カテゴリー: English

As someone who isn’t much of a fan of sake, I was quite nervous for this event. However, as I walked into Café Diner on Nayamachi Shopping Street, I was greeted by an extremely fashionable interior, many friendly faces, and a refreshing glass of water (thank goodness, since I wasn’t quite ready for a shot of sake at 3 PM in the afternoon). After mingling with the other guests, the event began promptly at 3:30. Koji Yamamoto, a son of a local, family-owned sake business in Fushimi called Shinsei was the guest speaker of the event. The title of his presentation was, “The Way to Enjoy Fushimi Sake,” which got rid of any remaining nerves and left me feeling hopeful.

First, Mr. Yamamoto introduced himself and his family’s business. Shinsei was founded in 1677 and has been passed down for eleven generations. However, in 1868, due to the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, their company was burned down. After reviving their business and overcoming that misfortune, their sake has won numerous awards: the Kura Master Platinum award, the London Sake Challenge award, the Kan Sake Award (2015 & 2016), etc.

Being nearly a 350 year old company, one might wonder why this family, sake business has been able to be this successful for so long. Mr. Yamamoto quickly explained why in the next few slides of his presentation. Sake’s quality relies heavily on two things: water and the polishing of rice. The reason why Shinsei sake’s flavor is award-winning is because of Fushimi’s groundwater. Water can be evaluated based on a spectrum ranging from “soft” to “hard.” For example, rainwater is “soft” while mineral water is “hard.” Fushimi water is “medium-hard” due to its balance of elements such as potassium and calcium which happen to be the perfect quality and composition for sake-making. Mr. Yamamoto illuminated this fact by having us taste-test two cups of water: Fushimi water and “super hard” water. The difference was clear and helped me understand why most people prefer bottled water to tap water.

Next, he explained the importance of polishing rice. Rice polishing involves the removal of the outer layer (husk) of a rice kernel. The more that is removed, the cleaner and more refined the remaining rice is. When buying sake, there is a percentage that can be found on the label of the bottle. This percentage can sometimes be mistaken for an alcohol percentage; when in reality, it is the rice polishing ratio. The percentage represents the percent of rice remaining. Therefore, the lower the number, the purer the sake is (which means it is of higher quality and most likely more expensive).

Finally, it was time to start tasting Fushimi sake! However, before pouring everyone a glass of sake, Mr. Yamamoto left us with some sake-tasting tips: the first tip involved tasting with one’s eyes. The color of sake can range from clear to slightly yellow. If one pay’s close attention, the color of sake can help one predict its flavor. The next tip involved tasting with one’s nose. Although one might not always notice it, sense of smell greatly affects one’s sense of taste. Different sake have different smells that affect their overall flavor. The final tip involved tasting with one’s tongue. Certain areas of the tongue are more sensitive to specific flavors: such as, sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. All of these taste receptors are important in regards to tasting sake, so Mr. Yamamoto recommended that we sip the sake in order to allow air to spread the sake throughout our mouths and over our tongues.

The remainder of the event we tasted six different types of sake (all produced by Shinsei), ate delicious food provided by Café Diner, and shared opinions regarding the sake with fellow taste-testers. At the end of the night, we were given two final shots of sake labeled “A” and “B” in which we had to guess which sake they were, out of the six different sake we had sampled throughout the evening. My guesses were that sake “A” was the fifth sake I had tasted, and that sake “B” was the second sake I had tasted. I was one of three whose both guesses were correct! As an amateur sake-drinker, I was quite proud of myself. This event surpassed all of my expectations. I left having learned a lot, having met a lot of amazing people, and having a newfound love for sake.


JYOTY is an Indian / Nepalese restaurant run by Nepalese-born staff / cooks. Visible on the wall are some Indian / Nepalese embroidery tapestries, and their featured music is either Indian or Nepalese. Just one step inside the store and customers can already taste “Maharaja”.


The dishes are mainly curry and tandoor dishes (kiln-baked) and are available in chicken, mutton, vegetable, seafood and 5 kinds of pork, so in total, there are around 20 different kinds of curry dishes! The wide selection makes choosing and eating the different curry dishes fun. Furthermore, since there are vegetarians in Nepal, India, they also have an extensive selection of vegetarian men. Healthy dishes that use lots of spices are particularly popular among women.

The recommended for their lunch menu is the Lunch B set, priced at 850 yen (tax excluded) and includes curry (you can choose 2 out of 8 kinds), salad, soup, naan, mini rice and soft drinks (you can also choose lassi). There are also Indian beers (King Fisher) and Chilean wines available.

All menus are written in English. The staff from Nepal are good in Japanese but are also fluent in English, so foreign customers can order with ease. There is also a takeout option available.




120-1 Nayamichi, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City

Business hours: 11 am – 10 pm

GAFU HOSTEL & DINER is located at the south of Nayamachi shopping district. The first floor is a dining café, while the second floor is an accommodation facility.



The dining café on the first floor is an American café / bar with a full-packed meat menu. Foreign tourists who miss the taste of food in their homeland usually stop by at the café, but there are other customers who equally enjoy American food / cuisine. Moreover, the café has a lively interior that is housed with glass.

The “GAFU Original Fushimi Burger” is a regular on the menu and unique to Fushimi, a Japanese style hamburger with saigyo miso in demi-glace sauce. Customers can also choose from 3 types of hamburger steaks, grilled pork, grilled chicken, dice-cut steak with sauce, Yoshida sauce, marinara sauce, and saigyo miso demi-glace sauce.

The café homepage is available in three languages: Japanese, English and Chinese. Some of the staff can also speak in English and Chinese, so customers do not need to worry about language barriers / getting lost in translation. The café and bar is regularly hosting Bossa Nova live performances as well.


The second floor has been set up as a guest house with 16 beds, while the interior has been decorated just like the “Blue Train”(luxury sleeper trains).” The user manual is convenient for foreigners as it also supports English and Chinese. The price is also reasonable, with 4000 several hundred yen for an overnight stay with breakfast.


Lastly, there is a bar counter and a deck chair on the rooftop, and a “beer garden” where customers can have barbecue. So, what are you waiting for? Check out their selection of delicious food and drinks while enjoying the nice cool, breeze!



GAFU HOSTEL & DINER 雅風 ホステル&ダイナー

Postal code: 612-8056 | 106-7 Nakaaburakakecho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City



Business hours: 7 am – 11 pm

Holidays: None

So you’ve come to Kyoto. Now, where to go…?

In that case, you should definitely come and visit Fushimi Momoyama’s Nayamachi Shopping District. Here, you’ll get to experience things that you’ve never experienced before!


Sake Theme Park! Fushimi Sakagura Kouji


Opened in March 2016, this food and drink complex allows its customers to enjoy sake from 17 different breweries in Fushimi. On both sides of the small “path” leading from Nayamachi to Hiranomachi, there is a 23-meter long sake counter featuring 10 different varieties of food and liquor from different specialty stores.

What would surprise any customer first is the shop’s interior. The walls are lined up with each bottle of Fushimi sake and is considered a masterpiece. The counter seat design mimics an “inu yarai (dog fence)” legless chair. The look and feel of the place make it seem like a sake theme park indeed.

The “17-cellar kikizake set” offers good value for money, where customers can enjoy sake from 17 different Fushimi breweries. The presentation of the set is quite exquisite, and guaranteed to entice anyone to snap a photo and capture its unique elegance. The food choices are also diverse, and 10 of their specialties are ramen, oden, motsunabe (beef or pork hotpot), charcoal-grilled meat, teppanyaki, obanzai (traditional style of Japanese cuisine native to Kyoto), Italian and many more. A sushi bar will also be launched by April.

With these many varieties, customers can easily find what they like or dislike among the food choices, even the ones that are considered “cultural taboos”. On the upside, customers can effortlessly discover what is suitable to their palate with this variety of offerings. In fact, even some Indonesian Muslims came to eat “chicken ramen” at one point.

Since the place is open from 11:30 am to 2:30 am, it is considered a convenient place to enjoy both lunchtime and dinner in Kyoto. Even those who come to Kyoto for business purposes and without much time to spare can come and enjoy Kyoto or Fushimi style cuisine. Part of the menu is written in English and even the shop staff speaks English so foreigners can come and enjoy their visit without worries, even if they cannot speak in Japanese.



伏水酒蔵小路 Fushimi Sakagura Kouji

Postal code: 612-8057 | 115 Nayamachi, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City ~ 82-2 Hiranomachi, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City,



11:30 – 26:30 (depending on the store), closed on Tuesdays

3. Rules in Obanzai
Obanzai has rules. With the rules, Obanzai has been inherited over the history as a tradition. Yet, at this point it is difficult to determine what constitutes the rules of Obanzai. As explained earlier, in Obanzai, vegetables are the major ingredients and stewing is the most common cooking method. Likewise, the basic pattern of an Obanzai meal comprises one soup and three courses. These “rules,” however, are by no means definite and fixed.
Obanzai is a cuisine culture, and a culture changes over the time. Hence, it is hardly possible to figure out rules in Obanzai that are applicable everywhere across its long history. All we can do is an analysis of Obanzai’s rules in a certain time period or a single household, although the reader may find some of the descriptions provided above helpful to detect patterns, if not definite rules, of Obanzai.

Up to this point we have discussed what constitutes Obanzai. With the result of the discussion, I meant to publish a definition of Obanzai and provide recommendations toward better preservation of the cuisine culture. Unfortunately, however, at this point this paper can put forward no concrete recommendations, but only descriptive analyses of Obanzai.
In the meantime, it is the case that little research has been done as to Obanzai. The available literature concerns mostly Shige O’mura’s works, which has had much to do with the shape of today’s Obanzai. And thus the present investigation also has ended up focusing mainly on her works.
The next question should address in detail the mechanism through which Obanzai has been inherited over the time. For that purpose, more careful research methods and approaches, including concrete case studies, are to be developed and employed. More case studies will allow us to fulfill what is still missing in this paper and grasp the entire contour of Obanzai more clearly.
Lastly, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the members of Obanzai Workshop and especially the preliminary group, who devoted precious time to the research despite their busy schedule.

(2) The significance of eating Obanzai
Having Obanzai meals consists of consuming nutrients as well as participating in human activities, which help shape a character and strengthen the solidarity among people. Eating Obanzai, moreover, is not just consuming foods, but rather accentuates the importance of demeanors in dining. Obanzai, for instance, postulates that all family members sit together at the dining table and share the meal. Sharing dishes with family members would create communications, which can bring about educational values, cultural inheritance, socialization and pleasure, and strengthen the family tie.

1) Spiritualties
Spiritualties attached to the eating of Obanzai seem to be shared commonly among many Japanese, rather than being a particular trait the people of Kyoto possess. As an agricultural people, and having been influenced by the Buddhist and Confucius spiritualties, the Japanese have tended to appreciate exceptionally harmony and morality in life. Yet, in Kyoto as the ancient capital of Japan such spiritualties still remain delicately alive.
It was not until half a century ago that most Japanese could enjoy the abundance of foods. Until then, the value of foods was so appreciated that Japanese people genuinely would say Itadakimasu (meaning that I humbly receive foods) and Gochisousama (meaning that I thank for preparing the meal).
○Aesthetics of the eating demeanor
Beautiful beautifully or elegantly (e.g., without leaving mess after the meal) with a good table manner indicates appreciation toward foods and people who prepared them, although that is not easy as skills and knowledge in handling foods are needed.

(Discussed above)

From preparation to cleaning and restoration of tableware, Obanzai entails a variety of roles that people involved in the meal are supposed to play in cooperation.
It can be argued that the four spiritual aspects discussed above would be found across Japanese households. Nonetheless, it is quite uncertain that such spiritualties still remain vigorously alive in Japanese family meals in general, and even in Obanzai.

(3) Structure of Obanzai
The process to prepare Obanzai consists of a series of events from menu making to table cleanup. At each act of processing, knowledge and skills are applied, and inherited and accumulated over generations. Accordingly, although there have been alterations in changing environments, the process of Obanzai preparation has been inherited as a unique cuisine culture. Obanzai has created the unique spirituality alive in Kyoto, which has maintained the consistent distinctiveness of Japanese historic cuisines.
In the meantime, the significance of eating Obanzai centers on the sharing of meals. Having a meal together makes family relationship stronger and helps one be independent.
Thus, Obanzai could be understood as having the two facets, that is, the preparation and the eating, and discussing the two together could complicate the analysis. Probably it is appropriate to separate Obanzai conceptually and call its making “Obanzai” while the concept involving the two facets (the preparation and the eating) could be called “Obanzai ryouri” (Obanzai dishes or meals). Conceptualizing the Obanzai this way allows us to better understand the process through which Obanzai has been inherited.

2. The structure in Obanzai
Obanzai, born through daily domestic livings, is prepared at a kitchen and consumed at a dining room. Thus, Obanzai entails the two processes, namely, the cooking and eating. Those who prepare Obanzai are usually also eaters and knowledgeable about the eaters including family members, who usually have full trust in the cook.

(1)The preparing of Obanzai
The preparing of Obanzai consists of several processes, which are related to each other and constitute a series of cooking performances. To every process a custom or routine is attached. These customs all together have been inherited, though with gradual alterations, over the time, and come to shape Kyoto’s unique cuisine culture.

The process of preparing Obanzai

1) Planning menu
Obanzai menu are, though with some variations, conditioned according to seasonality, ceremonial events and customs, and created taking into consideration nutritional values of ingredients. While a combination of one soup and three courses is the most common in an Obanzai meal, that pattern is not decisive—note that the past literature does not necessarily mention the one-soup-three-courses combination as an established cuisine style of Obanzai.

2) Procuring ingredients
Traditionally, ingredients, cooking tools and kitchenware for Obanzai would be procured through negotiations among local people. Major ingredients Obanzai include seasonal vegetables produced in Kyoto as well as soy bean products. Whereas salted dried saltwater seafood and freshwater fish were common Obanzai’s ingredients, nowadays fresh seawater fish is frequently used in Obanzai dishes as the cold-chain distribution system has been developed and improved.

3) Cooking
The core of the Obanzai cooking comprises preparing broth with subtle flavors and stewing ingredients in the broth with soft water, which derives flavors from the ingredients, although other techniques, such as grilling, sautéing, frying, and steaming, are frequently employed. In addition, a variety of seasonings, and Kyoto’s traditional fermented condiments, including Shiro-miso (white soy bean paste) and Usukuchi-shoyu (light-colored soy sauce), add distinctive flavors to the ingredients, creating the uniqueness of Obanzai as a cuisine culture.

4) Plating up
In Obanzai, the simplicity characterizes plating of dishes, except when special meals are prepared for special occasions. Nonetheless, even everyday Obanzai dishes are aesthetically plated, considering layout and colors of ingredients and tableware, so that seasonal changes are reflected in the meal.

5) Serving and eating
Many Obanzai dishes, once prepared, can be stored, reheated and repeatedly served so that people can save the time for meal preparation. Usually in an Obanzai meal, those who prepare dishes and the eaters, sitting together at the dining table, share the dishes. Eating the same dishes together has educational and cultural values, such as preservation of traditions, and even can serve to strengthen solidarity of families or communities.

6) Cleaning and restoring
After the meal, tableware are cleaned and restored to the shelves so that the next Obanzai can be prepared smoothly. It is common that those who share the dishes also share this post-meal task.

7) Mentality
In Obanzai exist certain mental elements, or mentality, of the people of Kyoto, which serve as guiding principles in their daily life and value judgments. The mental elements in Obanzai have hardly been altered over generations and had little correlation with social changes, thereby contributed to establishing Obanzai’s identity. Following are examples representing the essential mentalities of Obanzai.

○ Shimatsu
This word denotes “from the beginning to the end,” thus signifies “using every part of ingredients without wasting them.” Shimatsu, oftentimes echoing with Mottainai, a word advising not to waste resources, implies not a stringent or pathetic attitude; but rather, it relates to spirits and prides alive in the people of Kyoto.

The word denotes that two different characters, objects, or themes encounter so that they create a new identity. Deaimon means pursuing something novel from a happenstance. In Obanzai, Deaimon can ensue not only when different ingredients are combined or an ingredient is combined with a new cooking method, but also when different people or people and the environment come across.

The word signifies the authentic product, material, object, or character. In pursuing the best quality in cuisine, Honmamon is sought. A Honmamon is expensive, thus, Shimatsu of it becomes crucial.

○ Kokorozukai
Kokorozukai refers to being considerate to others. Meals can make the relationship between eaters and those who prepare fonder and stronger, and at the basis of the relationship always lies Kokorozukai. In Japan, expressing the appreciation to a meal by saying Itadakimasu (before eating) or Gochisousama (after eating) also indicates Kokorozukai to those who made the eating possible.
Ambai is an act of mind finding a good balance between, or taking a comfortable distance from, things. Ambai, grown through urban lifecycles in Kyoto as the historic capital, can be found all over the place and occasions, including the cuisine culture.

OBANZAI workshop  Susumu Fujikake

What is Obanzai? We have contemplated about Obanzai from different angles because it is a unique cuisine culture in Kyoto and a tradition that needs to be preserved toward the future. Obanzai has great potentials to attract tourists and also enrich food-cuisine industries, thereby make broader contributions to the people in Kyoto.
As our discussions on Obanzai advanced, however, we came to realize that Obanzai entails so much diversity and complexity, and variation along its long-time history that it seems hardly possible to even define its contour. Still, for a better discussion of Obanzai as a cultural heritage and how to pass it to the future, we at least need to have somewhat consistent demarcations. Thus, in what follows, we provide our arguments on what constitutes Obanzai. Nevertheless, note that they are by no means to establish the definition of Obanzai, but rather are a basis for further discussions.

1. What is Obanzai?
We define Obanzai as “a distinctive cuisine style established through domestic livings in Kyoto, and which has gone through alterations yet been inherited over generations.”
While the word “Obanzai” could mean everyday dishes, prepared meals and delis, it often informs its cooking processes and episodes related to the cooking, and has different connotations, including spiritual images the people of Kyoto embrace.
Today, Obanzai is usually spelled in Hiragana. In the ancient literature, Nenjuu-Bansairoku, which is known as the oldest text recording the word Obanzai, it was spelled in Kanji, “番菜” (pronounced Banzai).
In the meantime, little is known as to the origin of the word Obanzai. As mentioned above, the oldest literature that noted Banzai (“番菜”), the older version of Obanzai, is Nenjuu-Bansairoku, published in 1849. Hence, it can be assumed that at least in the middle of 19th century, this word was already used. Since then, until 1964 when Ms. Shige O’mura revived the word, no public record of the term Obanzai has been found.
Therefore, it is totally unknown how contents and styles of Obanzai have been changing during the time between 1849 and 1964. However, it is no doubt that what both Nenjuu-Bansairoku and O’mura recorded are simple daily dishes on ordinally people’s dining table.
It is not until the 1970s that the word Obanzai became popular. This was when tourism started booming in Japan. The tourism boom might idolize and enhance the ordinary daily livings in Kyoto and Obanzai introduced by O’mura through book published in 1964.
During the 1970s and 1980s, eating outside the house became increasingly common, and the daily live became growingly mechanized. Japan was going through the successful yet very fast industrial development, while losing traditional cultural practices. Some people felt disappointed and concerned about the fading tradition and realized its importance. Attracted to the somehow nostalgic tone of the word Obanzai, these people eventually came to patronize it as a Japanese tradition. Thus, Obanzai gained its fame as a tradional cuisine and is recognized so popularly that nowadays an Internet search with the word would return over 800,000 results.
With the narrative above, it is likely that an examination of Obanzai would center on the record noted by Ms. O’mura. In fact, most of the past research and literature on Obanzai has centered on her works.



There is a shop called “Shibata Gifts and Pottery” near the south of Nayamachi shopping district. If you walk around the Nayamachi shopping district at 9:30 am in the morning, you will notice how the shop front is being diligently cleaned. Mr. Shibata’s shop has been around since 1835 and is considered the oldest shop in the Nayamachi shopping district. Originally, he was a wholesaler of Kiyomizu ware/ceramics, but after the war, he started retailing them in line with his move. The shop is stacked with Kiyomizu ware/ceramics, Arita ware/ceramics, western-style dishes, coffee cups, kelp/seaweed, detergents and many more.



“A place to convey the Japan’s important culture as a gift”
The Japanese way of giving gifts allows for smooth human relationships.

One popular Japanese custom is the custom of “giving gifts”. When one goes to a friend’s house, or when moving, giving birth, getting married, or when one’s sickness has healed, or even when visiting a relative’s house—the Japanese people are fond of giving gifts in almost every occasion. Giving gifts livens up conversation, and people find it easier to have something to talk about, thus making interactions easier and human relationships smoother. When you move in, you normally give a towel; when you move out, you normally give dried bonito (Japanese preserved food—made by drying bonito meat), so ideally, you think of the person whom you will give the gift to and choose it accordingly.

The “customary” practice in gift giving

When giving gifts, it’s best to choose something that you know will please the receiver, but there are also some gifts that you should never give depending on the time or occasion. For instance, it is considered unsuitable to give detergents as a wedding gift because it denotes a meaning of “foaming” or “flowing”. This way of thinking has been adapted since long ago and is considered “customary”.
Recently, it has become easier and more convenient to buy gifts online and in supermarkets, but the downside is that the “customary practice” and delicate care which have long been valued by older generations are now slowly being forgotten. Even so, if you consult the shop owner about the gift’s recipient or for what occasion, he will willingly help choose the best gift for you.

Specialty gift stores have a variety of products to choose from such as cups, sake, dishes, watches and many more. Why not drop by and pick out a special gift on your way home…?

Shibata Gifts and Pottery Store




There is a large space in the northwest of Nayamachi shopping district where beautiful flowers are visibly lined up.

The “Nakamura Flower and Pickled Goods Store” opened in 1954. Originally, the shop’s predecessor, who was a professor of ikebana (flower arrangement) “senkeiryu”, relocated the flower shop to Nayamachi shopping district from its original location on the Kaigetsukyo bridge in Fushimi, Kyoto and started selling pickled goods there as well. Currently, the right side of the store is occupied by pickled items that are in season and on the left side, seasonal flowers can be seen lined up in the store. The current owner is the second generation shop keeper of the store.
[Pickled goods refer to fermented and preserved foods, which originally have no expiration dates. Also, the taste changes depending on the person who did the pickling.]


The brewed taste of “rice bran” which took 62 years to make

The original owner and the second generation shop keeper, Mr. Nakamura, have been “mixing” the rice bran continuously since the store was first established 62 years ago. The handmade rice bran’s flavor is said to have a “taste” that surpasses even all eras. The “fungus” used in creating the bran represents their store’s ultimate “taste”.

The “pickled goods” in the old days of Japan refer to fermented and preserved foods which originally have no expiration dates. But most of the pickled goods that are consumed in households nowadays are “lightly pickled vegetables” and are different from the pickled goods made during the older periods. There are distinct differences in the pickled cucumbers made by the Nakamura store (which have been pickled for more than half a month), but there is a refreshing taste at first bite, which gradually morphs into a sour, deep flavor that spreads across your mouth the more you chew on it. It is the unique feature of their pickled goods to have that deep, rich flavor. “I think the reason why old people are so healthy is because they eat these kinds of foods (fermented foods),” says Mr. Nakamura. It is said that pickles are good for health and eating them with rice increases one’s immunity. All ingredients in the shop are handpicked by Mr. Nakamura himself or a trustworthy wholesaler who knows how to handpick the best, top-of-the-line ingredients.



Packed with nutrition and flavor: Fushimi’s fermented foods

The recommended pickled goods are different in every season and for summer, the recommended vegetable is cucumber while in autumn, the recommended pickles are white lilies and radish leaves. In the winter, the most delicious pickles are nukazuke (pickled veggies in rice bran), senmaizuke (Kyoto pickled seasoned turnip that are seasoned with seaweed, sugar, brewed vinegar, etc.) and suguki (Kyoto pickled stalk of turnip-like vegetable). Other rare pickled goods in the store are pickled green peppers, the nostalgic “yorozuke” (dried radish pickled in rice bran), and sake that is present in most Fushimi breweries such as sake-kasu (sake lees) and kobore-ume (“fallen plum” / mirin lees). You can also enjoy fermented foods that have been supporting the Fushimi food culture in this store.