Mizuo, a historical village nurtured by the pure water source
Text: Kyoko Tanaka
Mizuo lies between mountains of Ukyo-ku and is known for a long history of yuzu producing. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruits. This land is believed to have been producing yuzu for around 700 years. Mizuo River has been carrying pure water from the Mount Atago, the highest mountain in Kyoto.
Mizuo is working on projects to attract people by featuring on yuzu, for example yuzu-bath, and local cuisine of chicken hotpot. Many places offer comfortable space welcoming visitors as if they are visiting relatives.
I visited the home of the chairman of Mizuo Hoshokai, a local community group, Kazuhiko Murakami (64). He had welcomed me with a homemade yuzu juice and yuzu-jam & crackers. After filling my mouth with yuzu flavors I was able to enjoy yuzu-bath. The refreshing yuzu aroma surrounded me as I opened the bathroom door. In Japan, yuzu-bath is usually for 'toji' (the shortest daylight day of the year) to cast away bad luck as well as to warm up the body to keep healthy. It was unusual for me to be enjoying yuzu-bath in the hot summer.
Still, the yuzu aroma had given me such a relaxing moment. Yuzu that are chopped in half is put in the white cloth bag and is soaked in the bath. Murakami explains that they use frozen yuzu stored from winter during the summer, and that it can be used without wasting any parts, the skin and the fresh. I felt the yuzu essence soaking into my body. The spring water was boiled for the bath, meaning that I had been enjoying the great gifts of their land.
Chicken sukiyaki hotpot awaited me after the bath. Their local chicken, spring onion, shiitake mushroom, chinese cabbage and grilled tofu was cooked with soy sauce and sugar. The ingredients had created such a delicious soup. This hotpot is served with yuzu-flavored grated radish and yuzu-kosho (paste made from chili peppers, yuzu peel and salt). I had been pampered until my body fully relaxed and stomach stuffed with great food.
I couldn't miss the chance to visit the spring water which Mizuo was famous for. As I went up to the upper stream of Mizuo River, I found a spot where a great amount of water was gushing out in the middle of the forest. I took a sip of the cool and sweet water. Next I headed to the tomb of Emperor Seiwa (850-880). He had fallen in love with this land and had chosen to reside here. The paths were full of yuzu tree and fruits. His tomb as simple yet elegant with refreshing breeze creating a cool atmosphere so different from the heating city.
Recently, Mizuo has been seeing new seasonal feature, boneset plant and groups of chestnut tiger butterfly. Boneset has been planted by the local people since few years, and they have light purple flower. This flower seems to attract the butterfly to this area.
Credit:Σ64, License:Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0, chestnut tiger butterfly
Chestnut tiger butterfly travels across the sea. They seem to favor the syrup of boneset flowers. Although the Mizuo community have grown old and have no children to enjoy all these bugs and flowers now, they are getting many visitors during September and October. Murakami seemed a bit lonely in recalling his memory that they used to fish and play in the river in their childhood.
I enjoyed my day in this village. The community may have altered yet the rich nature has not faded. This land must be protected by the pure water.
ADDRESS: 19 Sagamizu Ookano Kubo-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto (map)
Budgets: Chicken sukiyaki hotpot 5,300 yen, Mizutaki hotpot (unseasoned hotpot to enjoy the ingredients original flavors) 5,500 yen (both inclusive of yuzu-bath, local transportation and tax)
* minimum 4 people