Wednesday, September 17, 2008

kyoto shibori and sweets

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
Nakagyoku, Kyoto
Phone: 075.221.4252
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.

333-2 Nishi-daikokucho
Ogawa-hairu, Nijo dori
Nakagyoku, Kyoto
Phone: 075.231.0616
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
Muromachidori, Kamigyoku
Open: 8:00-17:00, closed Sundays

285-1 Muromachikashiracho, Kamidachiuri agaru
Muromachidori, Kamigyoku
Phone: 075.432.3101
Closed Wednesdays
Open 10:00-17:00
No admission

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.


Parisbreakfasts said...

A lovely sequence of photos...
Such exotic sweets..

Tamakikat said...

Hi there Kat.

I really enjoyed this post. Sounds like you had a fantastic day.

You've given me some more places to go.

I'd really to check out the book you mentioned.

Off to eat some tart.


K and S said...

Thanks PB!

I hope you like the book, will email the title to you, Tamakikat, enjoy your snack :)

Take care you two.

Rowena said...

*sniff sniff*

Is that SPAM that I smell up there? Protocol dictates that the proper method of communicating such information should be by email.

Love all of the sweets. The chestnut one...and konbu shiso tea? Interesting, gotta check it out.

K and S said...

I know, debated whether to delete it or not, Rowena. (I will delete it after this message is sent)

Konbu shiso tea is good, kind of salty. :)

Take care.

Anonymous said...

Mmm, I really like chestnuts. And that one's so pretty with all the layers.

By the way, I like all the pictures and colors in your new banner at the top!

bourgogne said...

your nails match all the wagashi!

K and S said...

Thanks Lori & Bourgogne :)

Take care you two.

Phoebe said...

aww these are some refined sweets!! & Japanese sweets are as sweet as most other sweets too!!! So that is a bonus for me!

oh wow the artwork of the 5 mountains must be gorgeous work! Wished I could see it

K and S said...

It was too bad that they didn't allow photos, it was really something to see.

Take care.

Deb in Hawaii said...

I love all of the pictures. Everything looks so beautiful and perfect. What a perfect outing!

K and S said...

Thanks Deb, I think you would enjoy a day like this :)

Take care.