You’ve heard of Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine and its magnificent one thousand vermillion gates, but Fushimi Ward has quite a few more hidden gems. Located in the south of Kyoto, Fushimi Ward has long played an important role as a transportation hub, connecting Kyoto and Osaka by river. Due to its abundant underground reserves of clear, high-quality water, Fushimi has also blossomed into a center for sake (Japanese rice wine) production, a tradition that continues to this day with more than 20 active breweries.
Fushimi’s mineral-rich natural water is what makes the area’s sake well-balanced, smooth, and perfect for pairing with food. Many breweries offer sake tasting to the public, too—it’s a great opportunity to sample, and appreciate the subtleties of Fushimi sake! (Be advised, though: in Japan the legal drinking age is 20!)
If you’re unsure of where to start with Fushimi’s sake, why not head out with a local? Take a trip to the Kizakura Fushimigura brewery with a Kyoto guide, for a taste of some premium, locally-made sake with light Kyoto delicacies, and a tour strolling around this unique neighborhood.
In addition to sampling some of Fushimi’s sake, there’s no better way to take in the landscape and historical scenery of the area than the 50 minute Jikkoku-bune Cruise. Once onboard the vessel, you’ll meander down the river past traditional covered boats, and the signature wood and plaster walls of numerous sake breweries. The ride is made more beautiful throughout the seasons, too, by the many willow trees and other seasonal flora that line the river’s banks.
Boats will run every day during April, May, October, and November, but during June, July, and September, boat service will be suspended on Monday each week (Service will run as usual when Monday is a national holiday). During August, boat service will run only from the 11th to the 16th.
Boat Course: From the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum to Fushimi Port Park, for a round trip of around 55 minutes.
Nearest Station:Keihan Line Chushojima Station
Price: 1,200 yen (Middle School Students and above), 600 yen (Elementary School Students and under)
When you head out on the Jikkoku-bune Cruise, you might also like to get a glimpse of an authentic Kyoto neighborhood area with some window shopping. The nearby Fushimi Otesuji Shopping Street is a great place to do this, where you can shop for a snack or for many other sorts of everyday goods.
Grab a bite to eat in a historic building
Strolling around Fushimi may work up a bit of an appetite. When that happens, consider heading over to “Sancho, the Salad Shop.” Though Sancho is a restaurant today, the building in which it operates was once a sake brewery. The ceiling is unusually tall, and the warm wood-paneling makes for a relaxing dining spot. The menu features filling dishes like hamburger and teriyaki steaks.
Address: 573 Uoya-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto City
Phone Number: +81-75-622-2154
Hours: 11:30 - 21:00 (Last order)
Closed: Wednesdays, Closed for two days in a row once a month
Visit an unusual Fushimi figure
On a visit to Kyoto, you may notice tiny stone statues throughout the city. These small, monk-like statues are known as jizo, and are believed to be the guardians of children. Traditionally, they were placed near neighborhood gates and on streets to protect the community, and especially its children from fire and disease. Prayers were offered to the jizo, and their worship culminated in Jizo-Bon, an annual community festival.
The festival has been designated an “Intangible Kyoto Tradition” by the City of Kyoto, and today all visitors to Kyoto can join in the festivities each year in late August, one week after the annual Obon Festival, which celebrates the brief return of the spirits of the departed.
Fushimi is also home to some jizo of its own, including one unusual figure at Saigan-ji Temple, known as the Abura-kake Jizo (or “Oil-Washed Jizo”).
It’s said that long ago, an oil merchant once tripped in front of the temple gate here, overturning his bucket of oil, which in those days was considered extremely precious. Unable to do anything else, the oil merchant is said to have poured the remainder of the oil in his bucket over the jizo statue as an act of prayer. After this event, so the story goes, the oil merchant’s sales flourished, and so began the unusual practice of washing this jizo in oil. Head by Saigan-ji Temple to see if you can find it on your visit!
Mori Keishin, the chief Buddhist priest at Saigan-ji Temple, says that, “If you come to pray at the temple with a pure heart, no matter how you come to visit, the visit will be a worthwhile one.”
The valuable Abura-kake Jizo is available for worship only on Fridays from 13:00 to 15:00 and a fee of 200 yen per person is required to enter the building in which the jizo is housed.
Saigan-ji Temple is also known as a temple that was visited by Matsuo Basho, one of Japan’s most famous poets. Some 300 years ago, in the days when Japan was ruled by samurai, Basho traveled around Japan on foot, producing many poems that extolled the beauty of Japan’s natural beauty.
Because the temple is a religious place, please be respectful and stay quiet when you make your visit, and also be aware that there are some areas that visitors are not allowed to enter.
Saigan-ji Temple Location:Click here to see on Google Maps
Fushimi is a part of Kyoto with much its own history and traditions to explore, and well worth a visit.
There’s a reason people say you can touch on something essentially Japanese when you come to Kyoto: the city as a whole could be called a history museum. Come discover what lies in its hidden pockets!
You can also experience the city with a guided tour from a local. See details here (See “featured experiences”).