Meibutsu


Meibutsu (名物; lit.'famous thing') is a term most often applied to regional specialties (also known as meisan, 名産).

Meibutsu can also be applied to specialized areas of interest, such as chadō, where it refers to famous tea utensils, or Japanese swords, where it refers to specific named famous blades.

Definition


Narumi: Famous Arimatsu Tie-dyed Fabric
Station Minakuchi: Famous Pickled Gourd

Meibutsu could be classified into the following five categories:[1]

In the past it also included:

  • supernatural souvenirs and wonder-working panaceas, such as the bitter powders of Menoke that supposedly cured a large number of illnesses;
  • bizarre things that added a touch of the "exotic" to the aura of each location such as the fire-resistant salamanders of Hakone; and
  • the prostitutes, who made localities such as Shinagawa, Fujisawa, Akasaka, Yoshida and Goyu famous. In some cases these people may have encouraged visits to otherwise impoverished and remote localities, contributing to the local economy and the exchange between people of different backgrounds.[citation needed]

Several prints in various versions of the ukiyo-e series The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō depict meibutsu. These include Arimatsu shibori, a stenciled fabric sold at Narumi (station 41) and Kanpyō (sliced gourd), a product of Minakuchi (station 51), as well as a famous teahouse at Mariko (station 21) and a famous tateba (rest stop) selling a type of rice-cake called ubagamochi at Kusatsu (station 51).

Another category are special tea tools that were historic and precious items of Japanese tea ceremony.

Usage


Evelyn Adam gave the following account of meibutsu in her 1910 book, Behind the Shoji:

The strain of giving would really become unendurable to half the people in Japan were it not for what is known as the "meibutsu" or specialty of each town. This fills in gaps nicely; this provides the answer to vexed questions. "What shall I give to the kind person from whom I have received my twenty-fifth English lesson?" "A meibutsu." "And what shall I send my ailing father-in-law?" "A meibutsu" also, both to be brought back from the next place I happen to visit. The shops there are sure to make a reduction on quantity, well knowing that every person who goes off on a holiday is expected to return with "meibutsu" for everybody he knows, the idea being that a person who has enjoyed himself and had nothing particular to do should try to make up to those left behind in the place where they belong, engaged in the usual dull routine. Help to lift somebody out of the rut by bringing home to him or her some little novelty—that is the kindly spirit—and never mind what the trifle may be. Whether a metal pipe or a bamboo toy, it can be presented with perfect propriety to grandmother or infant grandson.

"Meibutsus" vary greatly of course. Some are sticky like the chestnut paste of Nikko, some are bulky and a source of perpetual anxiety like the fragile baskets of Arima, some are pretty like the Ikao cotton cloth dyed in the iron spring water, and some are useless and ugly and impossible to carry, like the fierce fishes of Kamakura—the fishes which blow themselves up into a globe when angry or excited and then remain blown up—as an eternal punishment I suppose—and get turned into lanterns. There are dozens of all varieties, useful and useless, dear and queer, sensible and silly, so that people with much-travelled acquaintances are soon in a fair way to start a museum. Or, to be accurate, they would be if they kept the things. But nobody does keep them all. The provident housekeeper constantly receiving "meibutsus," and constantly requiring things to send back in return, has invented a system to circumvent the expense. It is somewhat like double entry book-keeping. When the need for the return gift arises, she goes, like old Mother Hubbard, to her cupboard and looks over the parcels that have arrived lately. Distinctive things like blown-up fish may be out of the question, but there are sure to be some local or non-committal contributions. Doubtless there will be eggs hardly a month old yet, and cakes that only came week before last. Either of these will do nicely; therefore the lady wraps them up properly and passes them on. Nine times out of ten, she who receives them does the same; also her friend and her friend's friend, till those eggs or cakes are nearly as travelled as a war correspondent.[2]

Examples


Prefecture Traditional Crafts Agricultural Products Tokusanhin (Specialities)
 Aichi
 Akita
 Aomori
  • Kokeshi
  • Tsugaru tako, painted kite
  • Tsugaru-jamisen, shamisen
  • Tsugaru-nuri (津軽塗), lacquerware – Hirosaki
  • Tsugaru no hatobue, clay whistle shaped like a pigeon
  • Yawata uma, carved wooden horse
  • Apple pie
  • Bara yaki, grilled beef rib meat
  • Hittsumi, roux with chicken and vegetables - Nanbu, Aomori
  • Ichigo-ni,clear soup of thinly sliced sea urchin roe and abalone
  • Igamenchi, minced squid fritter
  • Jappa-jiru, fish gut and vegetable soup, usually cod or salmon
  • Kaiya or kayaki, scallop boiled with egg and miso in its own shell
  • Keiran, red bean soup with dumplings
  • Senbei jiro, senbei soup
 Chiba
 Ehime
 Fukui
 Fukuoka
  • Hitokushi gyoza, "one-bite gyoza"
  • Karashi mentaiko
  • Meika Hiyoko, chick-shaped baked buns stuffed with yellow bean jam
  • Mizutaki, chicken soup
  • Motsunabe
  • Tonkotsu ramen
 Fukushima
  • Fukushima beef
  • Peaches
 Gifu
 Gunma
  • Isobe senbei
  • Kamameshi
  • Himokawa udon, extremely wide udon
  • Miso pan
  • Mizusawa udon, udon in sesame sauce
  • Okkirikomi, hand cut noodles in a soy sauce and mirin broth
  • Tōge no kamameshi, mountain pass kettle rice
  • Torimeshi, chicken cooked in tea rice
  • Yakimanju, grilled manjū
 Hiroshima
 Hokkaido
 Hyōgo
 Ibaraki
 Ishikawa
  • Gori-karaage, deep fried gori
  • Gori-tsukudani, gori simmered in soy sauce, sometimes with walnuts
  • Hasumushi, steamed lotus root egg dish
  • Ishiru hotpot, hotpot cooked with fish sauce instead of soy sauce
  • Jibu-ni
  • Kaburazushi, turnip sushi
  • Kaisendon, seafood rice bowl
  • Kintsuba, red beans and agar wagashi
 Iwate
 Kagawa
 Kagoshima
 Kanagawa
 Kōchi
 Kumamoto
  • Dagojiru
  • Fuga-maki, bean paste wrapped in nori
  • Hitomoji guruguru, boiled green onion with mustard sauce
  • Ikinari dango
  • Jindaiko
  • Karashi renkon, mustard stuffed lotus root
  • Kumamoto ramen
  • Takamori dengaku
 Kyoto
 Mie
 Miyagi
  • Tsutsumi ningyo, clay doll
  • Kinoshita-goma, carved wooden horse
  • Kokeshi
 Miyazaki
  • Aoshima senbei
  • Cheese manjū
  • Chicken namban
  • Gobochi, gobo chips
  • Hiyajiru, cold miso soup with cucumber
  • Karukan
  • Miyazaki no sumibiyaki, chicken grilled over charcoal
  • Nanjakorya Daifuku, lit. "What is this?" daifuku stuffed with a strawberry, chestnut paste, cream cheese, and red bean paste
  • Sumibiyaki, charcoal-grilled chicken
 Nagano
 Nagasaki
 Nara
  • Asuka-nabe, hot pot of chicken and vegetables cooked in milk
  • Chagayu, kayu cooked in tea
  • Kakinoha-zushi, salted mackerel sushi wrapped in persimmon leaf
  • Kasuzuke, especially narazuke, aged pickles flavored with mirin
  • Kuzumochi
  • Manjū
  • Miwa sōmen
  • Nyumen, somen noodles in a hot broth
 Niigata
 Ōita
 Okayama
 Okinawa
 Osaka
 Saga
  • Dagojiru, chicken and noodle soup
  • Kakinoha-zushi, trout sushi wrapped in a persimmon leaf
  • Kuri okowa, sticky rice with chestnuts
  • Mutsugoro no Kabayaki, grilled mudskipper
  • Ogi yōkan
  • Saganishiki, a steamed chestnut cake named after the brocade
  • Sicilian rice, combination of rice, salad, and meat
 Saitama
 Shiga
 Shimane
 Shizuoka
 Tochigi
 Tokushima
  • Iya soba, soba in iriko broth
  • Sobagome zosui, buckwheat porridge
  • Tarai udon, udon that is dipped in a sauce and then eaten
  • Tokushima ramen
 Tokyo
  • Edo bekkō, tortoiseshell accessories
  • Edo kiriko (江戸切子), cut glass
  • Imado doll
  • Inu-hariko and zaru-kaburi inu, papier-mâché dogs
 Tottori
  • Gyūkotsu ramen, beef broth ramen
  • Horu soba
  • Kaniju, crab soup
  • Oyama okowa, steamed glutenous rice with vegetables
  • Tofu chikuwa
 Toyama
  • Takaoka Doki (高岡銅器), copperware – Takaoka
 Wakayama
  • Kīshū bina, lacquered doll
  • Kīshū lacquerware
  • Shuro tawashi
  • Yatagarasu Daruma, three-legged crow doll
 Yamagata
  • Imoni
  • Karakara senbei, folded triangular sweet rice cracker with a toy inside
  • Koi no umani (鯉の甘煮), carp simmered in salty-sweet soy sauce
  • Niku soba, cold soba with chicken
  • Yamagata dashi (山形だし), chopped salsa-like condiment containing eggplant, cucumber, okra, myoga and shiso often served as a topping for cold tofu or somen
 Yamaguchi
 Yamanashi

In media


Meibutsu are key to the promotion of tourism within Japan and are frequently depicted in media since the Edo era.

Ukiyo-e

Manga & Anime

Television

See also


References


  1. According to a paper by Laura Nenzi cited by Jilly Traganou in The Tokaido Road: Traveling and Representation in Edo and Meiji Japan (Routledge, 2004), (72)
  2. Evelyn Adam, Behind the Shoji (London: Methuen, 1910), 185–187.