I had the greatest honour to attend the Culinary Knife Ceremony, a traditional ritual at the beginning of the year to show our appreciation for food and to honour the gods. This ritual can be traced back to more than 1000 years where the Shijo Tsukasake family, part of the Japanese aristocracy, was first bestowed with the responsibility to ritualize the handling of knives and preparing of food.


This annual ceremony is held in different places every year, and this year it took place at Hiei Shrine in Akasaka. I was invited by an acquaintance who wanted to show me the origins of Japanese culinary culture, after hearing about what I was trying to do with my business. When he told me about it, I thought it was a casual ceremony, something akin to the mochi-tsuki (mochi-pounding). I knew something was amiss when I saw lots of people dressed formally in suits and dresses, as they arrived in luxurious cars, some with tinted glasses. It then dawned upon me that I was invited to a very special and exclusive ceremony and I regretted that I had underdressed for the occasion.


He brought me to the back of the shrine, where we were ushered into the inside of the shrine, which is usually out of bounds to normal visitors. It was when I was introduced to various people that I realized I was surrounded by the heads of Japanese culinary culture, Japanese ryokan hotels and other large associations. Apparently, they are the ones who set the trends and standards of Japanese cuisines and also prepare meals for the royal family.


When the time came, we were guided to the ceremony venue, which was inside the shrine, where we sat on chairs surrounding an elevated ground. The priests and several other personnel marched in and the whole ceremony began.



(The following description and explanation of the ceremony is taken from Japan Washoku Association)

“The Culinary Knife Ritual is conducted in a manner where the right hand holds the knife and the left hand holds a pair of metallic chopsticks to prepare the raw ingredient on a chopping board. The bare hands never come in contact with the food. While engaging in food preparation, the preparer should seek purification of the mind through detachment from the senses while praying for good crop. ”




After the whole ritual, we were invited for a traditional Japanese Kaiseki-styled lunch in a restaurant within the shrine. That was when the atmosphere became more casual and I started chatting with the other people sitting around my table. Needless to say, the food was fantastic. Not in the extravagant sense, but just simple and elegant.