Manuscript on paper, entitled on paper label on upper cover “Chosen jin tochaku on kondate” [“Banquet Menus for Korean Delegations”]. BANQUETS FOR THE KOREAN DELEGATION TO JAPAN.
Manuscript on paper, entitled on paper label on upper cover “Chosen jin tochaku on kondate” [“Banquet Menus for Korean Delegations”].

The Summit of Japanese Cuisine

Manuscript on paper, entitled on paper label on upper cover “Chosen jin tochaku on kondate” [“Banquet Menus for Korean Delegations”].

36 folding leaves, of which four are blank. 8vo (240 x 170 mm.), orig. blue semi-stiff wrappers (wrappers somewhat worn), orig. label, heightened in gold, with manuscript title, new stitching. [Japan]: n.d.

During the Edo period, there were 12 Korean delegations to Japan, whose purposes were mostly to congratulate a new Tokugawa shogun. The missions, which normally included 300-500 Koreans, accompanied by roughly 1500 Japanese escorts, symbolized the amicable relationship between the two nations and, in the early years, served to legitimize the Tokugawa shogunate.

These delegations, which usually took nine or ten months round-trip, were enormously expensive undertakings for both countries. The Koreans brought many luxurious presents, both public and private gifts, and the Japanese, in turn, furnished equally lavish gifts, including large quantities of silver. Also, the receiving Japanese were obligated to fund a number of elaborate and costly banquets during the delegation’s travels on the mainland and in the capital city as well as provide accommodations throughout.

Our manuscript is concerned with one of the three final missions, which took place in 1748, 1764, and 1811 (this last mission was held on the island of Tsushima, located roughly halfway between Kyushu and the Korean mainland). All three of these missions experienced considerable cost-cutting. We suspect our manuscript is a record of the banquets for the final, 1811 mission, as there is a reference to a Russian translator (at this time, there was considerable tension between Japan and Russia because of the Russian desire to open trade with the island nation).

Our manuscript describes a series of banquets served during one of these three final missions. In spite of the newly instituted austerity, it is clear that the participants ate very well. For each of the 13 banquets, we are given the number of guests and their official positions, the number of dishes per tray, what foods were served, etc. Some of the banquets were limited to just a dozen or so guests, and others included more than 300 people.

The cuisine is very much in the tradition of the ritualistic preparation and serving of the food on a series of trays known as honzen ryori (“main tray cuisine”), which was the dominant banqueting style for the elite from the Muromachi period through the Edo period. Various seafoods (including luxury items like lobster, smoked fish roe, octopus, and preserved fish) are listed along with preparations of chickens, eggs, many kinds of vegetables (burdock, daikon radish, ginger, eggplant, wild wasabi, and many vegetables that are today quite obscure), cooked in various ways, pickles, mushrooms, fruits (persimmons, pears, yuzu), nuts, rice and other grains, and elaborate confections (including sweets of Portuguese origin, like pound cake or kasutera).

Fine copy, preserved in a chitsu.

Price: $7,500.00

Item ID: 7387