Gourmet Ehime

Oyaki: The Famed Treat from Temple No. 51 (Ishite-ji), A Traditional Flavor Unchanged Since Olden Times…

Ishite-ji Temple in Matsuyama city, Ehime prefecture is temple No.51 on the Shikoku pilgrimage trail. Used by Emperor Shomu in the Nara Era for imperial prayers, the historical temple was founded in dedication to Bhaisajyauguru, the healing buddha. As it’s located near Dogo Onsen, it has plenty of visitors all year round.

This year, 2016, is a once-in-every-60-year event where the Shikoku pilgrimage route changes direction! The pilgrimage route usually starts at temple No.1, but during the event year, pilgrims start at temple No.88 and work their way backwards. Although it is said that if on a leap year, which is once in every four years, you walk the route in the opposite direction, your wish will come true, this year is the thirty-third year of the sixty-year cycle, which makes it particularly auspicious.

Although Ishite-ji Temple’s original name was Anyo-ji, it is thought that its current name comes from dedicating it to the stone that Emonsaburo was squeezing in his hand when he was reborn. Click here for more on the Emonsaburo legend: https://setouchifinder.com/en/detail/330.

Though Emonsaburo walked the Shikoku pilgrimage 20 times
in order to meet Kukai, he didn’t see him. However, on his 21st attempt, when he was walking the pilgrimage in the opposite direction, he was finally able to see him.

According to legend, this year pilgrimages have three times more pious value than usual, so many people are currently taking the pilgrimage.

For those of you about to embark on the pilgrimage, this time we’d like to introduce the Ishite-ji Temple’s  famed sweet! You’ll certainly want to try it at least once while on the pilgrimage!

Gojuichiban Shokudo was founded in 1869, the second year of the Meiji Era. The shop’s fried glutinous rice cakes have been made using the same methods and therefore retain their original flavor. Also known as “oyaki”, the rice cakes are eaten for good luck by locals and others visiting the temple.

In olden times, many people in the area grew rice and give it as offerings to Ishite-ji Temple. It is believed that fried rice cake making started as a way to effectively use the rice given by the farmers.

One at a time, she wraps sweet red bean paste inside the soft dough. 

The seal of Ishite-ji Temple, temple No.51, is pressed on the  rice cakes before they are fried on the hot plate, which has been passed down through the generations.

These days, when it’s mostly mainstream sweets that are sold, these kinds of snacks made using methods dating back to olden times make you feel warm and nostalgic just looking at them. 

There are two different flavors: rice flour only, and Japanese mugwort. They go gentle on the body, too.

The air is filled with a sweet fragrance as the rice cakes start to brown. Tempted by the fragrance, your feet just stop!

The chewy texture is combined with the subtle sweetness of the red bean paste. It’s a gentle flavor that replenishes the tired body. You can eat a dozen without a second thought.

I sit down on a seat close to where the cakes are being fried, and take a moment. Together with the fried rice cake, I had some mildly sweet amazake (a sweet half-sake made from fermented rice).

It’s definitely not luxurious, but it’s a moment that eases the heart. 

Even now, the flavor that has been passed down for 140-years continues to replenish the hearts of people who visit the temple. They’re also nice souvenirs for family waiting at home as well as good friends. 

The pilgrimage is something you’ll want to embark upon at least once in this lifetime. When you do, be sure to try out the fried rice cakes at Ishite-ji Temple. 


Gojuban Shokudo

Location: 2-9-21 Ishite, Matsuyama city, Ehime prefecture
Tel: 089-977-3003
Business hours: 8:00-17:00
Closed: No regular holidays
Parking: Available
http://iyokannet.jp/front/spot/detail/place_id/2480/ (Japanese)
http://iyokannet.jp/english/spot/index.html#anc06  (Some info about Ishite-ji on the English site)

Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Maki Ohashi

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