Bonito Flake Shop Tenpaku
Located on the southeast end of the Shima peninsula, near the Daiozaki Observatory in the town of Nakiri, is the bonito flake shop Tenpaku.
Dried bonito flakes, an essential component of Japanese cooking, are used to make dashi broth, which brings out the umami of any ingredient, enhancing their flavor. Tenpaku’s bonito flakes are growing in popularity among chefs, foodies and food experts in Kyoto because of their clear broth, consistent quality and full bodied flavor. Reputed for its skilled craftsmanship, Tenpaku’s bonito flakes don’t use any salt or seasoning. In its heyday, there were nearly 200 bonito flake shops in the Nakiri district, all offering their dried bonito to Grand Ise Shrine. Today, only three remain.
Overcoming the hardships of war as well as the detrimental Ise Bay Typhoon in 1959, Tenpaku continues to produce high quality dried bonito flakes. The fourth-generation owner firmly guards Tenpaku’s history. Stepping into the century-old hut, visitors are greeted by the pleasant aroma of smoked fish.
The first step to making bonito flakes is to quickly boil fresh bonito fish, before laying them side by side on a timber tray and slowly smoking them in an oven. The trays are stacked five high and rotated often to prevent irregularities and ensure consistency. The fish are smoked for one hour, then cooled for one hour. This process is continued 15 times until the moisture content of the fish is reduced to 18 percent. This traditional technique, dating back to the middle of the Edo period in the 1700’s, is the main reason behind Tenpaku’s high quality.
The environment used to store the fish is equally important. After being smoked, the fish are rested in a special room to allow for the growth of mould. The conditions of this room are the result of many years of work, as the slightest change in the environment could cause the good bacteria to die.
At Tenpaku, you can taste dashi broth made with only bonito flakes and kombu kelp. As no additional ingredients are added, you can fully enjoy the deep, natural umami flavor of the original ingredients. You can also try shaving the smoked bonito fish and taste it to see how the flavor changes depending on the shaving technique.
April 30, 2016
2545-15 Daiochonakiri, Shima-shi, Mie-ken
*Reservations required for visits to the smoke hut (complete with guide)