FOOD CULTURE ANECDOTES Part 1 (7)-12018/08/20（Mon）
♪ About “Lake Biwa”.
☆Because Shiga prefecture was geographically located close to Nara , Kyoto, Osaka, Mino and Owari, this prefecture was regarded as important place. Nara was the capital city in the Nara period from 710 to 784. Similarly Kyoto was the capital city in Heian period from 794 to 1185. Osaka has been a commercial center for more than 1300 years. The Sengoku period (the Age of Civil Wars) lasted 140 years from about 1470. The central places of the Sengoku period were Mino and Owari regions (Gifu and Aichi prefectures, respectively, now).
☆Shiga prefecture does not face sea, but there is “Lake Biwa” which is the largest lake in Japan. “Lake Biwa” was given its name in the middle of the Edo period, because its shape resembles Japanese lute (“Biwa” in Japanese). The role of “Lake Biwa” as a source of water to the Keihanshin area including Kyoto and Osaka is important.
☆There are more than 10 fishing ports where fish and shellfish that are not in the sea are being landing such as various species of catfish, crucian carp, carp, freshwater clams, etc.
♪About “Seta Shijimi Clam (“Seta Shjimi” in Japanese) and “a crucian carp (“Nigoro Buna” in Japanese)
☆”Shijimi” means freshwater clam. “Seta” is a place name which is located in the most southern part of “Lake Biwa”. “Seta Shijimi” is a precious “Shijimi” that lives only in the “Lake Biwa” water system. This “Shijimi” once occupied half of the catch of the entire “Lake Biwa”. “Seta Shijimi” is a high grade clam because it is very tasty due to its thick contents. It is also very expensive.
☆In Japan, “Shijimi” was vigorously eaten in the Edo period. At that time, it was mainly used as an ingredient of the Miso soup. The selling voice of “Shijimi Seller (“Shijimi-Uri”) was echoing in the streets of Edo (Tokyo now). This selling voice became one of the characteristics of Edo’s culture.
☆The main effect of “Shijimi” is the action on the liver. And, the effective constituent of “Shijimi” was elucidated to be an amino acid, ornithine. Research on the efficacy of ornithine has still been actively carried out. Thus, “Shijimi” including “Seta Shijimi” has been used for liver diseases from the Edo period.
☆”Nigoro Buna” is a crucian carp (“Funa” in Japanese) lived only in “Lake Biwa” (Japanese original species). “Nigoro” means the timing to maximize the taste of an ingredient in cooking. Eventually, “Nigoro Buna” is a crucian carp which is suitable for simmering. “Nigoro Buna” is the main ingredient for “Funa Zushi” which is a local cuisine representing Shiga prefecture.
♪Local Cuisines in Shiga Prefectere
☆”Funa Zushi” is a fermented Sushi (“Nare Zushi” in Japanese) using “Nigoro Buna”. So, “Funa Zushi” is a speciality of Shiga prefecture. Especially “Funa Zushi” using female “Nigoro Buna” having eggs is expensive.
☆How to make “Funa Zushi”; After removed the internal organs, opened the abdomen, and store it in a tub under cool dark condition. After 3 months, take out the body from the tub, wash it with water and remove salt. After that, such treated Funa’s body is filled with a mixture of cooked rice and salt. And the filled body is returned to the tub. In the tub, the treated “Nigoro Buna” were covered with more cooked rice. In order to ferment it further, after the tub was covered with a lid on which a heavy stone was put and keep it in the cool and dark place again. After 8 months to 1 year, fermented products were increased in tasty components of amino acids. But the odor is considerable. Usually we eat only the fermented fish, but local people seem to have eaten fermented rice in the same way as well.
☆There is a well-known local cuisine in Omihachiman region which is located in the southeast part of “Lake Biwa”. The name of the local cuisine is “Red Konnyaku (”Aka Konnyaku” in Japanese)”. This local cuisine had existed since ancient time. “Konnyaku” is a jelly-like food made from the starch of “Konjac Potato”. Actually, red color of “Aka Knnyaku” is made by adding iron oxide to “Konnyaku”.
☆The funny story for the origin of “Aka Konnyaku” is that Nobunaga Oda who is a great Shogun wore red-colored woman’s dress (“Kimono” in Japanese) and danced in a festival event. In the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573 – 1603). This funny Nobunaga’s wearing stimulated young men. So that the young men also wore red “Kimono” when they participated in shrine festivals. When the Omi (Shiga) merchants (“Omi Shonin” in Japanese) knew it, they made “Aka Konnyaku” to sell. Consequently, it was brought up as a local cuisine.
♪ As described above, since Shiga prefecture was very important politically, any place is attractive from food culture and other cultures.
♪ About Kyoto
☆Kyoto is the most famous old capital city in Japan. The Majesty family had taken over Japanese politics from the Nara period (710 – 794; the capital city was at Nara in this period). And then, the Majesty family moved to Kyoto in 794. The family was in Kyoto until 1869. But the politics by the Majesty family ended in 1185, because the military society led by Yoritomo Minamoto who was Shogun in Kamakura took over politic power in 1192. We call “Bakufu” a military regime controlled by a Shogun. Further we also call the location and duration of “Bakufu” as “Location name / Period”. For example, when we say on the “Kamakura Period”, it means Yoritomo opened his “Bakufu” in Kamakura (place) from 1192 to 1333 (duration).
☆Following the Kamakura period, the ”Azuchi Momoyama period” (by Takauji Ashikaga Bakufu; 1336 – 1573) and “Edo period” (by Ieyasu Tokugawa Bakufu”; 1603 – 1867) via “Sengoku period”. For such a long time the “Bakufu” held the power of politics, but each “Bakufu” has respected and cherished Majesty family . So, the Majesty family and “Kuge” (in Japanese) which contains relatives of the Majesty and people those who served the Emperor’s court had remained in Kyoto for long time (794 – 1869). Majesty and Kuge are said to be absolutely super privileged class people. They have given strong influences on all cultures of Kyoto (so-called “Kyoto Culture”).
☆“Kyoto Culture” has been brought up basically in the environment of the Emperor court. Every Kyoto cultures such as art (painting, sculpture, crafts, music, dance, etc), food [Japanese food (“Washoku”), Japanese confectioneries (“Wagashi”) etc], architectural engineering (temples, landscaping, etc), ethnic culture (language usage, manners, dress, Sadou, Kadou, etc) have been influenced by religious culture imported from China and India. But culture concerning the shrine based on Shinto is unique to Japan, and it is the backbone of the emperor and his court. Thus, most of Japanese cultures are originated from “Kyoto Culture”. Well, several of food cultures will be introduced here.
♪ Local cuisines in Kyoto
☆The roads around “Lake Biwa” played an important role as a passage that carries marine products such as mackerel (Saba in Japanese), herring (Nishin in Japanese), snow crab (Zuaigani in Japanese), conger pike (Hamo in Japanese), etc. taken from Wakasa Bay and the Japan Sea to Kyoto and Osaka. Such roads from Wakasa to Kyoto were said to be the “Saba Kaido (Mackerel Road)”. The nobilities (“Kuge”) of Kyoto were eating freshwater fish which can be taken in “Lake Biwa” during the Heian period. In the Edo period, fish that can be taken from Wakasa, Akashi (Hyogo prefecture) and Osaka were mainly salted and brought to Kyoto. “Nishin (herring)” is carried to Kyoto in the Edo period, and “Hamo (conger pike)” is the Meiji period. It will be described next on a local cuisine ,“Nishin Soba”, which used “Nishin” brought from Obama in Wakasa Bay via “Saba Kaidou”.
☆“Nishin Soba” is a cuisine that onto cooked “buckwheat noodles (“Soba” in Japanese)”, put a dried herring (“Migaki-Nishin” in Japanese) which has been sweetened by Shoyu and sugar and boiled (“Kanroni” in Japanese). “Nishin Soba” was born about 120 years ago at a Soba shop in Kyoto. At that time, “Soba” was brought from Shinshu (Nagano prefecture now). This is said to be the beginning of Kyoto's “Nishin Soba”. The original ancestor of “Nishin Soba” is considered to be Ezo (Hokkaido now). Even now you can eat “Nishin Soba” in Kyoto. But Kyoto’s Soba-soup is slightly thin which is a typical Kansai tasting style. However, the exquisite harmony between this soup's taste and sweetness of “Kanroni” of “Migaki-Nishin” is considered the secret of deliciousness of Kyoto’s “Nishin Soba”.
☆Any “Hamo Ryori (cuisines using conger pike)” is said to be excellent cuisine. However, the big problem in cooking “Hamo” is that there are many sharp small bones in the body. If you cook and eat “Hamo” without pulling off the bones, you can not eat because many small bones stick in your mouth.
☆There, the chef needs a special technique called “cutting and pulling out small bones (“Honekiri” in Japanese)” before they cook “Hamo”. The difficulty of this technique is to cut and pull out the bones without hurting fish skin. However, if all bones were pulled out, the body meat will fall apart. Furthermore, it seems to be the most delicious when a little bones leave without cutting all. So, it takes at least 10 years to master this technique.
☆The representative of “Hamo” cuisine is “Hamo Otoshi”. After the “Hamo” meat treated “Honekiri” was boiled at once with large firepower, drop the meat into a vessel filled with ice-water (“dropping” means “Otoshi” in Japanese). Every processes have to do quickly to avoid falling taste. Eat it with plum meat (“Bainiku” in Japanese) or vinegared miso (“Sumiso” in Japanese). It is rich in taste although it is crisp.
☆“Yudofu” is “boiled bean curd”. Bean curd (“Tofu” in Japanese) was invented in China in the 2nd century BC and was reported to Kyoto in the Kamakura period by a Buddhist priest studying abroad in China. In order to take adequate protein, people raised soybeans and took protein in the form of “Tofu”. In addition, the white color of “Tofu” matched elegant Kyoto Food Culture. “Yudofu” has developed according to such condition and as a “cuisine for Buddhists (“Shojin Ryori” in Japanese)”. “Yudofu” is eaten with soy sauce, chopped scallion, dried bonito flakes and grated fresh ginger. You can eat “Yudofu” at ”Nanzenji Temple” which is one of the most famous Zen temples.
☆Among Japanese cities, Kyoto city is situated as a large consumption of coffee . So, there are many coffee shops In Kyoto city now. It is said that several coffee shops were opened in old time, and that those shops were used by the knowledge class like professors and students of universities. It seems to have promoted the “Coffee Culture”.
☆Let’s introduce an old coffee shop, “Shinshindo”, which is located near the “Hyakumanben” intersection where is also near Kyoto University. This is a representative coffee shop of Kyoto’s Coffee Culture. This shop was opened in 1930 by Hitoshi Tsuzuki who was a student in Paris. When he saw a café in Paris, he wanted to have such café after came back to Kyoto. It is a simple making of wooden tables and long chairs without backrest, and the tables are the work of Tatsuaki Kuroda who was a living national treasure. Furnishings such as interior, lighting and tables are still unchanged. It is said that most of customers are people related to Kyoto University (including proffesors to students). But, of course, we can use this shop. If you are lucky, you may be able to meet some Nobel Prize Winner?
♪The culture (“Bunka” in Japanese) of Japanese confectioneries in Kyoto which is expressed as “Kyoto’s Wagashi Bunka” in Japanese plays an important role among the Kyoto Food Culture, since “Kyoto’s Wagashi” has long history. During the history, “Kyoto’s Wagashi” has shown an artistic character in addition to elegant sweety taste. So, as a proof of the long history of “Kyoto’s Wagashi”, it will be shown below in which the shop name, the establishment year and the main product name are indicated.
☆Kameya Mutsu / 1421 / Japanese fresh confectionery (“Namagashi” in Japanese), Tawaraya Yoshitomi / 1755 / Namagashi, Kameya Kiyonaga / 1617 / Namagashi, Shogoin Yatsuhashi / 1617 / Yatsuhashi (baked rice cracker), Tsuruya Kotobuki / 1683 / rice-cake sweets (“Mochigashi” in Japanese), Ichimonjiya-Wasuke / 1002 / Mochigashi, Kazariya / about 1610 / Mochigashi, Toraya / 1214 / bun filling with a bean‐jam (“Manju” in Japanese), Daitokuji Ikkyu / 1469 / bean confectionery (“Mamegashi” in Japanese), Ryokujuan Shimizu /about 1570 / candies (“Ame” in Japanese), Kagizen-Yoshifusa / 1716 / Kuzu starch confectionery (“Kuzugashi” in Japanese), Kyohayashiya / 1783 / confectioneries with green tea powder (“Matchagashi” in Japanese).
♪As described above, It is not an exaggeration to say that the origin of all Japanese cultures is “Kyoto’s Culture. So, please visit shrines and temples in Kyoto, and eat “Washoku” and ”Wagashi”. And then make Kyoto memorable for your lifetime.
♪Next will be mentioned for the FOOD CUTURE ANECDOTES of Hyogo and Nara Prefectures as FOOD CUTURE ANECDOTES Part1 (7)-2
Refer to FOOD CULTURE ANECDOTES Part 1 (7)-2 (Hyogo and Nara Prefectures).
Refer to FOOD CULTURE ANECDOTES Part 1 (6)-2 (Gifu and Mie Prefectures).