Seiryoji Temple x Tofu

Irresistible texture of the smooth tofu

Text: Wakako Sato / Photo: Naoki Matsuda

Seiryoji Temple is famous for its Saga Shakado, a wooden standing statue of Shaka. You can visit by going straight north from Togetsukyo Bridge in Arashiyama. Monk Chonen built this temple in 987, after returning from China. After his death, his follower, Seisan placed the statue of Shaka at Sekaiji Temple, which was the former temple of Seiryoji. This Shaka statue is rare for having cloth organs inside, therefor being called 'shojin nyorai' (the real body).

A huge Niomon gate will welcome the visitors first. This was rebuilt with a fusion of Wayo and Zenshuyo architecture style in the Edo period. Pair of red Kongo Rikishi statue, with 'agyo' and 'ungyo' expression, stands at the lower level. 

There is a karesansui garden in the front. This stone garden was created by a famous tea master Masakazu Kobori. The fresh green season is good, but the red leaves in autumn is beautiful. It a great place to sit and gaze at the scenery.

Morika is a tofu shop that opens at the east of the Seiryoji gate. They are famous for Saga tofu. The tofu is made behind the shop and people often line up to get them fresh. They could even get sold out before noon.

Morika started business around 1854-64. Now the 5th and 6th generation is keeping the business. Their tofu has the texture in between 'kinu (silky soft)' and 'momen (firm)'. Since they lacked in 'nigari (magnesium chloride)', an ingredient to harden the soy milk, they used 'sumashiko (calcium sulfate)'. According to the 6th generation Kunio Morii, this sumashiko brought out their smooth tofu texture.

'Back then, our tofu was considered too soft. People joked that our tofu can't be caught with any hashi'. But gradually, their reputation went up as a film shooting crew came and spread the unique tofu by word of mouth, as novelist Yasunari Kawabata wrote about it in his book 'Koto', and poet Isamu Yoshii wrote about it in his poem. My grandfather had brought it to the Kyoto Station to sell it to the travelers waiting for it.

Even now that they have became so popular, they keep on making the tofu with the old style. Not only tofu, but fried tofu are all handmade. They even boil the soy beans with real fire and old fashion fireplace.

Kunio says that tofu making is such a fun. The tofu is different according to the soybeans and seasons. Different time is needed to steam them. Very simple by very demanding to make a tasty tofu. (Kunio is standing in the middle)

Morika also has a unique drawing for the package. This was drawn by a monk Shinden Inaba who they often sought for advise. Their signboard was also written by him.

Morika tofu is best with simply a touch of soy sauce, or to boil them. If you can't wait until you get home, you can also eat their tofu at Restaurant Chikusen inside Seiryoji Temple.

ADDRESS: 46 Sagashakado FUjinoki-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
PHONE: +81(0)75-861-0343
HOURS: 9:00-16:00
ENTRANCE: generally free
*Main hall 400 yen, set ticket (main hall, garden, Reihokan) 700 yen
WEB: (Japanese only)

ADDRESS: Inside Shakado Seiryuji, 46 Sagashakado FUjinoki-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
PHONE: +81(0)75-882-3074
HOURS:10:00-17:00 (LO 16:30)
           17:00-19:00 (LO 18:30) 
*Reservation needed for 10-40 people 
CLOSED: Thursday (April, October, and November is open every day)

ADDRESS: 42 Sagashakado FUjinoki-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 
PHONE: +81(0)75-872-3955
HOURS: 8:00-18:00 (for 8/16 & 12/31 shop will close once sold out)
CLOSED: Wednesday (irregularly on Tuesday) Open if Wednesday is public holiday but will close the following day