Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year Shogatsu Ryori

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series O-shogatsu Ryori

Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理
A lobster, mochi, kelp, daidai- orange and persimmon offering to god, crab served amid fresh snow covered bamboo grass, red snapper sashimi served in a basket of green bamboo, pine bough and plum blossom;  it’s Oshogatsu Ryori at Kichisen.

Several hundred boxes of Osechi have been delivered, this is the most important celebration of the year in Japan, you would think that everyone at Kichisen would finally be taking a few days off work. But Tanigawa explains that a proper Kyoto restaurant must be open and serve customers during this important time of year. Kichisen offers Oshogatsu Kaiseki Ryori, Japanese New Year’s Kaiseki Cuisine, and it is as beautiful as it is delicious.

New Year’s Kaiseki
Shogatsu in Japan is a lot like Christmas, it is a magical time and custom and decoration abound. In addition to sublime and intricate cuisine, Kichisen is decorated for the season.

Kichisen Gate with Shogatsu Decoration and Candle Lanterns
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Kichisen’s Oshogatsu Kaiseki includes some 13 courses, here we feature 4 of them: five bite-sized selections from osechi ryori, clear soup with clam paste garnished with gold leaf, red snapper sashimi with Seville orange-shoyu, sekihan mochi rice with azuki beans and chestnuts and finally crab served in a snowstorm.

Sakizuke Course: Appetizer

Sakizuke is the first course in kaiseki and is an appetizer. The two most prominent features this serving is the sakaki leaf and the cow on the lid of the ceramic serving tray. Shinto gods are believed to dwell in the sakaki tree and here it’s leaves are used to invite god to dinner as well. 2009 is the year of the cow, therefore a cow appears. The chopsticks are special too, both ends are tapered, the tapered end is used for eating. Symbolically the meal is shared with god.

The sakizuke course contains a few bites of 5 dishes that appeared in osechi ryori; including baby carp simmered in sweetened shoyu with ginger, kuruma-ebi (shrimp), hirame kombumaki (flounder with ginger rolled in kelp), and black bean with tsukushi bud.

Sakizuke: Appetizer
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Sakizuke: Appetizer
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Sakizuke: Appetizer – detail
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Sakizuke: Budo Mame, Literally Grape Beans
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Shiru Mono Course: Hamaguri Shinjo

Shiru-mono is a soup course. Here shinjo, also known as kamaboko-like fish paste is made with hamaguri clams, this is the white block that is garnished with kinome sansho leaves and gold leaf. The sea vegetable in the broth is called shinbaso, literally god horse grass, the origin of the name is interesting. A Japanese historic figure Minamotono Yoshitsune had to travel a long distance and his horse was exhausted. When he stopped to rest, locals fed his horse this sea vegetable and his horse made a quick recovery. Neither Miwa nor I had heard of this sea vegetable and it is quite expensive.

Shiru Mono: Hamaguri Shinjo
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Shiru Mono: Hamaguri Shinjo – detail
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Mukozuke Course: Tai and Ika Sashimi

This course is completely over the top. A whole tai, red snapper is served in a green bamboo hoekago (a portable shrine for the god of business called Ebisu) basket with a pine bough and budding plum branch for a roof. Pine is a very majestic and auspicious symbol in Japanese culture and plums blossom just after oshogatsu, the coming of spring. Ika, squid sashimi is included along with a simmered baby daikon radish and extremely rare black mushroom. The dipping sauce, momiji-oroshi, is shoyu with grated daikon and a tiny bit of chili pepper and a generous squeeze of the Japanese orange called daidai. Kichisen’s momiji-orishi dipping sauce is sublime!

Hoekago Tai and Ika Sashimi with Daidai Orange Dipping Sauce
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Hoekago Tai and Ika Sashimi with Daidai Orange Dipping Sauce
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Hoekago Tai and Ika Sashimi – detail
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理
Notice the baby daikon and the black mushroom (triangle).

Hoekago Tai and Ika Sashimi with Daidai Orange Dipping Sauce – detail
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理
Kichisen’s momiji-oroshi with daidai orange juice is sublime.

Hoekago Tai and Ika Sashimi Served
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Gohan Course: Sekihan with Kachiguri

Sekihan, or ‘red rice’ is mochi rice cooked with azuki beans and served on celebratory occasions in Japan. Kichisen adds dried chestnuts, kachiguri. Kachiguri literally means ‘victory chestnut’, they were eaten by samurai before battle. The azuki must be extra special, I have never seen sekihan rice so deeply colored before. The color of the cooked rice comes from the azuki beans.

The ceramic container is in the shape of kohaku mochi, literally red and white mochi that is eaten at New Year’s, weddings, birth of a child and so on. The golden Chinese character on the top of the cover is kotobuki 壽, meaning congratulations.

Gohan: Sekihan Mochi Rice with Kachiguri
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Gohan: Sekihan Mochi Rice with Kachiguri
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Gohan: Sekihan Mochi Rice with Kachiguri – detail
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Gohan: Sekihan Mochi Rice with Kachiguri – detail
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理
The rice is really colored by the azuki!

Gohan: Sekihan – Kyoto-style Decoration
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理
This is really ‘Kyoto’, the most extravagant part of this piece, the golden leafed area, is inside the cover. Many diners would miss this entirely. This is common in Kyoto architecture and kimono as well, the most luxuiriant part, the most expensive material is hidden, or at least difficult to find.

Gohan: Sekihan Mochi Rice with Kachiguri Served
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Secchu no Kani: Crab Amid the Snow

This dish is way, way, way over the top. The scene is a winter mountain snowscape; crab leg trees in the snow and bamboo grass covered in snow made of shaved ice. The dipping sauce is kani miso, which is crab internals and vinegar.

Oshogatsu Ryori: Secchu-no-kani (Crab and Bamboo Amid the Snow)
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Oshogatsu Ryori: Secchu-no-kani (Crab and Bamboo Amid the Snow)
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Oshogatsu Ryori: Secchu-no-kani (Crab and Bamboo Amid the Snow)
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Oshogatsu Ryori: Secchu-no-kani (Crab and Bamboo Amid the Snow)
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Oshogatsu Ryori: Secchu-no-kani (Crab and Bamboo Amid the Snow)
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理
Those snow covered bamboo leaves are exactly like I have seen them in the mountains. Amazing!

Shogatsu New Year’s Decoration and Ikebana Flower Arrangements

The prominence of food in Japanese culture, even in decoration is astounding, here are a few examples from Kichisen.

Oshogatsu New Year’s Decoration: Genkan Entry
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Oshogatsu New Year’s Decoration: Genkan Entry – Kagami Mochi
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理
Orange, dried persimmons, mochi, dried kelp, fern leaves and a lobster make up this kagami mochi offering in the entry.

Oshogatsu New Year’s Decoration: Dining Room
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理
Food stuffs make up a central element of this decoration: heads of rice and a huge sheet of dried kelp. The colored string-like elements are flax which traditionally was used to make linen in Japan.

Oshogatsu New Year’s Decoration: Dining Room – detail
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理

Oshogatsu New Year’s Decoration: Dining Room Flower Arrangement
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理
Shogatsu ikebana flower arrangement in the tokonoma alcove of a dining room.

Oshogatsu New Year’s Decoration: Tea Ceremony Room Flower Arrangement
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理
This intimate room is for the tea ceremony, kaiseki is born out of the tea ceremony. This tokonoma arrangement is in green bamboo with willow branches and a camellia flower. I have never seen an aesthetic like this outside of Japan.

Oshogatsu New Year’s Decoration: Tokonoma Alcove Flower Arrangement
Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year O-Shogatsu Kaiseki Ryori 京都吉泉 お正月懐石料理
Another bamboo, willow and camellia arrangement in a dining room tokonoma alcove.

5 Responses to “Kichisen Kaiseki: Japanese New Year Shogatsu Ryori”

  1. Mora says:

    Good thing I was sitting down when I viewed these photos. It blew me away. My favorite is the snow crab and bamboo in the field of shaved ice snow. Now I know what those small blocks of clear ice were for. You told me my patience would be rewarded and it was. One question: how much does this oshogatsu kaiseki ryori cost per person?

  2. “Over the top” seems to be an understatement in this case. Are the delivered boxes presented in the same way?

  3. Peko-P says:

    Hello Mora, Yes, that is what the ice was for. Kichisen uses ice made by a specialty ice maker (the dude at the wholesale market) and shaves it the old fashioned way on a mechanical ice shaver. A lot of restaurants use an ice maker, but it ends up being slushy. As for the price, it is about $120 for lunch and about $200 for dinner. That is about average in Kyoto for kaiseki. Considering the quality of Kichisen, at that price I think that it is one of the more reasonable kaiseki ‘deals’ in town. They also have more expensive dinner courses available and you can order something special, fugu, wagyu/sukiyaki, etc if you like.

    Hi Marc, Right. The delivered boxes? Of osechi? If so, they just put the white lacquered box in a special cardboard box and ship it. What you see in the photos on the osechi post is what you get.

  4. kat says:

    what a beautiful meal!

  5. […] Decoration: Kagami Mochi Do you remember this offering from this article? Today is the last day of O-shogatsu and the kagami mochi in the shogatsu offerings is broken apart […]

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