The fact about Kagizen is that it is cannot be conceived separating it with Gion. It is the Monzen district of Yasaka Shrine, the high class district of “Hanamachi”. From the Edo period, when people visit Gion, they pay their respect to Kiyomizu Temple, descend the Sannenzaka to Shimogawara, pray at the Yasaka Shrine on route, and then set out onto Shijo Street where they go to see theatrical performances or enjoy their time at the tea houses. With seven theatrical playhouses built in the early Edo period, the entire city was vibrantly colored with entertainment, to a point that religion, entertainment and the pursuit of pleasure became one and the same. However, by the start of Meiji period, the only theatrical playhouse that was left to survive was the Kitaza and Minamiza facing each other on Shijo Street, and by 1893, theater on the north-side disappeared and the vibrant colors of entertainment diminished significantly.
Further more, a quality that strongly represents Gion culture is “Shidashi” or catering services. The tea houses do not make any food and rely on the Shidashi shops for them, and sweets are ordered from confectionery shops. When the Kashiya (confectionery shop) is asked to prepare tea, a bowl with an assortment of Namagashi (soft sweets) is delivered, and starting with the tea bowl and tea, at times the full set of tea utensils are loaned out. Perhaps this was the reason why the confectionery box or Hokai was so dazzling in appearance.
The folk handicrafts that the 12th generation family head Zenzo enthusiastically adopted still is a source of inspiration in the shop to this day.
Among them, especially the confectionary desk made by Tatsuaki Kuroda has a strong dignified presence. At a time when Tatsuaki was no so well known, Zenzo was enchanted by his talent and was said to have placed all trust in him to design the entire interior of the store. The tea ceremony kit given to Zenzo by Kuroada still survives to this day, and we can perceive the close relationship these two men had. It is said that from their house in Kiyomizu, he and his wife would often drop by the store.
On the other hand, there was also a close relationship with the ceramic artist, Kanjiro Kawai.
Not only do the records tell us that Kawai had often ordered sweets from the shop, but there are large vases and numerous works by Kanjiro that still remain.
With these two figures at the axis, many men of culture of those days gathered at Kagizen, and in the evenings the store’s small attic and storefront was very crowded. And over time, the collection of ceramic pieces and furnishings by artisans and artists slowly accumulated. Though it is uncertain if these two men were ever at the store together, placed in the frame by Tatsuaki and hung on the wall of the store is a calligraphy work by Kanjiro written “Kuzukiri”.
Upon the re-opening of the store, its name was brush-painted by Saneatsu Mushanokoji who was visiting Kyoto at the time. Even to this very day, it is displayed in the store.
Since then, numerous writers and many poets have written about Kagizen and its confectioneries. Beginning with Tsutomu Minakami’s famous passage, ”I believe, Kuzkiri is the crown taste of Kyoto”, or Itsuko Okabe’s passage, “At the Gion festival long ago, the attractive women in procession each made themselves presentable, it was a `garden of excitement`”, encapsulates a women’s feelings to that of a “Higashi”(dried confectionery). Also, in the hands of the poet, Seisensui Ogiwara, the piece “Kanromon” is sublime in its representation of the confectionery store.
Of the many people that Tomoo (the predecessor in the family line) had met during his time, his relationship with Etsuro Suzuki was the very long. Suzuki is well known for his illustration work “Soleil”, “Himawari”, and is also a book illustrator. Naturally of Etsuro’s illustrations, being fond of his use of elegant and serene colors, many of his works have been used for the store’s packaging wrap design.
Kagizen is what it is now, owing to these marvelous artists and the support of their words and design.