Jun. 02, 2017 UPDATE
The Sticky Rice Cakes the Japanese People Can’t Get Enough Of!
Part 1

Have Kyoto’s zoni soup!

Firstly, let us introduce “zoni”, a Japanese traditional cuisine. Zoni is broth soup seasoned with soy sauce or miso with rice cake called “mochi” and some ingredients. In Japan, it is often eaten on New Year’s Day, and has been classical food for a long time. “Zoni” is somehow special for us Japanese. You can get to know about the relationship between zoni and New Year’s Day and popular Kyoto’s zoni in this part. You are almost a mochi expert!
Why do you eat zoni on New Year’s Day?
Zoni has a long history, and that is believed to have originated in Heian period (897-1185). This shows how Japanese people feel a sense of familiarity from ancient times. Now look at why we generally have it at New Year.
In Japan, it is said that a God who brings year’s happiness comes to each home on New Year’s Day. To welcome the god, round mochi is offered. The mochi is called Kagami-mochi, eating it blesses you. Zoni is one of those dishes.
Also, this kind of important day is called “Hare-no-hi”, it means happy occasion. People eat special dishes on happy day, which tells you mochi was high-class food back then. This is how they started to have it with zoni soup.
As you can see this, “zoni” culture has been rooted in Japanese from past to present. Zoni is eaten everywhere in Japan, but each area has their own seasoning and cooking in slightly different way. You can see its character by shape, grill, broth, ingredient and how sweet or sour it is. All of them are original and tasty! Of course Kyoto has own zoni developed to its way. Now we are introducing it in detail.
Characteristics of Kyoto’s zoni!
White miso
White miso is used in kyoto’s zoni, and it tastes mild and a bit sweet. They put mochi without grilling. Boiled mochi goes well with thick miso soup. As it is sometimes offered to Gods, broth is made only from kelp, not dried bonito or sardines which smell fishy.
Kyoto’s zoni
Ingredients except mochi slightly differ at each home and restaurant, often taro, Kyoto’s carrot Kintoki and radish are in it. Sprinkle dried bonito on it and finish! Sometime restaurant puts sliced citrus skin. Kyoto’s zoni that is overall elegant is called Kyofu-zoni or shiromiso-zoni. That translates as Kyoto styled zoni and white miso zoni. Those are loved by the locals.
Kyoto styled zoni that is winter tradition for Kyoto people can be enjoyed at restaurants below. Basically restaurants offer it for a limited time of autumn and winter. Some do for 2 weeks only in January. However, if you are in Kyoto, must have it at least once!
A Kyoto cuisine restaurant, Shirukou, is located near the Kyoto Kawaramachi Station. For a limited time from December to March they serve white miso zoni, a soup containing mochi rice cakes. The Japanese citrus fruit yuzu and katsuobushi, dried, fermented and smoked tuna flakes can be tasted in this delicate, fragrant, and smooth soup. There are two mochi rice cakes in the soup so the soup is sure to leave you satisfied. You can also change the restaurant’s classic Rikyu Bento Box’s miso soup to this zoni soup, so please give zoni a try!
“Toraya” which is famous for traditional Japanese confectionery shop. The branch, “Kyoto ichijo-ji ten” shop, is near Kyoto imperial palace. It sells not only Japanese confectionery, but also zoni for a limited time. Thick and slightly sweet miso soup is unique. Two pieces of mochi and some vegetables fill the bowl. You can enjoy it from January 4 to 20 only, which is a bit short, but definitely a must-eat!
Ichijoji Nakatani
Ichijoji Nakatani
“Ichijoji-nakatani”, a Japanese confectionery shop, is in Ichijoji, Kyoto. From the end of September to the end of May, a special set menu can be enjoyed here. It comes with white miso zoni and home-cooked dishes. You can taste strong kelp broth in sweet white miso. Make a visit when you are in Ichijoji area!
This shop is located in Kyoto Takashimaya department store. They offer clear-soup zoni different from white miso. The soup tastes soft broth, and ingredients such as seaweed, taro, honewort and well-grilled big mochi are in it. Warm and not too strong soup will make both your stomach and heart full.
We’ve been introducing zoni in detail in this part. Have you found an interesting shop? Please try this traditional Japanese cuisine, zoni as if you become Japanese.

Zoni is just one among a lot of cuisines Japan boasts. We have plenty of ways to cook and they are served at Kyoto’s teahouse. We are introducing good mochi-made sweets you can have at teahouse in next part. If you cannot miss teahouse in Kyoto, try Japanese dessert with mochi!

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