Wagashi: Cooling Kyoto Kibune River Yokan

Kyoto Strategies and Customs for Feeling Cool in Summer

Wagashi: Kibune River Yokan
This yokan wagashi is section of river with swimming fish, floating green leaves and boulders that in addition to being tasty meant to have a cooling effect on the mind of the eater.

This confection is called Kibunegawa, after the Kibune River which is a stream in the North Mountains of Kyoto that flows down to the Kamo River. The village of Kibune is a very popular summer destination for a half day trip from Kyoto (city) to cool down. The temperature in the mountains, with shade cast by lush evergreen trees and cool, fast flowing streams, makes people feel very refreshed.

Kibunegawa Yokan with Fish, Leaves and Boulders
Wagashi: Kibune River Yokan

Of course people can not go up to Kibune to cool down every time they work up a sweat, but Kyoto people still want something in their everyday lifestyle to make them feel cool and refreshed, even if it is more psychological rather than physical.

Changing interior decorations in their house is one way to feel cool. For example, the zabuton cushion cover and noren curtain color are changed to blue or white in the summer. The fabric will change from soft, fuzzy cotton in the winter to hard, stiff ‘asa’ linen. People use more glassware for meals to produce cool atmosphere. People also put out furin wind chimes under their eves to hear cool sound. There are countless things what Japanese try to feel cool in brain.

Food is another very important way to feel cool and sweets and confections are not excluded. This Kibunegawa summer yokan plays on the Japanese senses to help people feel cool.

The transparency suggests cool and refreshing water. The green maple leaves and ayu sweetfish recall the season, but in a verdant and fresh atmosphere. The visual motif of swimming is particularly strong. Don’t you feel cool from looking at fish swimming in the water?

This is Kyoto people’s way of enjoying hot summer. You can not enjoy this to the most if you are in air conditioned cool room. If you understand what I am saying, maybe you got Japanese sense of seasons.

Kibunegawa Yokan with Fish, Leaves and Boulders
Wagashi: Kibune River Yokan

Kibunegawa Yokan Cross Section
Wagashi: Kibune River Yokan

5 Responses to “Wagashi: Cooling Kyoto Kibune River Yokan”

  1. Linda says:

    That is totally beautiful and would be too sad to eat! Is it a white kidney bean yokan, and a mizu yokan??? (made with more water?

    I was in a temple in Kyoto where on a wood panel, a calligraphic skeleton was painted. My friend explained it was supposed to give you a shiver on a hot day!

  2. kt says:

    You can not enjoy this to the most if you are in air conditioned cool room. If you understand what I am saying, maybe you got Japanese sense of seasons.

    Hee. I understand what you’re saying, but… … sometimes I still want the air conditioning.

    :)

  3. Paul Hays says:

    Totally cool in so many ways.
    Are you able to buy it many places? I am coming to Kyoto in the next week or so and certainly want to try some. Maybe bring back to Sanda for omiage.

  4. Linda says:

    I have heard from a friend in Kyoto that this yokan is made with kudzu (arrowroot)…and the photo credit says “Kyoto-Kameya-Yoshinaga Kibunegawa” and my friend said this is a very expensive one and made with the real kudzu from the mountains where the root is carefully dug up.A very well known company…we always ge the best from Kyoto Foodie! There are others not made with kudzu so are less expensive, and I gather, easily found in stores. My friends favorite is wrapped in kudzu leaves. Hope this helps, Paul!

    I was shocked that arrowroot comes from kudzu, a pernicious weed in North America, covering and killing many forests. Hopefully Japan’s is a different variety.

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