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  • PAPERSKY #23 KYOTOPHOTOGRAPHY: KENTARO SHIBUYA

I ate Kyoto in Autumn, and it was sweet!

, 2007/10/25

Fall in Kyoto is stunning. With the city’s trees a tapestry of luxurious oranges, yellows and reds and the ancient temples all standing side by side you can easily feel the pulsing beat of time, past and future. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: summer in Kyoto is also very nice. If most people probably don’t believe me, it’s because the population has been told so many horror stories about Kyoto’s scorching summers that tourists tend to stay away, leaving the city completely open to those few brave souls that refuse to listen to all the nonsense. If heat is what you are looking to avoid, the place you don’t want to be in the summer is Tokyo. The capital’s combination of endless hectares of concrete, wind-blocking buildings, car exhaust, and air conditioners pumping cold air in and hot air out tends to make us Tokyoites melt like a stick of butter in the microwave.

Kyoto on the other hand, a city of supposedly deadly summers, has a beautiful river running through its center, frequent breezes from a Geisha’s fan, and plenty of mountains just a short bus ride away full of fresh, cool air. Perhaps the biggest draw, one that makes whatever heat there is totally worthwhile, is that there are so few tourists during the summer months that the city is yours, which means more Kyoto sweets just for you.

In this issue of PAPERSKY we tracked down over 20 makers of traditional Japanese sweets, or wagashi, that have been around for anywhere from three to 23 generations. Our goal was to capture the entire history and culture of Kyoto (home to twenty percent of Japan’s National Treasures) through candy. Of course, summing up America by way of a Snickers bar would probably leave you with nothing but heartburn, or a bad case of sugar rush, but fortunately wagashi can offer much, much more. The artisans that carry on this centuries-old craft tell us that making these sweets involves a spiritual and aesthetic immersion in the art of the five senses: appearance, taste, texture, scent, and sound. So open your mouth and take a bite of Kyoto.

PAPERSKY #23: KYOTO Wagashi Trip

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