FUKA is one of the most distinguished names in the Kyoto culinary pantheon, having been the supplier of this revered food to the Kyoto Imperial Palace for hundreds of years. Its documented date of establishment was lost to the fires that accompanied the national upheaval of the late Edo era. But the oldest extant court records, which date from the Keiou Nenkan period (1865-1868), indicate that FUKA had been renowned for at least the preceding century and a half. It is a family-owned shop, and FU-KA’s current owner is the seventh generation to have held the reins since then.
From its humble beginning as an ingredient in Shojin Ryori – the diet of Buddhist monks – to a staple of sophisticated kaiseki style, FUKA has continuously redefined the multifaceted look and flavor of NAMAFU in Japan. The shop not only supplies the rarefied realms of temple dining and tea ceremonies, but every morning delivers freshly-made NAMAFU to Kyoto’s ryotei. Over the decades this has given birth to invention, adventure, and whimsy in the use and presentation of NAMAFU, and indeed most of what FUKA produces is enjoyed in these top-flight establishments.
A deep and intimate knowledge of the characteristics of NAMAFU, compounded by generation after generation of making it, has endowed FUKA’s contemporary artisans with a vast vocabulary of techniques for creating unforgettable looks and tastes. Among them, cherry blossoms, autumn leaves in a riotous flurry of colors, and shapes that symbolize good fortune and blessings, such as evergreen and bamboo trees. NAMAFU is an ensemble player on the stage of Kyoto cuisine, in which seasonality holds a place of paramount importance.
FUKA was also the originator of the NAMAFU manju, a delightful sweet that is flecked with blue-green aonori, offering a refreshing hint of the sea. The combination surrounds a smooth, house-made cream of sweetened red beans, and is wrapped in bamboo leaf. This Kyoto favorite is said to have been inspired by the emperor Meiji. The monarch known in the West for his embrace of the new also had a reputation for adoring NAMAFU.