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  • This is one of the oldest businesses in Japan.

  • And "Aburi-mochi" is the only food on the menu.

  • For over 1,000 years, the restaurant has served worshippers who visit the Shinto shrine next door to pray for good health.

  • Many believe eating the roasted rice cakes will protect them from diseases, too.

  • The shop has survived fires, civil and world wars, and even smallpox epidemics.

  • Through it all, 25 generations of one family kept it going, blending food and faith.

  • But COVID-19 has threatened the business more than anything else.

  • We visited "Ichimonjiya Wasuke" in Kyoto to see how it is still standing.

  • [Still standing.]

  • It all starts with the skewers.

  • Owner, Naomi Hasegawa, cuts them from a special bamboo grown for ritual purposes around the shrine.

  • That's why they're considered sacred and treated with as much care as any ingredient.

  • The important job of sterilizing them is only for the "okami," the owner and manager.

  • [The skewers were handed down from the god,]

  • [so we take good care and try to reuse them again and again.]

  • Next, she makes the sweet miso dipping sauce.

  • Naomi knows the recipe by heart.

  • She measures ingredients by eye and feels the mixture for consistency.

  • She learned it all from her aunt, the former "okami."

  • She combines today's batch with yesterday's leftovers for a richer flavor.

  • "Ichiwa" uses a machine to make the mochi dough instead of the traditional method of steaming and pounding with a mallet.

  • [Our ancestors would probably get angry]

  • [if they happened to know we're using the pounding machine.]

  • [But we still don't mass produce our mochi.]

  • [Instead, we make the dough ourselves one by one.]

  • [So while me mechanized the process,]

  • [the original spirit hasn't changed at all.]

  • [This is "Kōjin-sama," the god of fire.]

  • Every day, she makes the first mochi as an offering for the gods and her ancestors.

  • Then it's time to put it all together.

  • Naomi and her employees work on a woven mat covered in roasted soybean powder.

  • They cover the mochi in it, then measure thumb-sized pieces to stick on a skewer.

  • [The skewers are bifurcated because a mochi puffs up when roasted,]

  • [and it can slip off if the skewer is a straight stick.]

  • [But with a forked skewer, it's neatly fixed.]

  • To roast the mochi, she shuffles them until they reach a consistent dark color.

  • It only takes about one minute, but it requires close attention since the mochi could easily overcook, or even worse, the bamboo could burn.

  • She's even particular about the charcoal she uses.

  • This is "binchotan," a high-quality oak charcoal that's much harder than regular coals.

  • [It is solid, durable, and has a good scent.]

  • "Aburu" means to roast.

  • So this is what makes the snack "Aburi-mochi."

  • [Only those who practice this for around 10 years can toast the mochi properly.]

  • She dips the "Aburi-mochi" into the miso sauce while they're still warm.

  • Eleven skewers and a cup of green tea cost 500 yen, or just under $5.

  • Naomi and her predecessor have kept that price steady for over 30 years, but have had to bring the number of skewers down from 15.

  • [My older brother, the current head of our family, says,]

  • [we don't have to earn too much. Our shop originated from a service,]

  • [So our business should just be to never get bored, nothing more.]

  • The "Imamiya" Shrine that "Ichiwa" serves was founded in 994 as Kyoto was suffering from epidemics like smallpox.

  • Locals worshipped Shinto deities who were believed to cure diseases and grant long life.

  • Naomi says "Ichiwa's" original founders served the chief priest and then started the shop to serve worshippers as well.

  • They used to give "Aburi-mochi" away for free and only sometimes received a small gratuity from pilgrims.

  • From the beginning, it's been traditional for women in the family to run the business.

  • [Men go elsewhere to work and earn their families' living costs,]

  • [while women work here to protect our family and this "Aburi-mochi" "Ichinomiya."]

  • [I am the daughter, and together with my brothers' wives we take care of this place.]

  • Naomi is the 25th "okami" to run "Ichiwa," taking over for her aunt 13 years ago.

  • And she has made a few improvements to bring the business into the modern age, like providing insurance to its employees and installing a time-card system.

  • But she draws the line at using delivery apps.

  • [We've politely declined the offers because our mochi shouldn't be brought for delivery.]

  • [We are making "Aburi-mochi" for the visitors of the shrine,]

  • [not for the people who wouldn't come here and join their hands in prayer for the god.]

  • Although "Ichiwa" was born from a time of plague, nothing could have prepared the staff for the coronavirus pandemic.

  • The shop was forced to close for nearly two months in 2020, and it took on debt to ensure employees were still getting paid, even while it was shut.

  • Even the government's national tourism incentive program wasn't enough to bring many customers back.

  • [January 1 and the New Year holidays are really important for us,]

  • [as people visit shrines during these days.]

  • [But this year, the turnout was fewer than half of last year's due to the coronavirus.]

  • Naomi's hopes for the future lie in the next generation of her family.

  • She believes her children or nieces and nephews will take over for her, but there's no set succession plan.

  • And that's intentional.

  • She says she'd enjoy retirement, but until that day, there are faithful visitors to feed.

  • [So as long as "Imamiya" Shrine is there, we won't quit.]

  • [Someday, if "Imamiya" Shine is ruined, then we would retire,]

  • [but we'll never shut down until then.]

  • [I think my ancestors have thought the same.]

This is one of the oldest businesses in Japan.

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How One Of Japan's Oldest Businesses Has Served Roasted Mochi For Over 1,000 Years | Still Standing

  • 341 17
    Elise Chuang 發佈於 2021 年 07 月 13 日
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