Friday, October 3, 2008


Day seventy-four: Shōgetsu

With my railpass just about to expire, I paused along to way back to Tokyo to visit Shōgetsu, a tiny Kyoto wagashiya that several people had assured me is the best in the city. It was already late in the day by the time I made my way to the north side of the city and found the shop in a maze of residential backstreets.

It was the smallest wagashiya I've ever been in--practically a drive-through widow. There was a customer waiting in the tiny vestibule when I arrived so I hung out on the steps while the assistant wrapped his packages, and tried to make up my mind between the day's offering of two wagashi on display in a tiny window.

Then, with a thud, I remembered that Shōgetsu is one of a number of small Kyoto sweet shops that sell only by reservation. I poked my head through the curtains.

"Your wagashi, it is only reservation?" I asked, using a term better suited to hotel rooms.

The shop assistant looked momentarily confused, then agreed gently: yes, reservation only.

"Ah, that is regrettable," I said, backing politely out the door and trying not to sigh.

I was two blocks down the street and still cursing myself aloud, when I suddenly became aware of a strange noise behind me. It was the shop assistant, running as fast as she could in her wooden geta flipflops, trying to catch up to me but too polite to call out.

"You walk very fast!" she said, smiling, and motioned me back towards the store.

It turned out that due to some miscount there was a single wagashi in need of a good home. I tucked into my orphaned chrysanthemum on the shinkansen back to Tokyo. As promised, it tasted as fresh or fresher than any namagashi I had yet eaten. The flavors were well balanced, and the bean paste was as wet as sand at the water's edge and seemed almost on the verge of collapse. Next time I'll be sure to reserve more than one.

No comments: