Kinmata Ryokan's Treasured Tableware
During a recent visit, Haruji Ukai, owner and head chef of Kyoto's venerable Kinmata Ryokan and Restaurant shared with us his treasured tableware collection which was passed down over seven generations. While the inn's collection spans this time, Mr. Ukai explained that his grandfather had a good eye for ceramics and lacquer ware, and purchased many of the items used today. He was mainly responsible for expanding the inn's excellent collection of imari ware.

Kinmata sits along narrow Gokomachi-dori, just north of busy Shijo. It serves traditional Kyo-kaiseki to its overnight guests, as well as diners, who can sit in the restaurant or even in a private room at the inn (should space be available). Having dined at Kimata a few years back during early spring, I recalled the beautiful tableware, especially coveting its delicate imari, but every season brings a new set of dishes, both to taste and to gaze upon.

In fact, Japanese restaurants and inns need seasonal dishes in many shapes and sizes, and the more specific the motif, the more restricted its use. A dish depicting momiji (maple) leaves could not be used in winter or spring; only autumn. Luckily, blue and white nabeshima, sometsuke and multi-color imari can be safely used year-round.

The art of moritsuke is where the tableware comes alive, and the combination of food and vessel is another art form that takes many years to perfect. Luckily, chef Ukai has the deep roots, an expansive repetoire and an excellent array of instruments on hand to create music for the eyes and taste buds for many an admiring customer.

top or lacquer bowl with hydrangea motif imari with iris motif
The top of a lacquer bowl reveals splendid rendering of ajisai blooms. This is used during the flowering season in late May. A priceless imari plate with a splendidly painted iris motif. It is rare to find such quality today. This dish is especially appreciated in May.
Sakura wagashi on an imari kozara sashimi in a sometsuke imari bowl
Sakura wagashi served on a colorful imari kozara (small dish) An otsukuri (creative arrangement) of tai sashimi in an imari sometsuke bowl.

Visit the Kinmata slide show for more photos of food and tableware.

Haruji Ukai, inkeeper
Haruji Ukai is the seventh-generation innkeeper and head chef of Kinmata Ryokan.
Kinmata's courtyard garden
The courtyard garden at dusk.

Kinmata ryokan

407 Shijo-agaru. Gokomachi-dori, Nakagyo-ku,
Kyoto 604-8044
TEL: 075-221-1039 FAX: 075-231-7632