On Monday, it was Keiro no Hi (be kind to elders or Grandparents day), a holiday for Satoshi, so we spent the day with my MIL.
She had been wanting to check out an exhibit at the Kyoto Shibori Kogeikan. Shibori is a form of tie-dye. Kyoto shibori is done on silk and there are different techniques. Not many artisans are left. In fact, most do shibori as a hobby rather than a job.
The exhibit that my MIL was interested in seeing was an interpretation of the Go-zan Okuribi (farewell fire on 5 mountains). The 6.5 meter (21 foot) wide by 3 meter (9 feet) high piece was done by about 40 artisans (mostly aged 70 to 80 years of age) over 2 years, all in their spare time. It was a very powerful and beautiful piece. (photos weren't allowed, so if you can get down there, it is best to see it for yourself, the exhibit runs until 10/31/2008).
Kyoto Shibori Kogeikan
Goikeminami hairu, Aburanokoji dori
Admission: 500 yen (about US$5)
Since we were near Nijo castle, I remembered a sweet shop that Shar had told me about which she had seen on a blog. We called and found out they were just up the street, so we walked over to Nijo Wakasaya.
This tiny shop had all kinds of sweets, especially sweets with kuri (chestnut).
I wanted to buy the sweet that Shar had shown me, a kudzu (arrowroot) powdered sweet that when hot water is added it turns into a thick soupy treat. This was called Furou-sen. It came in zenzai flavor (adzuki), matcha & plain kudzu (arrowroot). (I got one of each flavor and I'll post about this when we try it.)
We also bought their fuku-guri. This was a whole chestnut wrapped in white an (sweet white bean paste) then a thin shiny kudzu layer and keshi (poppy seed) to make it look like the outside of the chestnut....delicious.
While waiting for them to wrap up our purchases, they served some konbu shiso tea (seaweed perilla) and some sweets (half a fukuguri and halves of yakiguri (chestnut paste that is wrapped with a thin manju (steamed cake) with marks to make it look like it was roasted).
In the shop, they also had these beautiful displays made from sugar to ooh and aah at.
Ogawa-hairu, Nijo dori
Open 8:00-18:00 M-S, Sun & holidays 8:00-17:00
From Nijo-wakasaya, we walked along Karasuma boulevard until we reached the Kyogashi shiryokan (a museum of Kyoto sweets). I had been wanting to check this place out for awhile, luckily, my MIL was interested in going there too. She had heard about a display of Tales of Genji sweets and was interested in seeing it.
The exhibition was a bit sparse, but the wooden molds that form sugar sweets were interesting to see.
Again, no photos allowed, so I'll just show you the sweets we tried after looking at the display. For 700 yen, (about US$7), you can choose your sweet from the showcase and it is served with matcha.
I chose kikyo. It is supposed to look like the flower (platycodon grandiflorus--balloon flower). It was delicious and had a sweet white bean paste filling.
Satoshi chose the suzumushi no utage (which is literally cricket's party). It was a nice pastel purple with some pastel yellow. Inside was sweet bean paste.
My MIL chose koborebeni (I think that was the name), which was a sweet bean paste covered with bits of brightly colored bean paste.
The matcha was bitter and helped to showcase the sweets.
The sweets were made by Tawarayayoshitomi, a well-known sweets maker in Kyoto. They also have a shop right next door to the museum (just in case, you want to take more sweets home...)
285-1 Muromachikashiracho, Kamidachiuri agaru
Open: 8:00-17:00, closed Sundays
285-1 Muromachikashiracho, Kamidachiuri agaru
At the museum they were showing a book which explained different Japanese sweets. It is written in Japanese for children, but easy enough for me to understand. The tsukimidango are usually eaten while viewing the full moon during jugoya (or the 15th night). In Kanto, tsukimidango are round white mochi and are 15 stacked in a pyramid, but in Kansai they form it to resemble sweet potato and put the an on the outside.
And as for the mitarashi dango, in Kyoto it is given as a form of offering (without the sauce) at the Shimogamo shrine during festivals. Each stick has 5 "rice cakes", the theory behind this is because each to represent your head, arms and legs (I guess you are giving yourself??).
On the other hand, the mitarashi dango you find in Tokyo, will only have 4 "rice cakes" to 1 stick, the reason was that they used to sell "rice cakes" for 1 "mon" (a form of old Japanese money) per "rice cake", then when the 4 "mon sen" was introduced (another form of old Japanese money), the confectioners put 4 on a stick as it was easier for people to buy.
I hope to learn more from this book and maybe be able to pass some of it on to you. It was a great holiday with some culture and lots of sweets.