[Event Report]Bodaisen Twice-brewed Limited Special Openings@ Shoryakuji Temple (held on 1/22)

“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.The seventh and final event featured a special program at Shoryakuji Temple, the birthplace of Japanese sake, where visitors could observe the preparation of Bodaisen, which is normally closed to the public.

Bodaisen Twice-brewed Sake at Shoryakuji Temple, the birthplace of Japanese Sake (Normally closed to the public) Limited special opening to the public, special talk by the chief priest and brewer and calligraphy experience.
~Lunch of traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine with Bodaimoto Kasujiru (soup with a sake lees base), green tea & special dessert.

The 7th tour was held on January 22nd with 15 guests to Shoryakuji Temple (Bodaisen-cho, Nara City), the birthplace of Japanese sake.At Shoryakuji Temple, we had a special opportunity to observe the sake preparation process, which is normally not open to the public, and spoke with Chief Priest Hironobu Ohara and Aburanaga Sake Brewery President Chobei Yamamoto about “Shoryakuji Temple and Bodaimoto” and its revival. It is full of unique experiences such as listening to the calligraphy experience taught by the chief priest, enjoying traditional vegetarian cuisine that has been restarted for the first time in four years, Nara sake, sweets made by the chief priest’s wife, and matcha made by the chief priest himself. It was a day.

*This event was held as the 5th demonstration of the Japan Tourism Agency’s promotion of regionally integrated gastronomy tourism. 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.

Watch the traditional "Bodaisen Prepared twice" revived 25 years ago at Shoryakuji Temple, the birthplace of Japanese sake

At 9 a.m., the bus departed from Kintetsu Nara Station, and the lead staff member, Mr. Ururu Kaigo, explained the purpose and itinerary of the tour.
“Nara has food and seasonings, Chinese herbal medicine, alcohol, and tea, which have roots dating back 1,300 years, and it can truly be said that the roots of gourmet food are in Nara.” “I want to create a program that will make people say, ‘the roots of gastronomy are in Nara,○○○!’ Please feel free to share anything that left an impression on you on today’s tour.”

Next, an English interpreter gave an easy-to-understand lecture on the history of Japanese sake, how it is manufactured differently from wine, and how the taste differs depending on how well the rice is shaved and the environment of the brewery. Approximately 20 minutes southeast by bus from downtown Nara, the ancient temple Shoryakuji Temple is located at the end of a rural village landscape filled with fields.

A barrier rope had been strung up in the plaza in front of the parking lot, and steam was rising from a large koshiki with the Bodaimoto logo on it. There, members of the seven breweries of the Nara Prefecture Bodaimoto Sake Production Study Group (hereinafter referred to as the Bodaimoto Study Group) prepared for the work that was about to begin, wearing white happi coats with wisteria crests. was being done.
Following the greetings from Chief priest Ohara of Shoryakuji Temple, we listened to Chobei Yamamoto, president of Aburanaga Sake Brewery, talk about the revival of Bodaimoto by the Bodaimoto Research Group and the birth of Bodaisen.

Shoryakuji Temple is the birthplace of Japanese sake, and during the Muromachi period, sake technology was established and “Soboshu” was brewed, but as the temple declined, sake production also ceased.
In 1995, the temple collaborated with people involved in sake brewing, research institutes, and universities in Nara Prefecture, and the restoration project “Nara Prefecture Bodaimoto Sake Production Study Group” was launched.

Based on the manufacturing method found in the Muromachi period’s “Goshu no Nikki,” yeast and lactic acid bacteria indigenous to Shoryakuji Temple were collected and cultured, and the production license was granted in 1999 to revive “Bodaimoto (shubo)” on the same grounds. There is a history of starting the construction.

Cheers as the steamed rice rises with white steam
Twice brewing of sake “Bodaisen”

Meanwhile, the steam from the koshiki was getting whiter and stronger due to the cold air around it, and the participants were busy listening to the story and taking pictures of the koshiki.
People began to gather around the koshiki, and the work began by using shovels to transfer the steamed rice into buckets, carrying it to a table covered with linen cloth, and spreading it out.

The participants’ eyes widen every time the white steam rises and a yogurt-like aroma wafts up. They are carried one after another, spread out, and let the outside air cool them down a little. During this process, the degree to which they have cooled is measured using the sensation in their hands and a thermometer. The ones that have cooled down to 38 degrees are poured into the jars at the back.

Bodaisen is a sake brewed with this steamed rice, koji, and “Soyashi” water (sterilized water fermented with lactic acid). The raw rice used is “Tsuyuha Kaze”, the only rice in Nara Prefecture that is suitable for sake brewing and is grown on the territory of Shoryakuji Temple.
The water used is Iwashimizu, which springs from the same temple, and is an original product of Shoryakuji Temple.
By the way, Shoryakuji Temple’s sake brewing license is the only one in Japan for a temple.

Toward the end of the event, there was a performance in which the chief priest blew a conch shell to express his wish for the sake preparation to go well, and everyone cheered with joy at this performance.

Listen to the history of the temple while looking at the garden and precincts at Fukuju-in, and view the principal image at Ruriden.

After observing the preparation of Bodaisen, we listened to the chief priest explain the history of the temple while admiring the garden and grounds from the edge of the guest hall, Fukujuin (a National Important Cultural Property of the Edo period).
The descending wisteria, which is the family crest of the Fujiwara clan, indicates that Shoryakuji Temple, like Kofuku-ji Temple, was a temple to receive the monks of the Fujiwara clan, which is why the building is in keeping with Kyoto culture.

The guardian deity is “Gozu Tenno”, the god of Kyoto’s Gion Shrine (currently Yasaka Shrine), and the principal image is Yakushi Nyorai, which is said to be a temple where people pray for the exodus of epidemics and health of the mind and body. To see the principal image, we were guided to the treasure house “Ruriden”. We viewed a number of secret Buddha statues and temple treasures, including the gilt-bronze statue of Yakushi Nyorai (Asuka Period National Important Cultural Property), which is a gilt bronze Buddha seated on a pedestal with its feet resting on a lotus flower.
When you exit the Sanmon gate to head to the main hall, you will see a Sukiya-style architecture with a shingled roof, a middle gate with a cypress bark roof in front, and a tile-roofed Sanmon gate. There is a point where you can see the seed roof, and the chief priest says, “The adoption of three types of roofing also speaks to Kyoto culture.”

Experience calligraphy at the main hall. Instructions on the formation of letters and brush strokes by the chief priest

In front of the main hall, the chief priest held a brush and drew lines and letters on a half-sized piece of paper, explaining the composition of letters and how to use them. You can hold the brush in any way you like, but there are some important points to keep in mind, such as taking a breath before placing the brush on the paper.
He wrote the four characters “Mountain” and “Water”, in reference to the mountain village where the temple is located, and “Rice” and “Sake,” in reference to the day’s sake brewing, and said, “Don’t try to write neatly”. “Write your own handwriting, such as bright handwriting, strong handwriting, and wide handwriting,” he advised. He also asked me to complete everything with one brush stroke, including signing the signature.
Now, we finally enter the main hall and the calligraphy session begins for the participants. They held a brush dipped in ink and wrote whatever letters they wanted on the paper. At first, I was careful, but as I got used to it, I sped up a little. After practicing on 10 pieces of paper with the advice of the chief priest, I printed it on colored paper.
“While I was nervous about my first experience, I was able to have a good time” and “It was more difficult than I expected, but it was fun.” “My mind was relieved because the chief priest told me I could write whatever I wanted.”There were such impressions. By the way, the chief priest says, “I check my strength by continuing to write.”

Lunch time with Nara sake such as "Soshun Gozen(Early spring meal)", a traditional vegetarian cuisine revived after 4 years, and "Soboushu'' and "Bodaisen'".

Now, the long-awaited lunch venue is Tokuzoin.”Early Spring Gozen”, Shoryakuji Temple’s specialty vegetarian cuisine, has been revived for the first time in four years due to the coronavirus pandemic. After a toast with Shoryakuji’s original rare sake “Bodaisen” (manufactured in 2022), the participants were free to sample and compare 6 “Bodaimoto Junmai” sake from 6 breweries of the Bodaimoto Revival Team.

The dishes are all homemade by the head priest’s wife, Mayumi Ohara, and her helpers, using mainly rice and vegetables grown within the temple grounds.
The table is decorated with rapeseed flowers that evoke the feeling of early spring, and includes a variety of vegetable dishes, including some rare ones, such as pickled “Itonankin”, yacon tempura, and kinpira.Homemade sesame tofu, black rice, and bodaimoto. Kasujiru was served.

The chief priest’s wife explained the cooking with the vegetables in hand and answered questions about the recipe. During the meal, Mr. Kazuyuki Mizukami of the Nara Prefecture Sake Brewers Association and the chief priest served sake, and everyone enjoyed a variety of Bodaimoto-made sake along with the food.

After filling our bellies, we asked the participants questions and impressions about the taste of the six sake breweries. Many people said, “Bodaisen” is fruity and easy to drink, like wine, and some answered, “I like this”, and “I like this”.
Another question came up, “Was it OK for monks to drink alcohol?” He answered, “Japan has Shintoism, and alcohol is an offering to the gods, so it was OK to drink”. He also talks about examples of monks drinking alcohol, and talks about Kobo Daishi’s will, “Don’t drink while you’re practicing”. “If you want to drink it, mix it with water and drink it”, says the chief priest, “I dilute it with water and drink it”. Everyone had a good laugh.
Mr. Yamamoto of Aburanaga Sake Brewery says, “We aim to make sake that is unique to Nara, where you can feel the history of Nara beyond “delicious”.Since sake evolved in temples, we are confident that it will continue to evolve.” He spoke emphatically.

Enjoy the friendly atmosphere, presentation of colored paper, and delicious sweets and matcha tea

After eating and drinking together, everyone got to know each other, and during the calligraphy experience, they showed off the letters they had written on colored paper. They talked about why they chose that character and what they remembered from today’s experience. It seemed that each person’s thoughts, such as the sake brewing process, calligraphy, delicious sake, and time spent at temples, were reflected in their choice of letters.
After the meal, in a separate room, the chief priest served the wife’s special stewed chestnut skin as tea sweets, and made some appetizers for everyone. The highly popular simmered astringent skin was made using large chestnuts from Tamba, his wife’s hometown, and took seven days to make. I could see that they were really enjoying the deliciousness.
After taking a commemorative photo in front of Fukuju-in Temple, we bought some alcoholic beverages as souvenirs, and then wandered around the quiet winter grounds as we sat on the train. Inside the car, an English interpreter presented them with origami deer and said, “Everyone, we’re glad you didn’t turn into a tiger! We’ll give you a lucky charm to take you home.” “Nara’s sacred deer came from the land of Kashima to Nara without any accidents, so this is a talisman for traffic safety.Be careful until you get home.” This was well received by everyone and was a fun way to end the day.