Yoshino mountain area is quite an exciting place. It’s a small village, but there are so many places to explore.
Yoshino is the most famous place for Sakura – cherry blossom in Japan. I have already introduced about Yoshino mountain in the previous article.
Yoshino has been well-known as mountain religious activities and unique mountain practice for Shugendo.
Yoshino is the sacred place between Oomine mountain to Kumano Sanzan; then it’s the north side of Oominekakedo sacred practice path.
This is the previous article regarding general information about Yoshino Mountain include how to get there etc. ↓4 Reasons Why You Should Visit Yoshino in Nara than Kyoto!
For the First time, when I visited here was for my master’s study research; investigating Japanese religious and philosophical aspect of nature.
Then I just easily fall in love with Yoshino. Since then, I only visit Japan one a few years, but I am just trying to visit here again and again, rather than visiting my home town in Yokohama. Well, I just feel like very much connected to this little mountain village though.
However, historically, my mother side of family history can be something special connection to this place anyway, so I guess, it might be that too.
Anyhow, as I said, Yoshino is quite an interesting place and I just now introduce a shop which really surprised me.
Firstly, when my best friend and I were chatting with Yoshino-ya’s Okami-san (the Inn’s Mistress) about sightseeing. Then she suggested we should go there because it’s a quite unique place to be for many reasons.
(well, if you are interested in where we stayed, here is a review ↓）Yoshino-so Yukawaya: where you like to go back to just like your home
Nakai Shunpu-do’s Kudzu must be eaten within 10 minutes.
Unfortunately, that day was raining. We join the morning session at the Kinpusan-ji very early the morning, then we went back to the Yukawaya (inn) for the breakfast. Even after breakfast, it was still early so that we just lay down and relaxed for a bit.
We planned to go to Notendaijin temple the day, so well, it’s time to get moving. The raining wasn’t so hard, but we were extra careful to get down 450 stairs to get to the temple.
Well, I’ve alreday wrote about Notendaijin, you can visit from here ↓Nara Yoshino, Notendaijin: Tremendous Power Spot of God Above the Neck!
After we visited the temple, we climbed up 450 stairs again…. then it’s not an easy one, very steep!! However, remember? Yoshino is for mountain practice place!!
I hope Notendaiji could give some blessing that would be great!
Then we just noticed it was past 3 pm, well, after our good exercise we felt a bit hungry. We both agreed with visiting Yoshino kudzu cafe where we’ve been told by Okamisan at the Inn.
Then this is the place calls Kudzuya Nakai Shunpu-do.
When we got there and seated inside, there were only us. Then the waitress came and told us :
“At this cafe, we are taking order first then the chef is going to make it. All customers are going to watch while the chef is making kudzu.”
OK, we are going to watch kudzu making! And that what Okami-san was saying “unusual thing”…. interesting…
She said “Only you have to watch the beginning of making kudzu. Otherwise, you can’t eat them. But it’s very delicious. You should try it. “
Anyway, we ordered Kudzu-kiri and Kudzu mochi set menu. Then the waitress said when it’s ready to go, she came back to ready to go outside. However, it wasn’t so long to wait.
When we got outside, there was the owner of the cafe shop, Mr Nakai was just there to prepare for the demonstration.
What is Yoshino Kudzu?
I probably better to explain about “kudzu”.
I found a website that explains well about “kudzu” ;
Kudzu starch is made from the kudzu root (see image above), which grows wild in certain parts of Japan. Morino-san sources the root from Nara Prefecture, Wakayama Prefecture and southern Kyushu.
In the colder months, harvesters go into the mountains to dig up the roots. They then make a mash out of the roots, and it is this rough, dark mash that Morino-san receives at his factory.
Using only spring water and time, Morino-san gets to work purifying the kudzu starch. The process involves slowly (so as not to create heat) mixing the mash with the spring water and then waiting for two days for the starch to settle out. Morino-san then drains off the water, adds back clean water and starts the process up again.
In total he repeats this process 10 times over 3 weeks. After a final filtering, Morino-san removes most of the remaining water using a special drying machine and is left with a 2-3” thick layer of kuzu starch (see image below). After a bit more time in a drying room, the process is complete. What began as a dark, murky mash has been transformed into chunks of snow white starch.
Reference: Japanese Pantry: Morino Yoshino
When I was a child, my father used to make “kudzu-yu”, mixing with boiled water to thicken then add honey and ginger especially when I was sick. “Kudzu” has quite good nutrition and keeps your body warm.
“Kudzu” is used for thickening for soups and sauces, and also is an essential ingredient for traditional Japanese sweets.
Ok, let’s go back to Mr Nakai’s demonstration then.
Well, I really didn’t know very much about “kudzu” till Nakai-san explained. How much kudzu-root needed and how complicated process for that. Pure “kudzu” is just only getting such a small amount from big roots.
Current market, it’s quite common that it’s mixed with other starch ingredients such as corn starch or yum starch. I knew pure kudzu (it’s called “hon-kudzu” which is 100% kudzu root starch) is very expensive, now I totally understand why.
During his demonstration, he pointed out the plant which just grew crossed the road, that was kudzu plants. He says in Yoshino,
Kudzu grows wildly like that, you could see it everywhere.
Firstly, he was going to make “kudzu-mochi” which is a quite thick one just like mochi (sticky rice cake). He just mixed water and ‘kudzu” starch in the bowl, then started to heat up and stirred quickly.
Then the next one is “kudzu-kiri” for less thicken one, the only differences are the thickness of “kudzu” starch.
Soon, he put the cold water to then, kudzu-kiri had been done. The transparency was so beautiful, and I could tell that he was so in love with “kudzu” !
Finally, we could go back to inside the shop for freshly made “kudzu-kiri” and “kudzu-mochi”, what an interesting way to eat! I’d never eaten as fresh as one like these.
They were on simple white dishes and served with soy power and dark-sugar syrup. You could taste it was still warm and no food additives, totally organic Yoshino kudzu, just yummy!!
Then he told us to finish it within 10 minutes while it’s fresh, otherwise it loses tastes.
Well, we really enjoyed Nakai-san’s presentation and demonstration. Most of all, we could tell his passion and love for Yoshino kudzu. We just discussed that he obviously explain about “kudzu” for hundred of times or more, it’s so amazing not only cooking but demonstration for each customer like that.
And also we learned a lot about “kudzu” which we didn’t know much before too.
Haha then additionally, we saw very cute happening….
While we were listening and his demonstration, little girl, she must be Nakai-san’s daughter seemed to be like 6 or 7 years old, came back from school with school back on her back.
“Daddy!! Daddy!! I’m back from school!! I – AM – BACK!! “
Then Nakai san just said:
“Ok, go back inside!”
Well, that reminded me of my childhood, my parents owned a restaurant so that I used to watch them working all the time, then sometimes they let me stay around with them too.
I think I learned from just watching them work was regular as well as customer service was just like that. I believe it’s quite good for the kids who grew up in the environment watching parents work.
I also think that they would have good flexibility and social skills without any effort.
Anyhow, Nakai-san’s passion for “kudzu” is a higher level for sure, I highly recommend this cafe.
And remember, you must finish the “kudzu” dishes within 10 minutes!
Well, when I go back there again, do I have to listen to his story again??
吉野山蔵王堂前の中井春風堂です。最高級の本葛・葛本来の味をどうぞご賞味ください。葛の魅力を最大限に引き出し活かした葛切り、葛もち、葛菓子をご用意しております。吉野山へお越しの際には、ぜひお立ち寄りください。 奈良県吉野郡吉野町吉野山５４５ 電話0746-32-3043
READ MORE YOSHINO TRAVEL STORIES
I hope you enjoyed my story of Nakai shun-pu-do reviews. Hopefully, you found it useful and make you got there too! Here are a few more interesting articles about Yoshino that I recommend you read next:Yoshino Kimpusan-ji : Must Visit one of the Oldest Temples in Japan, Yoshino Nara 4 Reasons Why You Should Visit Yoshino in Nara than Kyoto! Yoshino-so Yukawaya: where you like to go back to just like your home