Fushimi: Come to the Shrine, Stay for the Sake
These days, the name Fushimi has become almost synonymous with Fushimi Inari Taisha. One look at the iconic tunnels of vermillion torii gates and it’s easy to see why the shrine is the area’s most popular attraction. However, Fushimi is also home to one of the top sake-producing districts in Japan. Here’s our guide to this historic locale.
Fushimi’s sake district lies to the south of Fushimi Inari Taisha, in a quieter part of town where traditional wooden buildings line the streets and delicate willow trees line the adjacent riverbanks. The area’s location at the intersection of three main rivers—the Kamo, Katsura and Uji rivers, respectively—is the main reason why the sake produced here is so revered. The water that flows up from underground springs and on through the waterways is renowned for being particularly clean, soft and mellow, making it ideal for brewing.
Locals have really made the most of the purity of their water, and there are nearly 40 sake breweries in Fushimi. Many of these have on-site stores selling popular and exclusive products, museums where you can learn more about the brewing process, as well as free tasting sessions for sampling the finished product.
One of the best breweries to visit is the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum. They have a great self-guided tour, with plenty of interesting exhibits and good English-language provision. The nominal entrance fee of ¥300 includes a small bottle of sake, and the tour finishes with a tasting line-up of some of both their regular beverages and special seasonal ones.
On the other hand, if craft beer is more your style you should drop by Kizakura Kappa Country. As well as sake they brew a fantastic range of craft beer, which you can try in their lively restaurant or purchase from the shop after a look around their free museum. The matcha beer in particular is a unique way to enjoy a traditional Japanese ingredient.
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Who wants to ride a boat through the Fushimi Sake District? 🌸 The Fushimi Sake District (伏見) is a charming, traditional sake brewing district along the willow-lined Horikawa River in southern Kyoto. Revered for the clean, soft water that flows in abundance from the river's underground springs, the district is home to nearly 40 sake breweries. 🚣♀️ During the Edo period, there were flat-bottom, wooden boats piled along the river, moving goods to and from the castle town. Today, wooden boats can still be seen on the river, although these days they carry sightseeing cruise passengers rather than mercantile goods. Cruises depart from docks near the Gekkeikan Brewery and the Teradaya Inn. The cruises both go as far as the junction with the Uji River and runs for about 45 minutes. 📷: Feature photo by @kototea
It’s not all about the booze! For a leisurely tour of the area, and a closer look at its fabled water, try a jikkokubune river cruise. Several of the flat-bottomed canal boats that were once used to transport sake from the breweries have been repurposed for tourists, taking you on a one-hour cruise broken up by a museum stop.
Just next to the river, the charming Choken-ji Temple is also well worth a visit. Surrounded by red walls and gingko trees, it’s dedicated to Benzaiten, the goddess of art and knowledge. She is the only female deity within the seven lucky gods of Japanese mythology, and represents the virtue of joy.
The temple grounds are small but sweet. Those of you with a keen eye might spot a tiny figure of Mary, the mother of Jesus, hidden on one of the lanterns there. This is a relic from the Edo Period, when Christianity was banned and its followers had to find surreptitious ways to worship.
The nearest stations are Chushojima in the south of the district, and Fushimi-Momoyama in the north.
Direct trains run from Sanjo Station station to Chushojima on the Keihan Main Line. For Fushimi-Momoyama, take the Kintetsu-Kyoto line from Kyoto Station. Both journeys take around 15 minutes.
Whichever station you go to, you will have about a 5-10 minute walk to the sake district.