August 14, 2009
by Miho Hattori
Have you ever eaten dango? Dango is a Japanese traditional dessert which consists of sticky-sweet dumplings made from rice cake powder (mochiko). The dumplings are usually served on wooden skewers holding between three and five dango apiece. Dango have been eaten for a long time and there are many different varieties. I will introduce you to dango shops which are near temples and shrines of the northern, southern, eastern and western areas of Kyoto. Why don’t you try dango after looking around temples and shrines?
North: Kamo Mitarashi Chaya
There are many famous temples and shrines in the northern area, for example the Kamigamo and Shimogamo shrines. The sweets shop called Kamo Mitarashi Chaya, which is located near Shimogamo Shrine, has been open since 1922. This shop is very famous for being the birthplace of mitarashi dango, so many people come here from all over the country. The shop’s dango are strangely shaped. That is, one of the five pieces is a little separate, symbolizing the head, because according to legend, mitarashi dango express the shape of the human body.
The shop’s owner is a very friendly woman. She is very particular about the water and rice powder she uses, as well as the sauce, which is mildly sweetened with brown sugar. When you come to Kyoto, she says, please try her mitarashi dango. “Even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, we can serve you mitarashi dango using soy sauce.” You can buy and eat a one-person serving of 3 skewers of dango for 400 yen, and you can also get take-out from 525 yen for 5 skewers of dango.
Access: About 5 minutes walk from Shimogamo Jinja-mae bus stop (Kyoto municipal bus number 205, on the route that goes to Kitaoji Bus Terminal via Shijo-Kawaramachi〉.
Address: 53 Matsunoki-cho, Shimogamo, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto.
Open: Thursday through Tuesday from 9:30 to 20:00 〈Last order 19:30〉
Capacity: 40 seats for individuals, 30 seats for group(s)
South: Momoyama Mochi
Kyoto’s southern temples and shrines are great spots to go sightseeing in an uncrowded environment. Momoyama Mochi, which is located in front of Gokougu Shrine, has been open since about 100 years ago. An old couple in their eighties runs this shop and a third owner makes the dango. This shop’s specialty is mitarashi dango which is completely handmade and has an original sweet sauce. The owner grills dango over charcoal at the shop front, so you will smell a good aroma as you approach along the street. One of the five dumplings is a little separate just like Kamo Mitarashi Chaya’s.
This shop isn’t so big but the atmosphere is cozy and traditional in many ways and it is popular with the locals. Most people drop in here on their way back from Gokougu shine. The owners laughed and asked you to “Please visit our shop and try our mitarashi. But we can’t understand English, so please take an interpreter.” Don’t worry, you can manage on your own with a few gestures! You can buy and eat skewers of dango for 80 yen each; you can also get take-out.
Access: About 5 minutes walk from Momoyamagoryomae Station (Kintetsu train line)
Address: 191 Gokougumon-mae-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto
Open: Wednesday through Sunday from 9:30 to 17:00
Closed: Mondays and Tuesdays
Capacity: about 4 people
Daimonjiya is located inside of Seiryo-ji Temple. The shop is famous for aburimochi with a sweet sauce made from white miso. If you haven’t had white miso, you should try this treat. Also very popular at Daimonjiya is warabimochi flavored with green tea (these unskewered dumplings are not made from rice flour but from bracken starch).
The atmosphere of this shop is very calm. And you can enjoy a Japanese-style tatami room or eat aburimochi on seating outside of the shop. In spring, you can also enjoy cherry blossoms while having aburimochi. You can buy and eat 12 aburimochi for 630 yen for one person, and you can also get take-out from 1260 yen for 2 persons. Seiryo-ji (which is a Zen Buddhist temple) is near Arashiyama, so why don’t you go to there after eating?
Access: About 5 minutes walk from Sagashakadou-mae bus stop (Kyoto municipal bus number 28, on the route to Daikaku-ji Temple)
Address: 46 Fujinoki-cho, Sagashakadou, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
Open: From 10:00 to 16:00
Capacity: 7 tables, and counters
Umezono opened in Kyoto’s Kawaramachi area in 1927, and afterwards the Kiyomizu branch opened near the famous Kiyomizu-dera Temple. The Kawaramachi shop is small, so it is a little hard to find. The shop’s specialty is mitarashi dango which isn’t round but a little square-shaped. The owner said that the reason why this shape is useful is to dip dango into sauce. Also shaved ice is popular in summer, and awazenzai in winter, too. If you can’t read Japanese, you don’t need to worry about it because there is an English menu. And foreigners usually like a “mitarashi set,” for example, mitarashi with warabimochi or shaved ice with green tea.
The owner is a young elegant woman. She said, ”Please taste some everyday Japanese desserts in Umezono.” You can buy and eat a one-person serving of 5 skewers of dango for 410 yen, and also get take-out from 750 yen for 10 skewers of dango.
Access: About 5 minutes walk from Sanjo station (Keihan train line)
Address: 4-234 Yamazaki-cho, Sanjo-kudaru, Kawaramachi, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
Open: 365 days a year, from 10:30 to 19:30
Capacity: 30 people
Branch Shop Near Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Access: About 7 minutes walk from Kiyomizu-michi bus stop (Kyoto municipal bus number 206, on the route that goes to Kitaoji Bus Terminal via Higashiyama Street)
Address: 1-339 Sanneisaka, Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
Open: 365 days a year, from 10:30 to 17:30
Capacity: 24 tables and 16 seats in Japanese-style room
When you visit Kyoto’s temples and shrines, how about trying some dango? Probably, dango will make you happy, so your trip will become more wonderful!