YAMAMOTO Kahee and his achievements in “Yamamotoyama”
YAMAMOTO Kahee is an essential figure in the history of Japanese tea.
However, YAMAMOTO Kahee is not a single person. This is because the heads of the Yamamoto family have called themselves “Kahee” for generations.
In this article, I’m going to introduce the achievements of YAMAMOTO Kahee, the first, and the fourth, fifth, and sixth, among the successive family heads of the Yamamoto family.
YAMAMOTO Kahee, the First - The beginning of Yamamotoyama
YAMAMOTO Kahee, the first owner, moved from Kyoto to Edo and founded a shop named “Kagiya” in Nihonbashi in 1690, dealing in Japanese paper, tea and tea utensils.
This is the beginning of the ongoing “Yamamotoyama”. The stage family name of “Kagiya” subsequently changed to “Kamiya Kahee”, “Toryuken Kahee”, “Yamamotoya Kahee” and “Yamamotoya Kahee Shoten”.
Then, in 1941, the shop was renamed “Yamamotoyama” after a popular tea it was selling.
YAMAMOTO Kahee, the Fourth - The rise of Yamamotoyama and Nagatanien
In the era of YAMAMOTO Kahee, the fourth head of the company, the chance to make a breakthrough “Yamamotoyama” came.
NAGATANI Soen who developed the Green Sencha Method, visited Yamamotoyama to promote Sencha (steeped green tea).
After drinking the Sencha, which no other tea merchants were able to match YAMAMOTO Kahee, the fourth generation owner who drank it, was so surprised by its beautiful color and depth of taste that he decided to buy it immediately.
This Sencha was later named “Tenka-ichi (the best in the country)” and became a very popular product not only in Edo but throughout Japan.
There is an episode that Yamamotoyama thanked the Nagatani family for the huge profit he made by this and kept sending 25 ryo of koban (former Japanese oval gold coin) to the Nagatani family for about 130 years.
Then, Nagatanien was established by NAGATANI Yoshio, the 10th generation after NAGATANI Soen.
YAMAMOTO Kahee, the Fifth – The discovery of “Sayama Tea”
The fifth generation, YAMAMOTO Kahee, discovered “Sayama Tea” that was grown in what is now Saitama Prefecture.
In Sayama, where tea was originally produced, people began to make tea following the Sencha method, which was popular nationwide at that time.
YAMAMOTO Kahee the fifth recognized the good taste of the tea and repeatedly gave advice on how to make it and the result was “Sayama Tea”.
In 1819, they signed a sales contract and named it “Shimo no Hana (Frost Flower)”, “Yuki no Ume (Snow Plum)” and it became popular.
Sayama tea has become known as “Three major teas in Japan” along with “Shizuoka tea” and “Uji tea”. There is a Sayama tea picking song that is said ‘Shizuoka has the finest color, Uji is the finest fragrance, and the tea with the best taste is Sayama’.
YAMAMOTO Kahee, the Sixth - Creating the “Gyokuro”
It is said that YAMAMOTO Kahee, the sixth invented the production method of Gyokuro. At that time, every tea dealer was competing fiercely to differentiate Sencha, which was very popular.
YAMAMOTO Kahee, the sixth came up with the idea of roasting tea leaves like dew when he visited Uji (Kyoto), and this is said to be the reason for the birth of “Gyokuro”.
“Gyokuro” became popular with hatamoto and daimyo for its mild and elegant flavor.
By the way, there is another theory that the name comes from the unique taste of Gyokuro like the dew of the ball.
Furthermore, it is said that TSUJI Riemon (the founder of Tsujiri) perfected Gyokuro in its current stick form in the Meiji period.