Traditional cuisine in a natural setting, preserving the essence of the old capital
Region： Kyoto in the Forests
The region to the west of Kyoto has a long history of supplying an abundance of agricultural products to meet the culinary demands of an imperial capital. Rice, regional varieties of chestnut and azuki (red beans), as well as the numerous vegetables used in traditional Kyoto cuisine are grown in the gentle climate north of the city. Another area specialty is the ayu (sweetfish) caught in local rivers. The region's festivals are strongly interwoven with its traditional cultivation processes, and the culinary culture of the area is an inseparable part of its history.
Regional foods: Kashiwa Sukiyaki
Of particular note among the region’s culinary specialties is a type of sukiyaki (hot pot) that uses “kashiwa”—free-range, locally raised chicken known elsewhere as jidori—instead of beef. In past times, each household kept a number of chickens, and visitors were treated to kashiwa sukiyaki as a display of hospitality. In addition to chicken, the dish includes plenty of seasonal vegetables produced in the area: bamboo shoots and udo (similar to ginseng) in the spring, and matsutake mushrooms, kujo green onions, and mizuna (an herb) in the autumn.
Regional foods: Ayu cuisine
The diversity of foods produced in the region has led to a culinary tradition that prizes colorful arrangements of seasonal vegetables. Each meal is an artful combination of individually prepared components. The area's ayu cuisine is renowned for inspired pairings created using seasonal, wild-picked mountain plants like itadori (Japanese knotweed), sansho (Japanese pepper), and zenmai (royal fern). The area is also known for a unique confection called tochimochi: mochi rice steamed and pounded together with Tanba chestnuts, then wrapped around coarse-grained anko (red bean paste). Tochimochi is believed to have been eaten in Japan for thousands of years.
Scenery: Kyoto Tamba Kogen Quasi-National Park
Within the Kyoto Tamba Kogen Quasi-National Park lie two sites of particular scenic beauty: the Ashiu primeval forest and the thatch-roofed villages of Miyama. Mount Oeyama, where in autumn visitors can look down upon a sea of mist and clouds, also holds the Moto-Ise Sansha, ancient shrines which mark previous locations of the Grand Shrine of Ise. A favored retreat for the aristocracy of Kyoto, Yunohana Onsen in the city of Kameoka has a long history of refreshing weary travelers. Finally, both the Sagano Scenic Railway and Hozugawa Riverboat Ride carry passengers through isolated mountain valleys, presenting exceptional views of the natural surroundings.
Activities: Hozugawa Riverboat Ride
Visitors to the region just west of Kyoto will find many hands-on culinary activities available. At the Hekitei, a historical samurai residence in Kameoka, visitors can make a type of hand-balled sushi called temari-zushi. At the Ayu Garden, ayu from the Wachigawa River—praised by the epicure Kitaoji Rosanjin—are purchasable for outside barbecues during the summer months. For those seeking a scenic experience, the Hozugawa Riverboat Ride follows a 16-kilometer whitewater course through the Hozukyo ravine. In operation since 1881, Hozugawa riverboats have borne countless sightseers and even the royalty of numerous foreign nations. During the two-hour trip, riverboat operators entertain passengers with humorous tales of the region’s history and of life upon the river.
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