Iriyama Tofu Shop
When we visited Kyōto last year, we only had a couple days to explore this beautiful city—a place with tremendous culture and history. We knew we could only pick a few major places to go. So in our list, we only planned for visits to the Kou-An Glass Tea House, Ryōan-ji Rock Garden and to participate in a tea ceremony. My most memorable visit in Kyōto however, was to 入山豆腐 (Iriyama Tofu Shop).
I first learned of 入山豆腐 while researching for a packaging design project years ago. The owners Takashi Iriyama and his wife, Tomoko, are 10th generation tofu-makers whose ancestors made tofu for the imperial court. Inside the 120 year old building, Mr. and Mrs. Iriyama makes tofu in the traditional way using clay stoves and well-water.
入山豆腐 is tucked in a quiet residential area a few blocks from Nijō Castle. We took a couple wrong buses and wrong turns, but was finally able to find it and make the journey worthwhile. We met Takaszhi’s mom, Takeko, that day. She was very welcoming and invited us in to eat inside her shop. We tried their delicious 白豆腐 (Shiro-Tofu) and 豆乳 (Soya Milk).
While we were finishing the last sip of our soya milk and waited for the next bus to head back to the city centre, the experience got us reflecting about the purpose of our work and what we do everyday. For most of us, we dedicate the majority of our life to our work. To find joy in our work is something that often seems foreign in our Western world and perhaps much of the globe as well. There’s a line from a recent book I’ve been reading called Garden City by John Mark Comer. In it, he writes “we don’t work to live; we live to work”. This, according to Comer, is the original purpose of being human from the book of Genesis in the bible—that we were created to rule, to care for and make something of God’s world.
That purpose and joy in work is something I’m grateful to have and continue striving to learn and recognize.
To me, Mr. and Mrs. Iriyama get it. They are not only making tofu, but preserving and telling the story of their family and tofu making—soybean by soybean.
So on that mundane afternoon in Kyōto, Mrs. Iriyama served tofu for two visitors from Canada.
Photo credit: Vince Lo