Kyoto is famous for its Japanese traditions and culture preservation. If you would like to visit or count all the shops that are even only 100 years old, it will easily take up your whole life span. If it can be categorized as an industry, Japanese shrines or temples market is the most long-lived industry, we would say. Construction, religious goods and other related industries like confectionery are easily tied to developing years after years. The shop we are going to talk about today belongs to the confectionery segment and is in the Kyoto area.
Ichimonjiya Wasuke 一文字屋和輔, or Ichiwa for short, is an aburi-mochi shop just outside Imamiya Shrine, about a kilometer (0.6 miles) northwest of Kyoto's famed Kinkaku-ji. Founded in the year 1000, Ichiwa is Japan’s oldest confectioner. It has been in operation continually since the Heian period.
The current building of Ichiwa is roughly 300 years old. The shop was run until recently by a Mrs. Hasegawa who passed on the shop to her daughter, the 24th-generation owner of the establishment. The shop consists of a number of benches and stools gathered around small tables, on a sort of covered porch, open on one side to the street. Other seats can be found inside, or in the back, looking out over a garden said to have been designed in the 17th century by Kobori Enshû.
Ichiwa specializes in aburi mochi—warm, sticky rice cakes on sticks. The mochi (pounded rice) is skewered and grilled over charcoal, then doused in a sweet miso sauce. Aburi-mochi, along with sekihan (rice with red beans), are associated with the Yasurai Festival, dating back to the 9th century and celebrated at Imamiya Shrine on the first Sunday of April. Thus, these two sweets are said to ward off illness and evil.
Right across the street where Ichiwa is at, there is another aburi-mochi shop, Kasuragi. It is also a shop with very long history. The difference is that Ichiwa has been run by the same family without stop which Kasuragi changed hands about two hundred years ago from its original founding family. Well, if there is a long line in front of Ichiwa, Kasuragi can be a very good second option.