Shimi-dofu (freeze-dried tofu), essential to Ogisai (a festival during which the Kurokawa Noh is performed)
The Kurokawa area boasts the Kurokawa Noh, a nationally designated significant intangible folk cultural asset that has been passed down since the Muromachi Period (1336-1573). The shimi-dofu served at the Ogisai, an annual festival held for two days on the 1st and the 2nd of February, is one of the indispensable foods in the festival. We visited Mrs. Mie Saito, who runs the farmhouse inn Gontaro in the Kurokawa area.
Tradition and History of the Kurokawa Noh
In the Kurokawa area, located in the eastern part of Tsuruoka City, the Kurokawa Noh is performed to the god of the Kasuga shrine during the Ogisai for two days annually from 1st February. This is a Shinto ritual Noh inherited by the local farmers for well over 500 years. Shrine parishioners from nearly 250 households are divided into kamiza (literally translated as upper seat) and shimoza (lower seat). The houses in which the patriarchs of the respective “seats” reside take charge of organizing the event each year. These two “seats” (called toya) welcome the Ogi of the shrine, which is an object capable of attracting spirits, and host an event serving sake and shojin ryori (vegetarian cuisine originally derived from the dietary restrictions of Buddhist monks). The kamiza and shimoza each set up a stage on which the Noh is performed. All works related to the festive event proceed with a commitment from two men and two women who are assigned by the toya. These men and women prepare the ingredients and the foods for the events including a tofu char-broiling.
A specialty in the Kurokawa area, this hard tofu is skewered and char-broiled, then frozen.
When eating shimi-dofu, there is a difference between kamiza and shimoza. In kamiza, the shimi-dofu is heated and is dipped in a sauce that contains Japanese pepper and walnuts among other ingredients. In shimoza, on the other hand, a hot soup flavored with sake and soy sauce with Japanese pepper is poured over a frozen shimi-dofu. In both kamiza and shimoza, boiled sliced burdocks garnish the shimi-dofu.