[Event Report]Special winter gastronomy experience program@Naramachi Information Center・Nara Nagomikan(held on 1/21)

Authentic tea ceremony and tea kaiseki experience

“Japanese cuisine is Japan’s proud food culture. Its roots are in Nara.” The “Japanese Food Pilgrimage – NARA” project plans gastronomy tourism where you can learn about the roots of Japanese food and experience the culture. Six diverse programs have started in 2023 as well.
The 6th event was held on January 21st, with 14 guests divided into two groups of 7 people each at the restaurant ”Aogaki“ in Nara Nagomi Hall and the tea room of the nearby Naramachi Information Center.The idea was for the participants to enjoy a tea kaiseki (simple meal) made with traditional ingredients and experience an authentic tea ceremony.
As with the first to fifth rounds held on October 22, 2023, November 5, 20, 23, and 30, materials and menus will be available in Japanese and English. Consideration was given to the foreign participants, such as an interpreter guide who simultaneously translated what the host and guests were saying.
*This event was held as the fifth demonstration project of the Japan Tourism Agency’s regional integrated gastronomy tourism promotion project. From Nara, the birthplace of Japanese sake and home to various Japanese food culture roots, we will disseminate the new NARA brand both domestically and internationally, and create new products and develop sales channels targeting the ever-increasing number of foreign visitors to Japan. The purpose is that.

New Year's Japanese food with Cloudy sake and Sumizake(Sake)

The participants who gathered at Nagomikan chatted for a while in a room set up as a waiting area, and after receiving greetings from the organizer and an explanation of the day’s schedule, they were ushered into a private Japanese-style room with shoji paper.When we took our seats, we were served “Mukaizuke”, and Chef Kenichi Morisugi explained the contents of the dish, followed by “Tai-Konbujime”, which was made by wrapping the sea bream sashimi in kelp, which means “joy(yorokobu)”, and bringing out the flavor. ” with wasabi.
The water used for the soup stock used in the dishes that day was from a spring that Kukai, one of Japan’s most famous monks, discovered in the Uda area on the Ise Kaido road during his nationwide pilgrimage after completing his training at Mt. Koya.The head chef personally traveled to the area to collect the ingredients.

Six types of sake were selected and prepared, ranging from cloudy sake to clear sake.Sake was originally an offering to the gods, and from Nara’s Omiwa Shrine’s divine sake, “Nigorizake(cloudy sake)”, technological innovations led to the creation of “Sumi zake(clear sake) =Japanese Sake” at Shoraku-ji Temple during the Muromachi period, which has continued to the present day. We want you to enjoy all of this together with your food.

The toast was held at Kinko Usunigori (Okura Honke).When the bowls were brought to us in beautiful lacquerware, we were served Hyakrakumon Doburoku (Katsuragi Sake Brewery), which can be said to be the original form of Japanese sake.The “Wanmono(bowl food)” was made with deep-fried fried minced fish, served in a thin kudzu style, and beautifully decorated with senmen turnips, carrots, mitsuba leaves, and yuzu.

Assortment of 10 kinds of New Year's celebratory dishes in an elegant setting

The next item that was brought to us was “Fuchidaka.”As it was New Year’s Day, there were 10 types of kotobuki and hogi dishes that are commonly seen during the New Year’s festival, and they were arranged in a gorgeous manner.According to the chef’s explanation, “Kouhaku Namasu” prays for peace, “Yellowfish (pickled in Nara pickled lees)” for growth and advancement, “Simmered Shrimp” and “Shrimp Sweet Potato” for longevity, and “Atsuyaki Tamago” for brocade color. ‘, ‘Black bean pine needle sashimi’ (Daiomatsu) is good for health, ‘Small sea bream sushi’ is auspicious, ‘Plum ginseng’ is a herald of spring, ‘Kuwai’ sprouts (prosperity), ‘Cod roe rolled in kelp’ is said to bring prosperity to descendants. It was about.
Everyone enjoyed each dish, choosing from their favorite dishes.The light and cloudy drinks (usunigori) seemed to be popular, but since there was a tea ceremony to be held later, they were well served.He was also good at using chopsticks, which seemed to be proof that Japanese food culture is spreading all over the world.

Finish off the meal with Nara's local food "Chagayu"

The tea kaiseki meal concluded with Nara’s local food “Chagayu,” served in a vermilion-lacquered bowl with a lid.The tea porridge is made from raw rice with aromatic hojicha from Nara Prefecture, and the rice flowers bloom plumply, giving it a light taste that is easy on the stomach.There were voices of admiration from many seats.
The pickled vegetables that accompanied it were “Narazuke”, a specialty of Nara.“This pickle is pickled with sake lees from Japanese sake production, which is also one of the SDGs,” says the head chef.He emphasized that it was created at Sakadokoro Nara by thinking about how to use sake lees.

An experience to enjoy a light tea ceremony in a relaxed manner

After eating Chakaiseki, we moved on foot to the Naramachi Information Center, which is a nearby tea ceremony venue. There, the curator and host, Mr. Masaaki Fujimaru, will welcome everyone in a hakama, and the interpreter guide will also be wearing a kimono to tell Mr. Fujimaru’s story. First, we received an explanation of Ojiku in the waiting room. This is an ink painting of a gavel and fishing rod on a rice bale.
“The axis is related to today’s theme, Okuninushi no Mikoto.Today, there will be about 20 types of tea utensils, but we have prepared utensils that follow one story, so they will be used together with tea. Please have fun,” said the host. When I entered the tea ceremony room, I saw steam rising from the tea kettle set in the hearth. Everyone sat up straight and looked somewhat nervous.

Experience a tea ceremony in a tea ceremony room with a fireplace

Sweets were brought by Hanto (a person who assists the host).The etiquette of eating sweets before drinking usucha comes from the idea that sweetness is served at the end of tea kaiseki before the tea ceremony, and then the tea is served.
The host enters the room holding a pitcher of water, and the tea ceremony begins. “Today is light brown, so please get down on your knees and just have fun,” and the men sat cross-legged. We had sake manju made by a famous confectionery company in Naramachi, and then we each had a cup of tea made by the host.

“By the way, everyone, you all enjoyed the sashimi at the tea kaiseki earlier, right? Because matcha is a medicine (antibacterial), you can also serve raw food at the tea kaiseki.No one of my fellow tea masters contracted the coronavirus,” said the host.
“Today, I will make matcha, which is highly rated in Japan. It’s Yame tea, which appears in ‘Ode to the Gods’.”He talked about tea and utensils in a friendly manner, which eased everyone’s nervousness.

The bowl has designs of strawberries, rats, rabbits, etc., and the stem also has Okuninushi no Mikoto drawn on it, and the jug and hail kiln are also purse-shaped, so they can be hung together with Okuninushi no Mikoto’s bag. It emphasizes its presence even more. Surprisingly, Daikokuten was enshrined in the door pocket of the tea room.

Mr. Fujimaru said that he enjoys planning tea parties that tell a story, based on the philosophy that “the taste of a tea party trumps the rules,” and that he collects utensils that are in line with that.

He generously showed us the 400-year-old tea containers and tea scoops, saying, “These are tools that can only be used and touched.”

The master of ceremonies talked about how the technique used to build the Great Buddha has fostered Nara’s traditional crafts such as casting, and the syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism in which monks read out the names of the gods at Nigatsu-do Hall. I was surprised by his knowledge and had a great time.

Carefully explain customer questions
Bring home the excitement of experiencing a part of tea ceremony culture

lastly,Customers asked questions such as “Why are there so many styles of tea ceremony?”, “How do you store these precious tea utensils?” and “What is the value of a tea bowl that is considered a national treasure?” Mr. Fujimaru explained each of these in an easy-to-understand manner, giving concrete examples.
After the tea ceremony,Participants answered the questionnaire using their smartphones. By experiencing the Japanese tea ceremony culture, everyone was able to appreciate the depth of each aspect and the cultural heritage left behind by our predecessors.