Tradition, Reinvented

Tradition rules in Kyoto. As if anyone needs to be reminded of that. Buddhist monks basically run the town, not politicians. One would be wise not to cross them. A family has to have lived there for generations to be considered true Kyoto. Snobbery? No, that’s just the way it is. Kyoto possesses a definite mystique, even down to the local dialect. Okini can mean thank you as much as it could mean screw you very much.

Of course, traditions change. Population centers are subject to modernizing forces. Money often wins out. Witness the bright, new, modern Kyoto Station. Ancient temples have websites. The city naturally wants tourism revenue. Some things have to give. Others refuse to. Only time will tell if the latter can maintain relevance in the changing world.

Kyoto’s food traditions are among its most well known, and also perhaps the most impervious to outside pressures. When the Michelin Guide came rolling into town, as if to lay proprietary claim to assessment of taste and quality, a few of the more revered restaurants said, “Okini.” Guess which meaning they intended. They wanted the editors to spend time in Kyoto, appreciate the greater history and context in which the food is being served.

Not all of Kyoto’s Japanese restaurants are so observant of strict protocols, especially if they aren’t ‘locals’ in the Kyoto sense. O-men, which was only established in 1967, serves delicious seasonal varieties of udon (noodles) dishes, but offers guests something more, something different. Their noodles are of course homemade using 100% domestic wheat, and the seasonal vegetables and other ingredients are as fresh as can be. Recently, however, at the new Kodaiji location, master Shinagawa Kôta has been hosting pairing dinners of his dishes with selections of craft beer from Shizuoka’s Baird Beer or with exquisite sake. It’s hard to say whether gatekeepers of tradition gasp more at the fact that O-men has several branches (including New York!) or that they’re pairing traditional dishes with craft beer. But guests sure like the taste of the old and the new. Traditions, it seems, can be reinvented.





Share and Enjoy:     These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • Propeller
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis

Comments are closed.