Manners are everything.
The first thing you learn is how to greet people;
it is the foundation for adult etiquette.
Think back on grade school - if you didn’t greet your teacher, you’d hear it from your them.
Greeting etiquette is common sense, plain and simple. Despite that, somewhere along the way it stopped being so common.
The sweetmakers at Kagetsu began crafting high-class wagashi sweets, on a mission to bring back the “common sense” of old.
In the hands of a master, the dough rolls effortlessly, becoming round and beautiful.
It covers a core of red bean paste, then it’s molded by hand into a beautiful shape to finish.
Instinctively, I pop the sweet into my mouth, and just as I think about how cool the process is, I’m told it’s the result of decades of experience.
The craftsmanship and artistry of wagashi can’t be grasped just by looking at it.
When I actually tried making one for myself, I couldn’t make the dough round no matter how hard I tried.
The master stepped in to correct my rookie mistakes. Finally, we finish the sweet.
“Thank you very much,”
I can only offer my gratitude.
Techniques and crafts aren’t the only traditions that Nanao preserves.
It also preserves a sense of respect for your superiors.
Wagashi artisans hone their skills while keeping these manners in mind.
And now I turn my gaze to the five works of art lined up in front of me.
“Sweets Shop Kagetsu” was founded in 1829. Its current proprietress married into the business 50 years ago.
Since then, she has taught customers about the different seasonal wagashi and their flavors, how to brew matcha tea, as well as which tea bowls correspond to each of the four seasons.
The director of the 2010 television drama “Hanayome Noren” went to Ipponsugi Street, and the moment he laid eyes on Sweets Shop Kagetsu he decided to film on location there.
Cameras rolled, and the late Yoko Nogiwa entered the scene. Performing opposite of her was Kagetsu’s proprietress.
Cancer was already ravaging Ms. Nogiwa by that time. Nevertheless, she remembers the actress as an elegant woman who gave her all to the role without ever showing her suffering. She felt the utmost dignity with which Ms. Nogiwa carried herself.
It took half a day of filming at the store to complete just a few minutes of a shopping scene.
Sweets Shop Kagetsu decided to sell a wagashi named after the television drama, but Ms. Nogiwa had a suggestion of her own:
“While you’re at it, why not base the packaging on the noren you brought to your wedding?”
The proprietress remembers them as the last words Ms. Nogiwa ever spoke to her.
She implemented the actress’ suggestion, and wrapped the “Hanayome Noren” sweets in a lovely crêpe-patterned package. It was eye-catching even in a store full of beautiful goods.
It also carries the owner’s precious memories of Yoko Nogiwa.
A bride cannot see the noren as she crosses under due to the white kimono and silken headdress she’s wearing. Even after passing through, she has to keep moving.
It wasn’t until the noren exhibition that the proprietress could finally appreciate the beauty of her noren. And now, she can see it every day in the wagashi sweets she sells.
She hangs eight noren curtains throughout the store every year during the noren exhibitions.
And though she only has one son, she has seven grandchildren; four of which are girls. The day may come for them to receive the treasure that is a hanayome noren.