Yusoku Cuisine (有職料理)
Yusoku cuisine is a type of taikyo ryori (dishes served at a grand banquet) which was developed through the social etiquette of nobles during the Heian period, and survived into the modern day as a cuisine in the style of the court nobles. However, what is called 'yusoku cuisine' today has been influenced by honzen ryori (a full-course dinner), and is different from what was made in the Heian period. Some definitions of this word include honzen ryori in yusoku cuisine.
Daikyo (or Oae) Ryori
A narrow wood strip excavated from Prince Nagaya's residence indicated that meals for visitors were already common among nobles in the Nara period, but details are unknown. The style of daikyo ryori which was developed seems to be 'shinsen' (food and wine offered to the gods) which appears in a section pertaining to the gods of heaven and earth in the 'Engi Shiki' (The Rule of the Engi Era), and we can still see traces of daikyo ryori in shinsen served at the Kasuga Taisha Shrine and 'hyakumi no onjiki' (food altarage) offered at Tanzan-jinja Shrine.
Furthermore, during the mid-Heian period, ranking among court nobles were fixed, such as ranks for Imperial families, Sekkan (Regent and Chancellor) families, and other court nobles, and 'daikyo' became a form of receiving guests. According to "Naigai Sho" (selection from inside and outside the country) and "Kojidan" (Tales About the Past), influenced by Chinese culture, all dishes placed on the table were called 'daiban' and there was an extensive menu including garnished foods introduced from foreign countries such as 'togashi' (Chinese cake), and which also required complicated table manners, and from today's point of view, it seems to have been a very stiff and formal style of eating. Moreover, cooking techniques such as the creation of stock was not developed yet, and each person seasoned his or her meal with salt and vinegar at the table; besides noble people tried to show their power by eating rare foods. They regarded vegetables as 'low-class foods' and did not eat them. In conclusion, such meals had low nutritional value, and they considered making comments on what they were eating as taboo under the influence of Buddhism. Daikyo' had at least two different kinds of style: 'Nigu no daikyo' (a grand banquet hosted by the Empress and Crown Prince) and 'Otodo no daikyo' (a grand banquet hosted by Minister).
Nigu no daikyo
Various Ministers attended this banquet after they had New Year's audiences with the Empress and Crown Prince. There is almost no record concerning the banquet, so its menu and style are unknown.
Otodo no daikyo
It was a style of meal served to the Imperial families such as the Imperial Prince when they visited the Minister's residence.
According to "Heihanki" (Diary of TAIRA no Nobunori) which was written in the late Heian period, FUJIWARA no Motozane held 'Otodo no daikyo' in 1156, following the example of Otodo no daikyo held by FUJIWARA no Tadamichi in 1116; he began making preparations nine days before the banquet, ordering small dining tables varnished with red lacquer, spreading white silk cloth over them like a tablecloth, and foods were arranged on lacquered tableware, which were specially ordered for the banquet as well as oshiki (a wooden placemat with raised edges).
Details of this banquet were written in "Collection of Miscellaneous Matters," which states that menus differed in accordance with attendants' social position; twenty-eight kinds of dishes to the Imperial family's guests of honor (described as 'venerable people'), twenty kinds of dished to the attending high nobles of Third Rank or higher, twelve kinds to the Shonagon (lesser councilor of state) class, and eight to the host, who was served the least. The menu included 'cooked rice,' seasonings, uncooked food, dried food, togashi (similar to the present doughnut), kigashi (fruits). Uncooked food did not include game meat, but seafood and fowl (such as pheasant), while dried foods included abalones, octopuses, and frogs, so game meat was not included either. Considering the fact that seasonings were arranged on different dishes, food did not have flavor and people seem to have seasoned the food to their likening as they dined. Seasonings differed according to the social position, and venerable people and court nobles were served four different seasonings, while the host was served only salt and vinegar. Chopsticks and spoons were used, although they declined in use after the Kamakura period, and all plates and bowls were almost same size and the order of foods was not clear, which was characteristic of this style.
The Origin of Yusoku Cuisine
When the Kamakura period came, real political power passed into the hands of warriors from court nobles, and it was difficult to maintain daikyo ryori. In the Muromachi period, warriors achieved a dominant position both economically and culturally, and warriors accepted the court nobles' culture, establishing a style of 'honzen ryori' as meals for entertainment, which was unique to the warriors. It is considered that while court nobles were taking the style of honzen ryori, the style of 'yusoku cuisine' was gradually formed as a unique ceremonial cuisine. In this process, things peculiar to China such as daiban (an oblong table for food) and togashi in the daikyo ryori seems to have been eliminated.
Changes in Yusoku Cuisine
In the early Edo period, when the ceremony for the Emperor Gomizunoo's visit was held at the Nijo-jo Castle by Iemitsu TOKUGAWA, the Ikama family was selected as cook from those from Kyoto, along with two cooks (the Takahashi family and the Osumi family) from the Imperial family's side and two more (the Hotta family and the Suzuki family) from the Tokugawa shogunate's side. Later the Ikama family became a cook for the Hachijonomiya family for generations due to their involvement in cooking for the ceremony. During the Meiji period, the Katsuranomiya family (descendants of the Hachijonomiya family) died out because there was no successor, therefore the Ikama family also retired and their cooking techniques were handed down in limited restaurants in Kyoto.
On TV, we can see that the manner in which food is arranged on a plate is very different from kaiseki cuisine (a set meal served on individual trays at a traditional Japanese dinner party) in the Imperial Palace or royal family's wedding ceremony, and the yusoku cuisine is considered different from what has been passed down through the Ikama family. However, French cuisine is always adopted in order to entertain foreign VIPs, so yusoku cuisine is only eaten for special ceremonies.
The following are the styles of menu for yusoku cuisine served at the Japanese restaurant, 'Mankamero' whose owner is Shigeyoshi KONISHI, the twenty-ninth head of the Ikama School.
Hatsuhasi (literally first chop sticks); equivalent to an 'appetizer' in kaiseki cuisine. Soe: equivalent to 'kozuke' (an hors d'oeuvre or appetizer) in the kaiseki cuisine.
Wan mono (a dish served in a bowl)
Otsukuri (sliced raw fish)
Shimadai (tea bowl)
Above all, the Ikama School has a special slicing method to make sashimi, which is called 'shikibocho.'
The cooker does not touch the fish at all, and slices it with only a knife and saibashi (long chopsticks for cooking).