break. To strengthen the needle, a unique heat processing method is performed so that the tip is hard, the area around the pinhole is soft, and the copper part has flexibility. For this reason, Misuya needles posses flexibility.

Kyo cuisine

Kyo cuisine refers to kougu (Imperial Palace) cuisine that developed in Kyoto, which is referred to as Japan's 1000-year capital.

This cuisine took the excellent qualities of several cuisines such as the emphasis on traditional culture found in Yusoku cuisine (aristocratic cuisine), the expertise used to produce honzen cuisine (premium Japanese dinner cuisine), and the cooking methods used in shojin cuisine (vegetarian cuisine) and then simplified these qualities using the spirit of omotenashi (hospitality) found in the tea ceremony to create a kind of reconstructed cuisine. In the present day, Kyo cuisine is a term that is used to refer to a omotenashi (hospitality) cuisine based on kaiseki cuisine (tea ceremony cuisine) that was created by Kyoto chefs who specialize in traditional Japanese-style cuisine. Kyo cuisine originally referred to kougu (Imperial Palace) cuisine, which is the origin of Japanese cuisine, rather than referring to the cuisine of the city of Kyoto.

The Japanese capital was built in the area of present-day Kyoto in 794. A part of the Yamashiro area became the capital and that location is now in the central part of Kyoto. Before this, there were many old capitals such as the Nagaoka capital, the Otsu capital, the Heijyo capital, and the Fujiwara capital and there was a Kyo cuisine that was developed at each location during the time it was the capital of Japan. However, because the capital was located in the area of present-day Kyoto for more than 1000 years, the cuisine of Kyoto is commonly called Kyo cuisine. Originally, Kyo cuisine referred to the omotenashi (hospitality) cuisine served at the royal court wherever the capital was located.

During the Heian period, Yusoku cuisine was developed based on the traditions of the court nobles. During this period, Kyo cuisine was the cuisine made by the chefs of the court nobility. From the Kamakura period, omotenashi (hospitality) banquets called kyouou (entertainment with food and drink) using honzen cuisine (premium Japanese dinner cuisine) came into fashion as the omotenashi (hospitality) cuisine of the samurai class. During the Muromachi period, this cuisine fully developed and became known as Kyo cuisine and was the most luxurious Japanese cuisine. As the Edo period began and Japan entered a period of peace, shojin cuisine (vegetarian cuisine) and kaiseki cuisine (Japanese banquet-style cuisine) for the tea ceremony developed. After this, the difference between kaiseki cuisine (tea ceremony cuisine) that developed from Rikyu tea ceremony and the kaiseki cuisine (Japanese banquet-style cuisine) of restaurants said to have developed during the middle of the Edo period in Bunka-Bunsei era began to be harder to distinguish. Today, the cuisine of restaurants is referred to as kaiseki cuisine (Japanese banquet-style cuisine), while the cuisine at a tea ceremony is referred to as kaiseki cuisine (tea ceremony cuisine).

Present-day Kyo cuisine is no longer the original omotenashi (hospitality) cuisine that was served at the royal court. It is a harmonious combination of Yusoku cuisine, honzen cuisine (premium Japanese dinner cuisine), shojin cuisine (vegetarian cuisine), kaiseki cuisine (tea ceremony cuisine), and kaiseki cuisine (Japanese banquet-style cuisine). This Kyo cuisine is traditional Japanese-style cuisine in the omotenashi (hospitality) tradition that has developed from Kyoto chefs inheriting the knowledge of chefs before them and then adding their own ideas. According to the origin of the name, the cuisine now served to the Imperial Family at the present-day capital of Tokyo should be called Kyo cuisine. However, due to Meiji period government policies that emphasized western dietary culture, the cuisine served to the Imperial Family now is western cuisine. As a result, the original culinary culture of Japan remains in Kyoto, which served as the capital of Japan the longest. In the present day, chefs operating traditional Japanese-style restaurants are the only ones preserving Kyo cuisine.

Kyoto-style pickles

Kyoto vegetables, grown with rich soil and high-quality water in the high humidity climate of Kyoto famous for its penetrating cold in winter, is the source of Kyoto's culinary culture nurtured by history and tradition. These unique vegetables with excellent flavor and a variety of colors and shapes have sparked the development of various ways of eating them. With Kyoto-style pickles, a unique umami (flavor) and taste were created by pickling fresh vegetables in salt and fermenting them. It would be no exaggeration to say that preparation of pickles, which in the past were simply considered a preserved food, was elevated to a refined culinary art through the accumulation of traditional methods and ingenuity. In this article, the traditional Kyoto-style pickles "senmaizuke (pickled sliced radishes)", "suguki", and "shibazuke" will be introduced.

Senmaizuke (pickled sliced radishes) are made by thickly cutting Shogo-in turnips, which are a common winter vegetable in Kyoto, and then thinly cutting the pieces using a large plane. The pieces are placed at the bottom of a barrel and then salted. This manual task is carefully repeated many times, and then the pre-pickling process lasts for 2-3 days. After draining off excess water, seaweed and seasonings (sugar, vinegar, etc.) are alternately layered on the turnips as the main pickling process. After 2-3 days, the pieces are taken out of the barrel and the pieces are finished to produce delicately flavored pickles with a smooth food texture. The pickles are best eaten without washing them and by cutting them into the shape of ginkgo leaves. Along with lightly pickled mibuna (Kyoto green vegetable), these pickles are outstanding with ikura (salmon roe), smoked salmon, and roast ham. These pickles were developed at the end of the Edo period by chefs at the Imperial Court according to the tastes of the emperor. They originate from pickles made from beautiful white turnips that are thinly sliced to the degree that "1000 pieces can be sliced" from one turnip. The name is believed to originate from the fact that amount of pickles pickled in one barrel exceeds 1000. They are very popular as presents such as oseibo (year-end gifts) and as souvenirs.

Suguki are produced by peeling the skin off of Suguki turnips harvested in Kamigamo from autumn to winter and applying salt for one day and night as the pre-pickling process. After turnips in which the fibers of the vegetable have become soft are washed, they are salted in a whirling pattern at each level of a barrel container with the appropriate amount of salt. Next, a unique method called "tenbin-oshi" (suspending heavy rocks off the tip of a suspension pole) is used in which the principle of leverage is used to place heavy rocks on top of the barrels holding the turnips. This main pickling process takes a week to 10 days to complete.. In addition, lactate fermentation is carried out over about a week in a heating chamber called a muro in which the temperature is about 40 degrees Celsius. These pickles are characterized by a mature sour taste. It is best to eat them by washing them with water, cutting the amber turnip parts to the desired size, and finely cutting the leaves. These are not only good with warm rice, they can also be eaten like cheese along with alcoholic drinks. These vegetables were originally cultivated in the Momoyama period on the premises of the living quarters of the family of Shinto priests who managed the Kamigamo Shrine. As rare luxury goods, they were used as presents for the aristocracy, and were long treated as a unique and exclusive item of the temple.

Shibazuke is produced using the shiso (perilla) of Ohara that has a good color, scent, and taste owing to the high-quality water, basin environment, and climate conditions (extreme temperature difference in daytime and nighttime temperatures produces fog) of the area. Eggplant cut in the summertime is pickled using salt and shiso (perilla) for natural fermentation. The pickles have a sour taste unique to lactate fermentation. They can be cut and eaten as is without washing. They are great for putting in fried rice or for mixing with sushi rice. At the end of the Heian period, Kenrei Mon'in, famous for The Tales of the Heike, retired to the Jakko-in Temple. She was impressed by the bright, deep red color and wonderful fragrance of pickled summer vegetables presented to her by villagers who produced the pickles originally as simple preserved foods. In addition, it is believed that the name comes from the shiba (firewood) which oharame (women from Ohara selling goods) used to sell while walking with the firewood placed on their heads.

Ujicha green tea

The planting of tea plant seeds in Uji by Myoe in the Kamakura period is considered the starting point of Ujicha green tea. In the Muromachi period, tea plantations were created under the encouragement of Yoshimitsu Ashikaga, and Ujicha green tea also enjoyed protection in the time of Nobunaga Oda and Hideyoshi Toyotomi due to its relation with the tea ceremony. Although Uji does not produce a large quantity of tea, it produces premium grade tea, and Uji tea continues to be the regarded as a high-grade green tea nurtured by the history and tradition of Kyoto.

Uji has such a deep history as a tea producing area that produces premium tea and possesses excellent tea production technology that Ujicha green tea has become almost synonymous with tea. The roots of Uji tea lie in Saint Myoe of the Kyoto Toganoo Kozan-ji Temple bringing tea to Uji during the Kamakura period. At that time, tea made in Toganoo was called "honcha" (tea produced in main region) while the tea made in the other areas including Uji was called "hicha" (tea produced outside of main region). In the Muromachi period, Uji tea was protected by the Ashikaga Shogunate and all of the feudal lords and developed rapidly so that eventually tea from Uji became known as honcha (tea produced in main region). After this also, Uji tea went through a unique development process as it was heavily used by the Imperial Court, the Tokugawa government and tea ceremony iemoto (grand masters).

In the Edo period, Soen Nagatani created the Ujicha green tea manufacturing method. This spread all across Japan and developed into the present-day sencha (tea made from young leaves). From long ago, the area for tea plantations has ranged from the present-day Uji to the prefectural borders with Shiga, Mie, and Nara with the central area being in the southern area of Kyoto Prefecture.

Influenced by the trend of making labeling standards more strict, the Kyoto Prefecture Tea Chamber defined Ujicha green tea as tea that has been made in 4 prefectures above and then had finish processing done in Kyoto Prefecture. The types of tea produced here include mainly seeds for the ancient tencha (steamed and dried green tea leaves that are the raw material for macha), and also all of the plant seeds for teas that are considered the main Japanese teas such as gyokuro (premium green tea), sencha, and bancha (tea made from slightly harder leaves picked after leaves for sencha). The amount of tea plant seeds produced is not large, but the high quality of tea and the historical origins of the area make this place the highest authority on Japanese tea. Even today, with tencha (steamed and dried green tea leaves) and gyokuro (premium green tea), the plants are picked one by one.

In Kyoto, the custom of making tea for guests is still alive and well. The reason for this is that for people in Kyoto tea is a drink that they feel especially close to and serving it gives an especially strong feeling of omotenashi (hospitality). Serving green tea to guests is an expression of a desire to enjoy the time and space that the host is sharing with guests.

[Reference:
Yahoo encyclopedia: http://100.yahoo.co.jp/detail/%E5%AE%87%E6%B2%BB%E8%8C%B6/
"Encyclopedia of Kyoto" published by Random House Kodansha Co., Ltd. in 2007
Kyoto Prefecture Tea Cooperative Society: http://www.kyocha.or.jp/]

Sake

Sake is a fermented brew made with rice and water as the main ingredients.

While a microorganism called kouji mold is used to carry out saccharification of steamed rice, alcohol fermentation is performed with yeast. Generally, after fermentation is complete, the mixture is then pressed to separate it into seishu (refined sake) and sake kasu (sake lees). Various levels of quality and different flavors can be achieved depending on the degree of polishing of the rice, the type of yeast, the method of heat sterilization, and the presence of added ingredients and their percentage in relation to the whole.

Sake can be drunk at room temperature or chilled. It is also one of the rare type of alcoholic beverages that can be drunk as is after warming it. Refined sake is a brewed alcoholic beverage in the same way as wine or beer. In wine making, the sugar from grapes is absorbed by yeast and alcohol fermentation is performed. In the case of sake, the starch in rice is changed to sugar using a microorganism called kouji mold, and that sugar is changed into alcohol using yeast. A feature of refined sake brewing is that the different changes that are caused by the two microorganisms kouji mold and yeast occur in parallel inside the same tank. There are more than 1500 breweries in Japan, and refined sake of various flavors are produced owing to the individual climates, water quality, and food preferences of each area. Even just comparing the approximately 50 breweries in Kyoto, each produces their own unique refined sake.

At the same time, there are also differences in flavor that depend on the brewing process. Here, some typical sake production processes will be introduced.

Ginjo-shu (premium sake): This sake uses rice that has been polished down to 60% or less of its original weight and yeast that produces a brilliant fragrance. For this reason, it has a fruity or flowery aroma, and a taste that feels transparent and smooth. Sake that uses rice that has been polished down to 50% or less of its original weight is called dai-ginjo-shu (top-grade premium sake).

Junmai-shu (pure rice sake): This sake is made from just rice and water without any added ingredients. It has a gentle fragrance and full-bodied taste.

Nama-zake (unpasteurized sake): Low-temperature pasteurization is not performed with this sake. The fresh flavor of this sake is very appealing, but it must be handled with care as it can change in quality easily.

Gen-shu (unrefined sake): Adjustment of the alcohol concentration is not performed after pressing, so while refined sake typically has an alcohol content of 13-16%, this sake has a high concentration of 17-20%. It has a strong and full-bodied taste.

Ko-shu (aged sake): This sake is aged for three years or more, and sometimes for 20 years or more. It has a woody or spicy fragrance, and a mild taste that shows deep complexity.

Taru-zake (cask sake): This sake is generally stored in cedar casks, which gives it a woody aroma. It is often used in a ceremony called "kagami biraki" (breaking open the lid of a sake cask using a wooden mallet), which takes place at celebratory events such as wedding ceremonies and New Year's celebrations.

Nigori-shu (unrefined sake): When this sake is pressed, it is passed through a loose mesh fabric, so it has a white, cloudy appearance. Many sweet and sour flavors can be detected in this sake.

Various sake varieties with various tastes can be produced by combining these production methods in complex ways.

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