Last February, I made a quick visit to Hiroshima for a family gathering. It was an auspicious occasion, so I booked a room for lunch at Sekitei which is famous for its rooms, garden and cuisine.
Sekitei, a traditional Japanese ryokan inn with a good reputation near Miyajima, is very popular among both the locals and tourists, so advanced booking is a must. Luckily, I could get my hands on the very last room/slot.
Before the lunch, we stepped out to the manicured Japanese garden for a stroll.
It was a chilly winter day with some snow and the garden was colourless, yet still pleasant to stroll around. Once winter is gone, it becomes bright with flowers and green leaves.
This time of the year, satsuki and fuji are in bloom.
I had ordered a kaiseki course menu for the special occasion.
After pleasing and satisfying meal, some of us enjoyed dipping in the onsen at 500 yen pp – it was a bit rush though as we were supposed to vacate the room by 14.45 (the lunch plan, 11.00 – 14.45).
We were all full but couldn’t resist Anago Meshi Bento from Ueno restaurant, their sister restaurant, to take away. Anago meshi is one of my favourites – somehow I am not into unagi, freshwater eel although both look alike! Anago from Setonaikai Inlandsea is superb!
It may be a good idea to order the bento at Sekitei if you don’t want to queue up for anago meshi at Ueno near Miyajimaguchi. If you are going to Miyajima and don’t mind standing still in a queue, try Fujitaya – oh, I didn’t know the restaurant had been awarded one Michelin star!! It was ages ago that I tried their anago meshi but clearly remember how scrumptiousit was!
We were all happy with the place, meal, staff and service and left Sekitei hoping to come back and stay overnight someday.
En route to Hiroshima Airport, I popped in Miyajima (no time for Fujitaya and of course, no room in my stomach!!)
One more thing – about tipping. There is no tipping custom in Japan, however, there exists old one called kokorozuke（心付け）. It is usually practiced at pricey ryokans, and to be given to nakai or a room attendant on arrival at your room. Kokorozuke should be a small amount in an envelop (1,000 – 3,000 yen, depends on number of guests and duration of stay) or a small gift, like a box of confectionery. Don’t worry, nowadays there are many who don’t know this custom, even Japanese, so they wouldn’t expect people from outside Japan.
For more photos or booking through booking.com, click here.
“Located in the Miyahama hot-spring area, Sekitei features spacious Japanese-style accommodations with traditional interiors…. Guests can relax in the hot-spring baths and enjoy the seasons at the Japanese garden. A free shuttle is available from JR Oonoura Train Station, which is a 5-minute drive away.
Some spacious rooms are located in the main tower, while many are individual cottages with 2 floors and a private wooden bath. Most rooms come with tatami (woven-straw) floors and Japanese futon bedding. Each room has garden or ocean views.
A traditional multi-course meal is served for dinner in the guests’ room. A Japanese set-menu is offered for breakfast, which guests can choose to dine in their rooms or in the dining room.
Sekitei Inn is a 15-minute drive from Miyajimaguchi Ferry Terminal. JR Hiroshima Train Station is a 50-minute drive away. ” — Booking.com
(other than mine, the photos from Sekitei website/Instagram)
Figs are fully in season, so I made Ichijikuno Kanroni.
Ichijiku means ‘fig’ and its kanjispelling is 無花果, which denotes a plant that bears fruit without flowering: 無=naught, 花=flower, 果=fruit.
Kanroni is a cooking method or type of dish, and it spells as 甘露煮: 甘=sweet, 露=dew, 煮=simmering /simmered. The ingredients stewed in sweet sauce or syrup are not necessary to be fruit, and fish like sardine, smelt etc. are also common for kanroni served as an appetiser or a side dish.
For kanroni, green, firm and less sweet ones like White Genoa or Kadota varieties are preferable, and they need to be just before fully ripe and not splitting open.
Being seasoned with some say sauce, it may taste a bit like mitarashi or daigaku imo.
1 kg fig, green, firm and less sweet such as White Genoa or Kadota (just before fully ripe and not splitting open)
200 g caster sugar
2 tbsp sake (Japanese rice wine)
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp koikuchi shoyu (dark Japanese soy sauce, not tamari)
Wash the figs and remove the stems. Put the figs in a large pot with plenty of water to cover, and bring to the boil over medium heat. When boiled, take out the figs and drain off the water.
Pour the sake in the pot, place the figs and sprinkle over ¹⁄3 of the sugar. Cover with an aluminum foil or baking parchment lid (on top of the figs so as to circulate heat and the liquid), then bring to simmer over low heat for about 60 minutes. While simmering, do not stir but shake the pan occasionally, so it will not burn to the bottom.
Add another ¹⁄3 of the sugar, and the rest after 60 minutes. Continue simmering for 30 minutes, stir in the soy sauce and honey, and simmer for further 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for overnight.
Bring back to simmer for 15 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally. Cool completely and store in an airtight container. It can be store at room temperature for a week or so unless in hot weather, but keep in refrigerator for longer storage up to 3 weeks.
The juicy, chewy and nicely sweet fig is scrumptious as it is, but really goes well with ice cream!
If you live or happen to be around in Tokyo this long weekend, why don’t you pop in Yushima Tenmangu, or Yushima Tenjin to sip umeshu, Japanse plum wine?
Umeshu (梅酒 : 梅 ume = plum, 酒 shu = sake) is made by steeping unripened Japanese plums in alcohol and sugar to allow the flavours to infuse. It is called plum ‘wine’ in English, but it is liqueur type of alcohol.
Over the weekend, the Umeshu Matsuri, Plum Wine Festival is held at the Shito shrine, which is famous for its beautiful plum blossoms in spring. Beer is nice – Oktober Fests are thrown here and there around this time of the year even in Japan, but it may be a good idea to try this aromatic, sweet and plesantly sour liqueur.
At the entrance, purchase 18 token coins for 1,600 yen (advanced ticket was 1,400 yen). 1 or 2 coins are required for a small cup of umeshu (about 30 ml/cup), but 3 for some or award winning ones. Okay, now you are ready to sip. Enjoy and find your favourit(s) out of 156 umeshus from sake breweries all over Japan.
If you find your favourit(s), you can buy it/them!!
I bought a bottle of 梅申春秋, Baishin Shunju from my fav brewery!
Umeshu Matsuri Facebook page
Period: 6th – 9th October 2017
Venue: Yushima Tenmangu
Access: Nearest staion is Yushima on the Chiyoda Line. Take Exit 3 and the left, turn left at the first intersection and walk down about 30 metres. It’s on the left hand side.
Now that you’ve come all the way, why don’t you look around the site?
Yushima Tenmangu（湯島天満宮）a.k.a. Yushima Tenjin（湯島天神）was originally founded for Ameno Tajikaraono Mikoto in 458, and became one of Tenjin shrines in 1355 – Kitano Tenmangu in Kyoto is the most famous one.
‘Tenjin’ is the name ofMichizane Sugawara (845-903), a scholar and a high government official. Like other Tenjin shrines, Yushima Tenjin is visited by students to pray for passing exams and inscribe ema – small wooden plaques – with petitions for success in exams, esp. entrance exams.
Among lots of ema, you will find Michizane on a cow. A cow, a typical feature of a Tenjin shrine, is believed to be the servant of the deity.
In the precincts of the shrine, there is a bronze cow, which is known as nade ushi (a cow to stroke). People believe that touching or stroking the cow will cure physical illness, and that is the reason why its head and forehead are so shiny.
You will also see plum trees in the garden and bonsai as well.
Tenjin is strongly related to plum because Michizane had always favoured the trees and blossoms (There is a legend about him and his tree, called ‘Flying Plum Tree‘), so ‘plum’ became a crest of the shrines.
Strolling in the precincts, you might come across a wedding ceremony.
Nanban is a Sino-Japanese word, originally referred to the inhabitants of Southeast Asia, particularly the islands of modern-day Philippines and Indonesia. After Portuguese first made contact with Japan in the 16th Century followed by Spaniard, the trades based in their colonies in Southeast Asia were carried out. Consequently, ‘Nanban’ became to designate Portugal and Spain (mainly the former), the people and things from the countries and trades.
As the name indicates, nanbanzuke (tsuke or zuke means ‘marinade’, ‘pickled’, ‘soaked’, ‘dipped’), a Japanese dish which is principally deep-fried fish soaked in vinegar based marinade flavoured with soy sauce, dried red chili pepper, onion or Japanese leek etc., is Portuguese origin and derives from the escabesche.
… in Portugal, escabeche (eesh-kah-besh) is a way of preserving food in vinegar and aromatics. It is commonly served cold as a petisco (Portuguese tapas) with some bread to soak up the sauce. Recipes vary but the basics consist of fried sardines or mackerel marinated in a sauce made with vinegar, olive oil, onions and herbs. Its origins go back to the Romans who used vinegar to preserve both fish and meat though the word comes from the Arab iskbê.
When it comes to the main ingredient of nanbanzuke, it usually refers to aji, Japanese horse/jack mackerel, but there are many varieties: wakasagi Japanese smelt, mackerel, sardine or salmon, meats like chicken nanban, or even vegetables. The Nanban-style marinade and the history of influence to Japanese cuisine remind me of Filipino Adobo originated in Spain.
Red chili pepper and deep-frying cooking method you can recognise in nanbanzuke dishes, were also introduced to Japan through Nanban. That is the reason why the pepper is also known as ‘nanban kosho’, or nanban pepper.
At soba or udon noodle places, you might come across kamo nanban (soba/udon) and/or curry nanban (soba/udon). In this case, ‘nanban‘ designates red chili and onion or Japanese leek (as substitute of onion), which is plausibly said that Nanban-jin were eating a lot of Japanese leek to prevent cholera at the time when kamo (duck) nanban was invented in the middle of the Edo period (1603-1867). Onion was also brought to Japan by Nanban trade during the period, but remained as an ornamental plant until the turn of the last century.
Oops! Sorry, too many trivia. It’s already September, but summer is still here. Enjoy this refreshing nanbanzuke dish in hot weather!
(for 2 servings)
5 cm x 5 cm dashi kombu (dried kelp)
60 ml water
50 ml rice vinegar (acidity 4.5%)
2 tbsp usukuchi shoyu (Japanese light soy sauce)
2 tsp caster sugar
½ dried takanotsume red pepper or dried red chili pepper (small-sized)
60 g onion, finely sliced
20 g carrot, julienned
6 small fillet of aji, mackerel, salmon or sardine
10 g plain flour
10 g katakuriko or cornstarch
vegetable oil, to deep fry
optional as garnish: shishito pepper or okura, prick each to avoid explosion kabocha, sliced
Leave the akatogarashi in water for a while. Drain, seed and cut into thin slices.
Put the water, vinegar, soy sauce and sugar in a non-reactive tray, and mix well until sugar dissolved. Add in the kombu and akatogarashi, then onion and carrot to marinate. Set aside.
Heat the oil over medium heat to 180℃. Lightly dust the fish with a mix of the flour and starch. Fry shishito and kabocha (without flour/batter coating) first, both sides until slightly brown and drain excess oil. Fry the fish in the same way.
After frying, immediately marinate: remove the vegetables from the marinade, put the fries into the liquid and cover with the onion and carrot. Stand for at least 30 minutes or refrigerate overnight.
On more trivium:
You may already know, but tempura is one of the Nanban cuisine as well.
Portuguese merchants introduced tempura to Japan. They were in the habit of eating fried fish during the religious seasons (“tempora“) of abstinence from meat.
The word “tempura“, or the technique of dipping fish and vegetables into a batter and frying them, comes from the word “tempora“, a Latin word meaning “times”, “time period” used by both Spanish and Portuguese missionaries to refer to the Lenten period or Ember Days (ad tempora quadragesimae), Fridays, and other Christian holy days. Ember Days or quattuor tempora refer to holy days when Catholics avoid red meat and instead eat fish or vegetables. The idea that the word “tempura” may have been derived from the Portuguese noun tempero, meaning a condiment or seasoning of any kind, or from the verb temperar, meaning “to season” is also possible as the Japanese language could easily have assumed the word “tempero” as is, without changing any vowels as the Portuguese pronunciation in this case is similar to the Japanese.
Here comes June again – the month of Minazuki, June in the lunar calendar, and the month for Minazuki, a confection. One of my colleagues brought the latter Minazuki from Gionmanju in Kyoto for me, so once again I am posting this Wagashi.
I participated in a baking contest took place in Tokyo earlier this month. This is one of the reasons I had been a bit away from here. I don’t remember how many loaves I baked, and I have totally no idea how much flours, dried fruits etc. were consumed for this 😀
At first, I was just trying to bake Bara Brith, a Welsh fruit loaf made with tea and Welsh version of Irish Barm Brack, according to a recipe postcard from a Postcrossing friend in Wales. Then the announcement of the contest followed: ‘Irish & British Bake-off! looking for contestants’. This was organized by an English woman who runs a bakery and baking classes in Tokyo, and had nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off 😀
To be honest, it was really struggling to make a NICE Bara Brith since no butter (or no oil) is used for the cake. It didn’t work out the way as I wanted at all, so I adopted a Boiled Fruitcake recipe and mixed up the methods, which turned out to be pretty well.
Unfortunately, the cake couldn’t beat others. For me, however, the result was rather good – I had assumed the physical appearance wouldn’t attract the judges and the cake would taste too heavy for Japanese. Surprisingly, I got 6 votes! and received some nice comments. Among others, ‘the cake was rich in depth and complexity and I loved it!’ satisfied me a lot. I didn’t reveal the ingredients, but some noticed the ‘complexity’.
The ingredient that gave the cake complex richness is Penderyn, Welsh single malt whisky, and I selected dried fruits and preserves which go perfectly well with the whisky.
I guess most of you haven’t heard of Welsh whisky unlike Scottish and Irish counterparts. Actually, the whisky production once died out in the late 19th century, but some entrepreneurs endevoured to revive distillation in the 1990s and in 2000, the Welsh Whisky Company was founded, which is now known as Penderyn Distillery. As of 2016, Wales has two whisky distilleries in operation. (Wikipedia)
Penderyn whisky is completely different from Scotch – I have a kind of impression that Penderyn is feminine or womanly: smooth, fresh, sweet, elegant, flowery yet deep while Scotch is manliest: strong, powerful, earthy…. I tried some Scotch for the cake, but none of them created the ‘complexity’.
What makes Penderyn whisky unique is their still:
‘Our whisky still is a single copper-pot which produces a flavourful spirit of extraordinary strength and purity and was designed by Dr David Faraday, descendent of the ground-breaking Victorian scientist, Michael Faraday. As of 2013 we have a pair of these stills.
Whilst most Scottish and Irish distilleries use a conventional two or three-pot still system, the technology developed at Penderyn allows an extremely clean ‘flavourful’ spirit to be produced from a single still.’
I used Penderyn Madeira for the cake:
Other than the whisky, my Bara Brith requires specific ingredients and products. I’m not sure if substitutes work or not, so I haven’t posted the recipe here. Please let me know if you would like to try to bake my Bara Brith. Anyway, I am going to develop this recipe and will post it later this year, hopefully before Christmas!
As I mentioned last March on this blog (Kusatsu Onsen Hot Springs Resort), a friend of mine and I made a visit to another Onsen place. It was just before the New Year’s Eve and Kinosaki was ready for the 2017.
Kinosaki Onsen is one of the most well-known hot spring resorts in Japan. One of the reasons is that it appears in At Kinosaki (1917) by Japanese writer, Naoya Shiga – there still exists the ryokan, Mikiyawhere the author stayed. In the short story, the main character visits Kinosaki Onsen to recuperate from injury.
Not for recuperation, but I used to dip in the hot spring in winters when I was a resident in Kobe (Arima Onsenin Kobe is my another favourite). Kinosaki is getting popular among foreign tourists – but still less compared to Hakone, Kusatsu etc. – although it is far from Tokyo, and even from Kyoto or Osaka, it takes about three hours.
Whether it’s popular or not, you would surely be charmed once you visit the onsen town along a willow-lined river. Walking down the high street with old-fashioned shops, restaurants and amusement arcades, you would feel the ambience of good old Japan.
The top attraction at Kinosaki is sotoyu meguri, ‘public bath stroll’ although every ryokan has its own bath. There are seven public bathhouses in town, and in the evenings, people enjoy onsen hopping from one to another in yukata outfit and wooden geta sandals – also some in early mornings as well.
Sotoyu meguri is enjoyable, but you should be mindful of yuatari, bath dizziness, which may cause your blood pressure and heart rate to rise temporary. To avoid yuatari, we didn’t bathe too long or longer than our body can handle, and didn’t try all the seven bathhouses – just two or three a day at most is enough! – and had two at night and one in the morning.
Below are the seven along with the sotoyu meguri map:
The weather forecast expected snow for the days, however, we had some rain and occasional sleet or hailstone instead. Our bare feet in geta sandals miserably got soaked and frozen on the way to the baths, so we had to defrost them in the hot spring 😦
Other than that, we relaxed in the hot springs and enjoyed hopping (and a bottle of German wine afterwards 😀 )
The beer is good, but I would like you to try Japanese sake, Kasumitsuru. If you visit Kinosaki in winter, try Kasumitsuru Shiboritate sold only for winters.
If you drive to Kinosaki or can afford a one-hour taxi drive from Kinosaki, visit Kasumitsuru Brewery, where you can join the guided tour (booking is necessary) and try some samples.
Sake brewing at Kasumitsuru Brewery (in English)
To be honest, I prefer Kotsuzumi from adjacent province, Tamba. There are variety of Kotsuzumi, and among others, I like Akino Hiyaoroshi most. Unfortunately, this one is also seasonal product and only available in autumn months.
Visit the liquor store, Sakamotoya in Kinosaki where you can find the drinks I mentioned above and buy not only bottled but also a glass (glasses 😀 ) of sake at the counter.
crab crab crab crab
In winter months, from November to March when Matsubagani crab is in season, many, especially from Kansai region (I used to be the one of them), head to Kinosaki for Matsubagani cuisine – kani sashi, yaki gani, kani suki/kani nabe etc.
However, Matubagani is pretty expensive. If you find less expensive ones or dishes, they are not Matsubagani but crabs from Russia.
If you would like to enjoy sushi, sashimi, Matsubagani and other seafood dishes in high quality, dine at Orizuru, one of the best restaurants in Kinosaki. Reservation is a must.
As you can easily imagine, the bill would come out quite…, but their lunch menu is more affordable. I popped in the restaurant at lunch time after seeing off my company who headed for Izumo Grand Shrine, and took away a bento box of kani chirasi, scattered sushi with crab meat.
If you are Wagyu or Kobe Beef lover, Tajima Beef is a must!
How to get to Kinosaki Onsen
By bus (Zentan Bus)
From Osaka (nr Umeda Station) or Shin Osaka (departs from nr JR Shin Osaka Station): about 3-3.5 hour journey
From Kobe (nr JR Sannomiya Station): about 3 – 3.5 hour journey
By train (JR)
Click here for further information. Hyperdia – timetable and route search
Tomorrow, the 21st of December this year is Toji, or winter solstice. The two most commonly practiced Japanese customs associated with the beginning of true winter are eating kabocha and having a yuzuyu, a hot bath with yuzu citrus fruit floating in it.
Yuzuyu is a tradition with its roots in prayers for safety and good health. It is said that bathing with yuzu at winter solstice keeps a cold away during winter. And besides, the strong smell of the citrus is believed to remove evil from the body and purify it.
In fact, a component of yuzu is known to be good for skin protection, and to warm the body, and it is also known that the aroma has a stress relief effect. Actually, the fragrance is very pleasant and soothing!
What I’m posting here today is not ‘how to make’ or ‘how to have a yuzuyu’ but the recipe of pleasantly bitter Honey Yuzu Marmalade.
500 g yuzu, preferably organic
100 g caster sugar
35 g honey (I used orange blossom honey)
Wash the yuzu thoroughly and pat dry with paper towel or something. Cut the citrus in half crosswise, squeeze out juice and strain. Reserve seeds and any removed membrane.
Scoop the pips and pulp into a non-reactive pan and add the seeds and membrane. Pour in enough water to cover and simmer for 10 minuets on medium heat. Strain through a sieve into a bowl, remove the seeds and push to draw out pectin, using a wooden spoon.
Meanwhile, slice the peel into very thin pieces, put into a large bowl of water and wash gently by squeezing. Change the water and repeat the process two more times for a total of three washes.
Place the peel in a large pot with a plenty of water. Bring to the boil over medium heat and simmer for a few minutes. Then remove from the heat and drain in a strainer. Repeat this process two more times.
Put the peel into a non-reactive pan along with the juice, pectin liquid from the process 3 and 50 g sugar. Simmer on lower heat for 10 minutes, skimming off scum.
Add in the rest of the sugar and simmer stirring regularly for further 10 minutes or until thick. Spoon in the honey and bring back to simmer, then remove from the heat.
Cool completely. Keep refrigerated and finish in 1-2 weeks.
As autumn deepens and it gets cooler, leaves change colour into bright red and yellow.
Wagashi of the Month in November is fallen Momiji, or Japanese maple leaves on the bottom of river.
Autumn colour from my album:
I’ll add some more photos from a local autumn festival last month.
There are countless local festivals (Matsuri) in Japan because almost every shrine celebrates one of its own. Most festivals are held annually and celebrate the shrine’s deity or a seasonal or historical event. Some festival are held over several days.
An important element of Japanese festivals are processions, in which the local shrine’s Kami (Shinto deity) is carried through the town in Mikoshi (palanquins). It is the only time of the year when the Kami leaves the shrine to be carried around town.
Of all the year’s 12 full moons, the harvest moon in autumn is considered to be the most beautiful here in Japan. There is a moon viewing custom to admire the beauty at the night on 15th August in the lunar calendar, which falls on 15th of September this year. The night is called Jugoya, the night of 15th, and it is said that the moon at Jugoya is the brightest, most beautiful and most sublime of the year although the moon is not always full.
The moon rabbit in folklore is a rabbit that lives on the moon. … The story exists in many cultures, prominently in East Asian folklore and Aztec mythology. In East Asia, it is seen pounding in a mortar and pestle, but the contents of the mortar differ among Chinese, Japanese, and Korean folklore. In Chinese folklore, it is often portrayed as a companion of the Moon goddess Chang’e, constantly pounding the elixir of life for her; but in Japanese and Korean versions, it is pounding the ingredients for rice cake. (source: wikipedia)
On the surface of the moon, Japanese people see not ‘a man in the moon’ but a rabbit pounding Mochi, rice cake.
Towards the end of August… but the very hot weather will continue one more moth. We are still in the midst of summer and seeking for coolness through five senses. The green colour and the fresh smell of bamboo and the leaf evoke a sense of coolness.
Kingyo, or goldfish fascinates many people with its beautiful colours and adorable shapes. Here in Japan, the fish is most popular in summer as Japanese people regard that its gently swaying tail in water evokes a sense of coolness.
Another one is Himawari, or sunflower. I think the flower is a bit modern motif, not a traditional one, but it was too pretty to pass over!
We are still stuck in the rainy season although it’s high time it had been over. Well, I’d rather this than the awful heat and humidity waiting ahead though….
Central Kyoto – Shugakuin Imperial Villa – Kamigamo Shrine – Tenyu – Kamesuehiro – JR Kyoto Station – Tokyo
Unlike the rainy first day in Kyoto, the following day was bright and clear. Lucky enough to have such a lovely day as I was suppose to visit Shugakuin Imperial Villa with breathtaking beauty and great masterpieces of Japanese gardening.
The Shugakuin Imerial Villa (Shugakuin Rikyu), built in the mid 17th century for retired Emperor Gomizuno, is a set of gardens and outbuildings (mostly tea-houses) in the hills of the eastern suburbs of Kyoto. It consists of the Upper, Middle and Lower Villa areas, each featuring gardens and buildings of the traditional imperial style.
The Shugakuin Imperial Villa is only accessible through guided tours, which require advanced booking because it is one of the Imperial properties and under supervision of the Imperial Household Agency (Click for the application).
After Shugakuin Rikyu, caught a taxi and hurried to Kamigamo Shrine (Kamigamo Jinja), one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Kyoto and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for Nagoshi no Harae, an ancient Japanese summer purification rite which many shrines conduct on the 30th of June. In this religious ceremony, of which origin goes back to the Nara period (AD 710 -794), people atone for their sins in the first half of the year and then pray for their health for the remainder of the year by walking through a tall chinowa wreath (a large sacred ring made of loosely twisted miscanthus reeds called chigaya).
Unfortunately, I couldn’t reach the shrine in time for the rite – well, I knew I couldn’t make it after the Shugakuin Rikyu guided tour, but anyway, I followed the worshipers: walked through the chinowa wreath three times in a 8 shaped like form (1. counterclockwise, 2. clockwise and then 3. counterclockwise) praying ‘Purification Prayer’ to purify myself from misdeeds (tsumi), impurities (kegare), and misfortune, and wished for good health for my family and for myself.
Below are Nagoshi no Harae – Summer Purification – rituals:
The 30th of June is the day of Oharae or Oharai (Grand Purification), purifying sins and bad lucks not only for an individual but also for the public and the country. This Shinto ritual is held twice a year: on the 30th of June and the 30th of December (Toshikoshi no Harae). On the day of Oharae in June, people in Kyoto eat Minazuki (as for Minazuki, read my Wagashi of the Month).
It is said that the triangular shape and Azuki bean, especially its red colour, guard people against evil spirits and protect against misfortune and illness. Minazuki is also believed to expel any negative actions of the first half of the year like the ritual. That is the reason why they eat Minazuki at the halfway mark in the year, praying for a good second half.
Nowadays, you can buy the confectionery anywhere in Japan, but I wanted to try authentic one, so I tried Kamesuehiro (est. 1804), one of the most famous traditional confectioneries in Kyoto. Unlike others (very exclusive! – ‘Ichigen-san, okotowari’ which means ‘New customer/first-time customer/chance customer, no admittance’ is common among long established restaurants, tea-houses, confectioneries etc. in Kyoto), Kamesuehiro is exceptionally customer-friendly. I recommend, however, you should make an appointment and place an order in advance as people do with other long established confectioneries, esp. when you purchase a seasonal speciality like Minazuki.
Also bought a small box of Kyo no Yosuga with higashi (dried sweets) and hannamagashi (half-raw sweets). Kyo no Yosuga is ideal for gifts (Click for more info).
Hang on, what about lunch? The foodie is highly organised when it comes to food 😀
I had already ordered a bento lunch box to takeaway as well as Minazuki. I can’t afford to stay and dine at Tawaraya Ryokan, one of the best ryokan inns in Kyoto, but I can afford a box from the tempra restaurant Tawaraya runs! So I made a phone call to Tenyu (Reviews on Tripadvisor and photos of their dishes and obento boxes). Tenyu offers a bento box of the month as the photo shows below: for June, Ayu Gohan bento box – fishing season of ayu, or sweetfish starts in June and the fish is one of the most popular ingredients of Kyo Ryori, or Kyoto Cuisine.
Fully enjoyed Minazuki, June in archaic word, in Kyoto, and the bento on a Shinkansen bullet train back to Tokyo :-9
The ceiling above the corridor of the main hall is well known for the “blood ceiling”. At the Battle of Fushimi Castle in 1600, MototadaTorii and his subordinates, ordered to defend the Castle by Ieyasu Tokugawa (1st Shogun in Edo period), were defeated and killed themselves. The floorboards stained with their blood were brought to the temple to pray for those departed souls.
You might think it’s creepy, but Yogenin is one of the most historically interesting temples in Kyoto. It’s worthwhile visiting if you are interested in Toyotomi and Tokugawa Clans (click for more details).
After Yogenin, took a train down to Uji to see Byodoin Temple, one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. ‘Byodoin Temple is a striking example of Buddhist Pure Land (Jodo) architecture. Together with its garden, the temple represents the Pure Land Paradise and was influential on later temple construction. Byodoin was initially built in 998 as a countryside retreat villa for the powerful politician Fujiwara no Michinaga, not as a temple.’ (ref: japan-guide.com)
You cannot miss the interior of Amida Hall, or the Phoenix Hall, ‘built with the sole purpose of housing the Amida Buddha image. It has three wings, creating an image of the mythical bird of China, the phoenix. The central hall is flanked by twin wing corridors on both sides, plus a “tail” corridor. The roof of the hall is surmounted by bronze phoenixes.’ (ref: sacred-destination.com)
The hall accepts up to 50 visitors at a time, and each tour is limited to 20 minutes. Check with the admission and times when visit.
If you visit Uji in June or July and have a plenty of time there, try Mimurotoji Tempe for beautifully bloomed hydrangeas and lotus flowers. I was going to stop by, but stuck in the temple because of heavy rain and couldn’t have enough time to make it….
Headed back to Central Kyoto to book in a hotel, and went out for Obanzai dinner. Obanzai is:
the traditional home style cooking of Kyoto. It is made up of multiple small dishes that are usually quite simple to prepare. Local produce that is in season is best suited for the dishes. Although the cooking methods are usually not complicated, obanzai dishes can be made very rich by chefs skillfully bringing out the natural flavors of the ingredients.
Restaurants that serve obanzai ryori can be found all over Kyoto. Many of them have a relaxed and friendly atmosphere that reflects the home style of cooking. A full meal usually costs 2000 to 3000 yen, but can vary depending on the number and type of dishes ordered. (ref: Kyoto Food Guide)
Menami My favourite Obanzai place – I used to be a Menami-goer when lived in Kansai. Nama Yuba Harumaki, or Yuba (Tofu skin) Spring Rolls, and Renkon Manju,or Lotus Root Dumpling, are highly recommended! Loved to go back again, but it’s closed on Sundays. Reviews on Tripadvisor
Now we are in the midst of rainy season (that’s why the photos need more light!) – hydrangeas bloom beautifully and delight the eye. Ajisai, or hydrangea, is considered to be a symbolic flower of June and the rainy season here in Japan, so I chose Ajisai shaped confections for this month.
Rokugatsu, June in Japanese and literally means ’the sixth month’, has another name in archaic word: Minazuki. There is a confection called Minazuki and sold during this time of year.
Minazuki is a layer of white Uirou, steamed rice jelly made from rice flour, with Azuki red beans on top. The white triangle shaped Uirou represents a piece of ice, and the beans, crushed ice.
Minazuki is originally from Kyoto. In ancient times, only the nobles in the Imperial Court could afford ice in summer: on the 1st of June by the old calendar, they enjoyed pieces of triangle shaped ice brought down from icehouses, where ice was stored from winter to summer, in the mountains of Kitayama, Kyoto. The commoners in Kyoto, on the other hand, ate Minazuki as substitute for the cold solid.
In Kyoto, there is a custom to eat Minazuki on the 30th of June, which shall be mentioned later this month.