Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Evening Coolness"

Day eight: “Evening Coolness” / 夕涼み 
Kikuya, 5-13-2 Minami-Aoyama, ¥430

Also known as “Antique street”, Kottobashi-dori is lined with shops dedicated to impeccably-crafted small objects, and the tiny Kikuya sweet shop fits right in. Since 1938, family-owned Kikuya has been producing high-end traditional sweets, or wagashi. Most of the wagashi on display are namagashi, meaning that they are freshly made of moist ingredients such as kanten or bean paste. Namagashi include no preservatives and have an incredibly short shelf-life. Ideally they should be eaten within a day, with the result that the imagery they evoke is often precisely calibrated to the weather or season.

Of all of the beautiful namagashi on offer, I had to have this one, a tiny sensu fan filled with smooth, sweet koshian bean paste. Not only does it suggest a much-welcome languid breeze, it also brings back happy memories of the occasion on my last visit when a little old man on a train, a total stranger, bowed and made me a present of his fan, which I still carry around today. The woman behind Kikuya’s counter was every bit as kind, teaching me some new wagashi vocabulary and patiently prompting some of my stock Japanese pleasantries.

Still carrying my purchases I wandered a few blocks to the opening of my friend Shinji Nakaba’s new show. Shinji is a jeweler and a carver, and like the folks at Kikuya turns out stunning and delightful work on a minute scale. You can see his work at http://work.s-nakaba.com and more about Kikuya (in Japanese) at www.wagashi-kikuya.com.

1 comment:

mehrankf said...

i second everything you say about kikuya...it is my favorite japanese sweet shop. i was there this week-end and have been a customer there for about 15 years now.
glad to have found your site/blog.
mehran (chicago)