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Shimogamosaryo

From a ryotei (traditional Japanese restaurant) that supplies the World Heritage Site, Shimogamo Shrine, to the world. An innovative "powdered soy sauce" based on tradition.

Established in 1856, Shimogamosaryo is a venerable ryotei. Here, in this place, a little extra color has been added to its shining history as a ryotei that supplies Shimogamo Shrine with the birth of an innovative product whereby soy sauce is turned into powder. Let us look at the backstage of this long established restaurant’s new challenges.

A ryotei’s powdered soy sauce gift

The theme of this ryotei that has stood here for 160 years is "tradition and innovation." They have created new products, one after another, which stem from their strong, deep pride.

Shimogamosaryo was established in 1856, originally as a Suisha tea house, on the approach to the famous Shimogamo Shrine which has been registered as a World Heritage Site. The Saji family which founded it were chefs who supplied Shimogamo Shrine, this was used as holy offerings, and they also made food which has been used for banquets, and which the imperial messenger conveyed to the Emperor of Japan. Following that, the store moved to its present location and started operating as a Chakaiseki (dishes coming before the tea ceremony) and Kyo-ryori (local cuisine of Kyoto) restaurant.

For a long time it has been a famous restaurant loved by many customers, including both tourists and locals. The cuisine cherishes the ideal of “pick locally and consume locally" and serves up local ingredients such as Kyoto vegetables, which are cooked using locally handed down traditional methods. They make the most of the flavor of the ingredients, so that the table before you becomes full of absolutely delightful dishes which shine with the delicate yet simple work of the chefs. So we have to ask, just what kind of product is this traditional Japanese restaurant selling as Ryotei Powdered Soy Sauce?

A ryotei’s powdered soy sauce gift

Just like the name suggests, powdered soy sauce is made from soy sauce turned into powder. The soy sauce ingredient was brewed over the course of three years by Kamebishiya, an old and famous soy sauce maker in Kagawa Prefecture. They use, in a generous and unsparing manner, expensive and famous ingredients which are mildly aromatic, and which are instantly dried by freeze-drying. At the same time freeze-dried Yuzu citrus peel is added as well as other flavorings.

The head chef, Naoyasu Motoyama, explains that “The foundation of Kyo-ryori is propped up by a commitment to seasons, and that the taste of the ingredients themselves have to be directly conveyed to the guest. In regards to the powdered soy sauce, it came from an approach, or way of thinking, of serving dishes which allow you to taste the deliciousness of the ingredients.” In accordance with those important words, when you take a bite of deep-fried beef sprinkled with powdered soy sauce you can taste the beef, and then the powdered soy sauce melts on top of your tongue and this fills your whole mouth. The refreshing flavor of yuzu and spicy taste really come together. The sweetness of the beef is emphasized and becomes more vivid.

A ryotei’s powdered soy sauce gift

They also use their powdered soy sauce in dishes served to their regular customers. Mr. Motoyama explains that “We also add it to grilled fish, sashimi (sliced raw fish) and tempura. It isn’t that for a particular dish we absolutely have to add this condiment, but we are flexible in using it according to the ingredients we have and the cooking methods we use. We have to think about the compatibility between the powdered soy sauce and the ingredients, and we always think about what is the most effective way of using them.”

With the general concept of “soy sauce being a liquid,” most of the first customers who were served food with a powdered form were surprised, “Recently we have noticed that after eating our dishes there are more and more customers who are then going to the shop front and buying our powdered soy sauce.” It seems that Mr. Motoyama is feeling that customers are responding to this innovative product. Even so, as a traditional and old restaurant in Kyoto there is a strong image that they are trying hard to maintaining traditions, so we have to wonder how this unique product came about. At its root there is a powerful concept of "tradition and innovation” from Kundo Koyama, the owner of Shimogamosaryo since 2012.

A ryotei’s powdered soy sauce gift

A rare creator thinks. "How to have a new ryotei"

Since the opening of Shimogamosaryo the Saji family have continued, generation after generation, to run it, but the previous proprietress did not have a successor and so she searched for someone talented to take over. So she consulted with Kundo Koyama who had been involved in the rebranding of towns and companies throughout Japan. Originally they approached various people about taking over, but finally she said to Kundo “how about you do it." For Mr. Koyama it wasn’t as easy as that “I was pretty much worried about it for 10 months.” However, just around that time when he kind of felt like it would be quite hard to do, two things happened. One was working on producing a food booth called "Japan Night" at the World Economic Forum called the Davos. "There were key figures and leaders from all over the world gathered there, and of course other countries had food booths as well, but the Japanese booth was overwhelmingly popular. When I saw that, I realized that Japanese cuisine is gaining international attention.”

“Another thing was that I attended a high school reunion for alumni around the same time and I was talking to a friend from Kyoto when the subject of Shimogamosaryo came up. When I asked ‘Do you know Shimogamosaryo?’ my friend said ‘what are you talking about! Its three doors down from me! (Mr. Koyama laughs). Isn’t it great because it is a very famous restaurant?’ So as he said that, I thought it was worth giving the Davos conference a try."

Thus, in 2012, Shimogamosaryo came under a new regime and began a change that built up into a big wave.

A ryotei’s powdered soy sauce gift

Since Mr. Koyama took over Shimogamosaryo, the kind of thinking which has been valued most has been the concept of tradition and innovation. "I think that it is boring just to be a place where you can eat great food. We want to send Japanese cuisine and culture out into the world, or it would great if our customers who visit us then spread the word.” For Mr. Koyama there should be such a place. In truth, they hold various events like “Aeru No Yoru,” a feast of dishes which genreless chefs have been invited to and "Shimogamo Culture Tea Discussion,” a cultural event with the theme of a ‘once-a-lifetime’ chance. That way of thinking was taken in and incorporated into their product development, starting with the Ryotei Powdered Soy Sauce.

There is also Mr. Koyama's extraordinary dedication to package design and pottery. They appointed Mr. Ooki Sato, a designer who has won a lot of awards across the world, to make a piece of pottery to use with the powdered soy sauce. Mr. Koyama asked him “please make something that will surprise me. I will trust you to decide everything, including the shape and materials. " It is named after the restaurant itself that values so highly the way of thinking behind the connection of Shimogamo Shrine and tea ceremonies, with a motif of the ladle used for tea ceremonies and Chozusha (the place for cleaning hands and rinsing mouth at shrines), you will find that you can easily sprinkle the powdered soy sauce onto food, and that the small shaker bottle has been designed so that you can easily put the condiment back inside as needed.

"I am a complete amateur” Mr. Koyama laughs. “I think what I want isn’t too far from the customer’s perspective. I had that sense during the development of powdered soy sauce. You can eat delicious tempura if there is a soy sauce that can be sprinkled on it like salt. When we used this product the customers were happy, and if they then talk about it with friends I thought that would be great” Mr. Koyama laughed.

"Tradition and Innovation,” you will more than enjoy the deep and pleasant taste of this product which is packed with the best ideas possible as well as well-rounded hospitality.

A ryotei’s powdered soy sauce gift

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