Gift shop, Higashiyama, Kyoto by Lazaro Lazo

a sense of history

All I need is
I can’t imagine
My destination
My intention

OMD, Souvenir

A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it – by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir. Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs.
Susan Sontag, On Photography

Pieces, bits and pieces
Add up through the years
I’ve collected a small fortune
In souvenirs

Jimmy Buffett, Souvenirs

falling sick on a journey
my dream goes wandering
over a field of dried grass

Matsuo Basho

We received some Japanese confectionery this week. A souvenir of a trip to Kyoto. Japanese people like to give souvenirs – omiyage – to friends and family after trips. Speciality food from the area they visited is very popular.

The confectionery was yatsuhashi. There are soft types and hard types. The soft type usually has a sweet filling like bean paste or sesame paste. The hard type is a little like Belgian speculoos cinnamon and ginger cookies.

The package said since 1689. Showing the date of a company or a shop has become fashionable. A coffee shop shows since 1977 on its sign. A microbrewery shows since 1996 on its beer labels. But hundreds of years old is very rare.

About the time that confectionery shop started business Louis XIV was the King of France. Isaac Newton was writing Philosophia Naturalis Mathematica. John Locke was writing An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. In Japan Matsuo Basho was writing the The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

Aikido, judo and karate are relatively modern. A few decades old. But the kenjutsu I do is more than 400 years old. You can feel the history. Generations and generations of budoka who went before you.

When I started aikido we often went out with our teacher to a Sapporo beer hall after practice. Sapporo Black Label beer shows since 1876. I think it’s the oldest beer in Japan. And it’s the best beer in the world.


music | background articles | food blogs

OMD, Souvenir


Jimmy Buffett, Souvenirs

Japan Times food blog
yatsuhashi recipe
Japanese sweets blog
history timelines
Tokugawa shogunate
Sapporo beer

photo: Gift shop, Higashiyama, Kyoto by Lazaro Lazo
Lazaro Lazo’s photostream:


This post is published simultaneously on the aikido site aikiweb

my columns on aikiweb[1]=Niall%20Matthews

I have an essay in a charity e-book put together by some writers and photographers to raise money for victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku on 11 March 2011. It costs $9.99.


© niall matthews 2012


  1. niall

    Thank you, Carina. Speculoos go great with coffee – yatsuhashi go great with Japanese tea. Even though they taste almost the same.

  2. Interesting post and interesting articles about Wagashi and rabbit manju and nice music, thanks Niall.
    We always have some german Speculoos in the office for Christmas as family or friends of coworkers bring them, I like them very much.
    When we went to the one week seminar of Christian Tissier in Wegimont, Liège in Belgium in 2006 the organizer took us with his car to visit the chocolate factory Galler since 1930, and everybody bought some confectionery to take home, I even bought a backpack to take them, because in the normal baggage they would get smashed.
    And here you have Drdla’s Souvenir by Vasa Prihoda also of 1930

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