As the ancient capital, Kyoto is known to be graceful and splendid. But the merchant and lower classes were thrifty, cleverly using the resources at hand. They treasured their belongings, using them regardless of wear and tear, until they were unusable. Today, Kyoto cuisine embodies this ethos--seasonal ingredients are never left to waste--and artisans diligently repair damaged craftwork. Core Kyoto discovers how the spirit of frugality permeates every aspect of modern life, from art to energy.
During festivals and special occasions, Kyotoites enjoy extravagances.
But daily life is underscored by a culture of economy, and prizing possessions.
Cracked lacquerware does not go in the trash.
It is most often repaired and handed down to the next generation.
At restaurants specializing in traditional Kyoto cuisine, vegetable peels, and meat and fish scraps do not go to waste.
Kyotoites are taught to take care of their possessions and use them to the last.
"Commonsense lifestyle tips" have been passed down by merchants and citizens over the centuries.
We are all excited when
we get something new.
I believe being frugal is
being ever grateful - for the sweat and tears that went into
making it, and cherishing it.
Used cooking oil is recycled into biofuel.
Even waste generated from creating artworks is reused.
The concepts of recycling, reusing, reforming, and repairing are ingrained in Kyoto life.
Core Kyoto unravels the ingenuity and wisdom behind Kyotoites' "spirit of frugality."
Traditional, Kyoto-homestyle side dishes and pickles evolved from a desire to be thrifty.
Residents of the landlocked city had difficulty procuring fresh seafood.
Marine products were dried and preserved for transportation to the ancient capital, and were a valuable source of protein.
Dried herring is oily and unpalatable when cooked, as is.
But when simmered with eggplant, which combines well with the fish's oil, it becomes a delicious side dish that leaves no waste.
Seasonal vegetables harvested in large volumes are pickled in various ways for a long shelf life.
This restaurant of Kyoto cuisine is located in the city's east.
They offer dishes to accompany alcoholic beverages and dinner courses made with locally grown, seasonal produce.
Their dishes are appealing to the eye and have a light taste that makes the most of the ingredients' flavors.
The restaurant throws very little away.
Proprietor Katafuchi Tomoko strives to devise ways to use food scraps instead of disposing of them.
I instruct the cooks and staff - to put all scraps considered inedible
and usually trashed in this box.
I encourage them to think of ways to
use them before throwing them out.
The kitchen's scrap box on this day holds daikon radish peel, the head of a daikon with the leaf stems attached, and pumpkin offcuts.
No matter what, vegetable scraps go into the box.
The meat from fish heads and bones used to make broth, and chicken bits are frozen.
The mark of a good chef is how these can be transformed into dishes to delight diners.
Daikon peel, for example, is suitable in simmered dishes for its texture.
Here, it is simmered with thin, deep-fried tofu and chicken skin.
Pumpkin scraps and the peel of daikon and cucumbers are thinly sliced to accompany sashimi.
It brightens up the presentation and serves to cleanse the palate.
We always think about how we can use
every part of each foodstuff in our cooking.
Customers pay for meals,
and deserve our best efforts.
And that is reflected in
the dishes we serve, so we emphasize the food's
taste and appearance.
Katafuchi takes the time to chat with her customers and gauge their reactions.
How is it?
What do you think it is?
It is daikon peel
and chicken breast skin.
So you mix them both?
This has cucumber
and pumpkin peel in it.
It looks appealing.
A cool appearance for summer.
I'm quite surprised.
It's so delicious
I think I'll try it at home.
Not everything that goes into the scrap box can be served to customers.
The cooks are thorough and experiment with the leftover scraps to make the staff meals.
The flavoring in this "onigiri" uses fine herring bones chopped in a blender.
Of course, at first I was surprised
at how much can be used.
It's interesting concocting
You can make really tasty flavorings,
and that's enjoyable.
Katafuchi's practice of devising ways to cut waste goes back to her parents.
Her father Ryuuzou ran a traditional inn and was strict on her from a young age.
As a kid he often told me to think of ways
to use things before I disposed of them.
It was inexcusable to especially waste
food on which humans need to live.
I brought my kids up the same way,
and I expect my grandkids will be, too.
The spirit of respecting food as a source of life runs deep in Kyoto cuisine.
Behind the age-old Kyoto proclivity for frugality was the merchant class.
This business, established in 1689, specializes in "fu," or wheat gluten - a source of protein and an integral part of vegetarian Buddhist and traditional Kyoto cuisine.
Tamaoki Mami, the daughter of the 11th generation proprietor, was also instilled with the importance of cherishing things by her parents.
Back in the day, Kyoto was not
rich in resources to make things.
Everything was brought in.
There wasn't any seafood.
So, I guess residents survived on ]
commodities from the outside.
"Tenugui" towels, for example,
are derived from plants.
So, we've taken the plants' lives
for our own purposes.
Therefore, I was taught to show
gratitude to everything we have.
The Tamaokis' spirit of frugality has its roots in 300-year-old teachings.
Our family has upheld the teachings of
philosopher Ishida Baigan for generations.
Based on his working experience at a merchant establishment, Ishida Baigan established a school of philosophy
that advocated thrift, diligence, honesty, and satisfaction as the merchant's way of life.
It's written here,
for example, that it's wasteful to throw away
even one grain of wheat.
Back then, only males
were educated, but he invited females and children
to also study together.
The subject wasn't difficult and it was
easy to understand within everyday life.
Tamaoki upholds the teachings in her home.
I'm a bit embarrassed,
but in little ways like this.
I take clothes that
we don't wear anymore - and cut them up to use as rags
to wipe down surfaces.
If I'm frying and I see
it's spattered around, I take one out and
wipe it up straight away.
The clothes are
no longer wearable, but they can be used as rags,
giving them a second life.
And I'm grateful that I could put
them to another use.
Tamaoki grew up with the concept of "mottainai," translated as "wasteful."
It expresses regret when something is discarded without having been used to its fullest potential.
The concept of "mottainai" is
gaining currency abroad.
The world is largely changing and moving
in the direction of sustainability.
I was like, "isn't this all just
a matter of course?"
Kyoto had an extensive merchant class that ensured Baigan's teachings were perpetuated.
Part of this frugality is the concept of using things for as long as possible.
And the local artisans assist Kyotoites in times of need.
This traditional lacquerware workshop was established in 1884.
Layers of lacquer are applied to wooden items to give them luster and durability.
Since lacquerware is water resistant, it too can be handed down to if it is cared for properly.
However, with constant use, the lacquerware may chip or break.
Strengthening and re-lacquering these items gives them a longer life.
Worn and cracked items are filled in and re-lacquered to return them to their former glory.
Ishikawa Ryou, the current owner, produces new lacquerware and is proactive in doing repairs on old items.
In the old days, people didn't think twice
about repairing their lacquerware.
Ishikawa's late father, Koji, ran the workshop during the advent of mass-consumption.
A large number of workshops had stopped accepting requests for repairs due to the effort required, so Koji took action.
He began accepting repairs via a dedicated repair division in 1996.
Ishikawa took over the business when his father died in 2015.
As long as the lacquerware is looked after
and used properly, it will last generations.
I've discovered this as I work.
We take the stance that if it is repairable,
bring it on in for appraisal.
When accepting repairs, Ishikawa has in-depth chats with the customers and jots down details, such as the item's sentimental value and how it is to be repaired.
Repairing is harder
than creating from scratch.
You need to listen
to the customers, or else you end up doing something
different to what they had envisioned.
That's where I put my emphasis.
The way Ishikawa repairs the item depends on if the customer wants it to look like new or to retain its "used look."
It is not a matter of simply repairing it; he infuses the customer's thoughts.
Otsuka Machiko used Ishikawa's repair service for a low table.
This is special.
On a family trip as a child, I fell
in love with this lacquered table.
I turned to my father
and said, "Isn't it pretty?"
One day soon after we returned home,
the table appeared.
I was beside myself.
The table Otsuka's father bought languished in the family home after his death, attracting mold and stains over the years.
When I saw it, I realized that the scratches
couldn't be buffed away as easily as I thought.
You also have the illustration,
so I decided to re-polish the entire surface.
I was moved to tears when I saw it repaired.
I was more than satisfied.
I intend to take good care of it and
keep it looking beautiful from now on.
Ishikawa works to keep heirlooms and memories alive.
A lady has come to pour liquid into a plastic container outside a coffee shop.
This is oil I used for tempura.
This collection point for used household cooking oil is part of an initiative which began in 1997.
The municipal government set up some 1,700 collection points and collects around 150 thousand liters of used edible oil annually.
Residents supervise the collection points, and the city collects the oil.
The waste oil is refined at a municipal facility and recycled into bio-diesel, which is used to power city buses and garbage trucks.
Similar initiatives are being taken in other parts of Japan too, but Kyoto City has the largest refining capacity by a municipality-owned facility in the country.
COP 3 was held here in Kyoto in 1997.
As the birthplace of the Kyoto Protocol,
we implement various environmental policies - to realize a sustainable, circular society.
Kyoto's major summer festival, Gion Matsuri, began over 1,100 years ago.
The city is working to make the festival green, based on the spirit of frugality.
During the Early Festival, stalls lining the streets in the evenings lift the mood.
Crowds flocked to Gion Matsuri in 2022, after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
The Early Festival has always been plagued with garbage issues.
The municipal government and a local foundation initiated the Gion Matsuri Zero Garbage Campaign in 2014.
"Omatase shimashita. Arigato gozaimasu."
The stalls serve food and drink in reusable containers, which are collected at an Eco-Station by volunteers.
It's a great help that the
containers cost us nothing.
And I think it's good that reusing them raises
the customers' environmental awareness.
Everyone makes an effort to
sort their garbage when they toss it, and there are very few people
People actually thank us,
so in that respect it's a great scheme.
Working with environmental issues, you realize
how deep-rooted the spirit of frugality is.
The spirit of frugality has spawned a unique initiative in the art world.
Three artists are heading to the university's garbage site.
They carefully assess what has actually been dumped.
They remove items which catch their eye.
A paint-spattered rubber belt and painted wooden panels - all are trash generated during the artmaking process.
These three form an art team called, Byproducts Market, started in 2017.
Yamada Tsuyoshi, a visiting researcher at the art university, created the team together with Yazu Yoshitaka, a fellow visiting researcher.
Adachi Natsuko joined the team in 2022.
They label their dumpster finds "byproducts" and put them back into circulation.
We provide others with the byproducts as is
or we rework them to sell as products, and we're involved in various projects
under the name of Byproducts Market.
The university's dump site
You find all sorts of materials and
fragments used in different methods.
There's so much we can't bear
to see thrown away.
We made it an overall project that
has social significance and is fun.
They also go to studios, always looking for ways to resourcefully utilize items that are destined for the dump.
They take the time to find out what the artists are working on and what materials they are using.
This artist is depicting blue spheres using spray paint.
The team has its eye on the canvases he used as trial runs.
- Do you need these?
- You sure?
There are things we take away
with us and things we don't.
These canvases are really good, because
they highlight the colors in his artworks.
To him, they're nothing of importance
and he'd probably throw them out.
We take everything into consideration and
take potential trash off the artists' hands.
Where possible, the team tries to leave the byproducts as they are, because the value of each item is ultimately judged by the buyer.
But if they see items that may garner little interest, they will rework them into something else.
Many customers use them as
display pieces for their attractiveness.
Others buy them as knickknacks.
The byproducts are sold mainly in shops and online, but the team also tries inventive ways of selling them.
Here, they installed a claw crane game in a hotel lobby.
The capsules hold small byproducts, and people do not know what is inside until they open them.
The aim of the game is to make people more aware of what byproducts are, while having fun.
We are interested in things we've never
seen before or never imagined possible.
Byproducts are not available anywhere,
on display, or on sale.
It's like a one-time encounter.
When we find something peculiar, we can't
resist the urge to share it with everyone.
The spirit of frugality is engendered by the affection Kyotoites' feel toward their possessions.
Within that lies a sense of gratitude toward the people who made them.