Fushimi: History and Tourist Attractions

August 28, 2016

by Hayato Tochimori and Yuta Sakurai

Recently the number of tourists from other countries to Kyoto has been increasing. There are many good tourist attractions in Kyoto, like The Golden Pavilion, Kiyomizu Temple, Arashiyama, and so on. However, have you ever heard a place called Fushimi? We can get to Fushimi by train within only 15 minutes from Kyoto station. It is mostly famous for the Fushimiinari Taisha shrine. However, Fushimi also has a very interesting history and a number of other tourist attractions worth visiting.

History of Fushimi

One of surprising facts about Fushimi is that it was a capital of Japan in the Azuchi Momoyama era, which was from 1573 to 1615. A top shogun, which means a leader in Japan at that time was Hideyoshi, and he made his castle in Fushimi. From Fushimi, it was possible to see Nara which is an ancient capital, Kyoto city, Osaka in which he has his private castle. It was very useful for him to check what was happening around the capital, and he loved this place.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Fushimiinari Taisha shrine is chosen as the place where the tourists from other countries want to visit the most. This shrine is the head one of over 30,000 shrines related to this shrine.  This shrine was built in 711.  Inaritaizin, the god enshrined there, is the deity of fertility, business, and safety of family.  There are a lot of Shinto shrine gate called Torii. It is said that there are over 1,000 Torii in Fushimiinari Taisha shrine, and it is very famous scenery.  Actually, it is very popular spot in Kyoto.  I am going to introduce three more good tourist attractions and goods.


The term nihonshu means Japanese alcohol, or sake. Fushimi is famous for its production of good quality sake. The reason is because of the superb water in Fushimi, which is near the point at which three big rivers in Kyoto meet: the Kamo river, the Uji river and the Katsura river. Also, spring water from Momoyama-Kyuryo, a mountain in Fushimi, is very clear. Excellent water is necessary for making a good nihonshu, and Fushimi has it. Therefore, the culture of nihonshu developed in Fushimi before the Azuchi-Momoyama era.  When Hideyoshi turned Fushimi into a castle town in the Azuchi-Momoyama era, the nihonshu industry began to develop further and flourish.  Moreover, in Edo period (1603~1867), Fushimi was center of traffic because it had nice roads and three rivers joined there.  Therefore, the demand of products including Nihonsyu increased so much at that time that the culture of Nihonsyu flourished more and more.

For this reason, there are many shuzou (sake breweries) in Fushimi. One of the most famous producers of nihonshu in Fushimi is Gekkeikan, which also has a sake museum. The museum was originally built in 1909. There, we can learn about the history and culture of nihonshu, as well as how to make it. Originally the museum building was a shuzou, but it was remodeled as the museum in 1987.

400 traditional tools to make nihonshu are exhibited in the museum, and we can also study the process of making nihonshu. Moreover, at the end of the museum tour, we can taste three different types of nihonshu made by Gekkeikan. The entrance fee is just 300 yen, so it is not expensive. If you like drinking sake, you should definitely pay the traditional Gekkeikan Sake Museum a visit.


Gekkeikan Sake Museum

Access to Gekkeikan Sake Museum

Access to Gekkeikan Sake Museum

Access to Gekkeikan Sake Museum

Traditional Sweets

Fushimi is not only famous for its sake, but also its traditional sweets. One famous traditional sweet in Japan is called neri-yokan, which you can buy in just about any convenience store these days. What many people don’t know is that neri-yokan was originally made in a very traditional Japanese sweet shop in Fushimi, called Surugaya-Honpo, which was founded in 1461. Long ago,normal yokan  could not be preserved, so it could not develop in popularity. But Surugaya-Honpo improved this by using agar. The yokan made with an agar is called neri-yokan.

This sweets culture in Fushimi is also related to Hideyoshi. He held some meetings in Fushimi in the old days for a number of daimyo (regional leaders) from different places in Japan. Hideyoshi liked neri-yokan so much that he gave each daimyo neri-yokan as a present during the banquets or tea ceremonies. The daimyo took a liking to neri-yokan and eventually brought it back to their region and made it popular. If you have time, please visit Surugaya-Honpo and taste this traditional Japanese sweet.



Access to Surugaya-Honpo

Access to Surugaya honpo

Access to Surugaya honpo

Jonangu Shrine

Of course, everyone knows about the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine, but not as many people know about Jonangu Shrine, which is located to the west of the Kintetsu Takeda train station. This shrine was built to protect Kyoto when the capital of Japan was transferred to Kyoto  in 794. A deity of Hoyoke, which is protection from misfortunes coming from a certain destination, is enshrined in the shrine. Also, the deity of warding off evil is enshrined there. Today Japanese people visit Jonangu Shrine and pray for safe construction, travel, commuting, business or moving to a new house in Hoyoke.

For some people, these deities can provide road safety and safe travels. There was a port of Toba in the place of Jonan. The deity of this shrine had always kept an eye on people who travel by ship and Gissha (The oxen-drawn carriage). To this day, the place of Jonan is a point where arterial roads and motorways intersect.

People who hope for road safety visit Jonangu Shrine for purification and prayer. It is possible for you to receive purification of your car at the shrine. Japanese sweets and matcha (powdered green tea) are served at the tea ceremony room to prayers of Hoyoke warding off evil and purifying your car. How about praying for your safety during your trip to Kyoto or other places in Japan in this shrine?

There are five flower gardens related to the Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji) in Jonangu Shrine. Approximately 80 kinds of flowers that are described in the tale are planted in the gardens. You can see drooping cherry blossoms and wisteria in the spring, Chinese lanterns and lotuses in the summer, boneset and maple leaves in the autumn, and camellia in the winter. The admission fee is 600 yen for adults and 400 yen for primary and secondary school students, so this is affordable. If you add 300 yen to the admission fee, Japanese sweets and matcha are served to you in the tea ceremony room. We recommend you visit the beautiful gardens.

Jonangu Shrine

Jonangu Shrine

Access to Jonangu Shrine

Access to Jonangu Shrine

Access to Jonangu Shrine


Of course, when most people hear the word Fushimi, they immediately think of the Fushimiinari Taisha shrine, which is truly amazing. However, it is not the only thing that the Fushimi district of Kyoto has to offer. As you can see, there are other wonderful tourist spots, sweets, and drinks to be experienced. Again, the entire region is only 15 minutes by train from Kyoto station. If you have an opportunity to visit Fushimi, please consider visiting it. You will not be disappointed.

Japanischer Reiswein (Sake) – Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum

von Rina Watanabe

Haben Sie schon einmal Reiswein (Sake) probiert? Reiswein ist ein traditionelles, alkoholisches Getränk in Japan. In Kyoto gibt es etwa 80 verschiedene Hersteller. Hier möchte ich Ihnen diese Spezialität vorstellen, besonders die in Kyoto sehr berühmte Marke Gekkeikan.

Die Sake-Brauerei Gekkeikan wurde im Jahr 1637 von Jiemon Okura in Fushimi, Kyoto gegründet. Auf Deutsch bedeutet der Name „Lorbeerkranz“, also das Symbol für Sieg und Ehre, wie zum Beispiel bei der Olympiade. 1905 wurde Gekkeikan als Reisweinmarke zum eingetragenen Warenzeichen. Gekkeikan ist nicht nur eine Reisweinmarke, sondern auch eine Aktiengesellschaft. Ziel der Brauerei ist es, den besten Reiswein der Welt zu produzieren.


Die Gebäude der Gekkeikan-Brauerei haben ebenfalls etwas sehr Traditionelles und Japanisches. Sie wurden im Jahr 2008 vom Ministerium für Wirtschaft und Industrie als Kulturerbe der industriellen Modernisierung anerkannt und stehen unter Denkmalschutz. Das Museum „Gekkeikan Okura Kinenkan“ stellt die Geschichte des Reisweins vor und erklärt, wie man Reiswein brauen kann. Auch das zum Brauen nötige Handwerkszeug ist dort ausgestellt. Nach der Besichtigung kann man zwei Reisweinsorten und Pflaumenwein probieren. Wenn man einen Tag im Voraus im Gekkeikan Okura Kinenkan anruft und reserviert, kann man auch die kleine Sake-Brauerei Gekkeikan Sakekobo besichtigen. Dort produziert man 40 Hektoliter Reiswein pro Jahr.


Das Wasser für den Reiswein (Sakamizu) Sake besteht aus nur Wasser und Reis. Die Stadt Fushimi ist seit alten Zeiten reich an Wasser, das von auserlesener Qualität ist. Es gibt dort etwa 24 Brauereien.





Im Museum kann man auch Reiswein-Fässer (Sakadaru) sehen. Das feierliche Öffnen eines Fasses wird Kagamibiraki genannt und gehört eigentlich zur Zeremonie an Neujahr. Ab und zu wird diese Zeremonie auch abgehalten, wenn man einen Neubau errichtet oder eine Hochzeit feiert. Nach der Öffnung der Fässer trinkt man zusammen Reiswein. Kagami bedeutet Friede und Biraki bedeutet Ewigkeit. Natürlich kann man auch in einer japanischen Kneipe (Izakaya) oder im Restaurant Reiswein trinken, zum Beispiel Gekkeikan oder Umeshu -Pflaumenwein. In Japan trinken wir normalerweise warmen Reiswein (Kan) und nur wenig kalten Reiswein (Hiya). Doch Achtung: In Japan darf man erst ab 20 Jahren Alkohl trinken. Viel Spaß und Prost bei Ihrem Besuch in Kyoto!


Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum (月桂冠大倉記念館)

Adresse: Minamihama-cho 247, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto

Telefonnumer: +81-(0)75-623-2056

Öffnungszeit: 9:30~16:30

Geschlossen: Jahresanfang, Jahresende, Obon-Ferien (Mitte August)

Eintrittsgeld: Erwachsene 300 Yen inkl. Probierglas Reiswein (180ml)

Schüler (Mittel- und Oberstufe) 100 Yen inkl. Postkarte des Museums

Kinder und Grundschüler kostenlos

Verkehrsanbindung : 5-7 Minuten Fußweg von der Station Chushojima (Keihan Linie)

oder 10-15 Minuten Fußweg von der Station Momoyama Goryo-mae (Kintetsu Kyoto Linie).

URL: http://www.gekkeikan.co.jp/english/products/museum/index.html

Kyoto’s Top Sake Maker: Gekkeikan

by Yuria Shinya

Gekkeikan (月桂冠) is one of the most famous brands of sake, or rice wine, in Japan. The Gekkeikan brand is the result of a very long history; the Gekkeikan company has been brewing sake for more than 370 years in the southern part of Kyoto in area known as Fushimi.

Fushimi is an ideal place for sake brewing because of its natural environment. Appropriate temperatures and good-quality water are required to brew sake. In Fushimi, both of these important factors exist.

The city of Kyoto is set in a basin, surrounded by mountains on the north, east and west. These mountains keep Kyoto very chilly in wintertime. A cool temperature of around 5℃ is important to mature sake in a brewery. So cold winter temperatures created by Kyoto’s natural basin is why sake brewing became so deeply rooted here.

Photo 1. The Gokougu spring

Also, especially in Fushimi, there is a lot of high-quality groundwater that has been there since ancient times. One day in the Heian period (794-1185), rare and fragrant spring water started flowing out at a shrine in Fushimi. It was christened “Gokougu” (御香宮, see Photo 1.),by the Imperial Court. This water was soft and full of rich minerals. Sake made from this groundwater felt really smooth on the tongue.



Photo 2. Large casks


Sake used to be matured in huge wooden barrels (see Photo 2). Unfortunately, these are no longer used and sake fermentation is controlled by computers now.






Photo 3. Gekkeikan Sake Kobo

However, today it is still possible to see the casks and a traditional brewery, which was built in 1906, at the Gekkeikan Okura Kinenkan(月桂冠大倉記念館),which is where the Gekkeikan Memorial Hall is located. This brewery is named Gekkeikan Sake Kobo(月桂冠酒香房, see Photo 3). Here, we are able to see the process of sake– making throughout the year. At this brewery, 40 kiloliters of sake are brewed per year even now.



The Process of Making Sake

The traditional way of making sake is so complicated, however I will explain in a simple and concise way now.

STEP 1. Wash the rice

→ The grade of sake often depends upon the percentage of polished rice that is used. The rice grain husks are removed to make polished rice.

Casks for washing rice









STEP 2. Steam the rice

→The rice is steamed for around one hour.

Container for steaming



STEP 3. Making moromi (醪), the sake mash

→ Steamed rice, koji (rice mixed with the micro-organism aspergillus oryze), yeast, and water are put into barrels (see photo 2) and the mixture is allowed to ferment for 20~30 days. Koji  helps turn the rice starch into sugar content; yeast helps to turn the sugar content into alcohol.

STEP4. Squeezing the sake mash

Moromi is put in a bag and squeezed by a big press. From this process sake gains a smooth texture.

Tool for squeezing sake









STEP5. Fermenting the sake

→ The sake is then is fermented for one year or more.



Kinds of Sake

More than 50 kinds of sake are sold by Gekkeikan. Each of them tastes a little different. It is fun of to try many different kinds in order to find your favorite one. Below are two kinds of sake and one plum wine made by Gekkeikan. It is possible to sample these at the Gekkeikan Okura Kinenkan(月桂冠大倉記念館).


 Tamanoizumi Daiginjo NamaChozosyu(玉の泉 大吟醸生貯蔵酒)








Daiginjo means top-quality sake brewed at low temperatures from rice grains milled to 50 percent of weight or less. It is a really fresh and fruity taste. It is better to drink it well chilled.

Ginjosyu (吟醸酒, 甘口/slightly sweet taste)








Ginjo means high-quality sake brewed at low temperatures from rice grains milled to 60 percent of weight or less. This is a good, full-bodied sake. The label and shape of the light blue bottle in this picture is a retro design.

Plum wine








This wine, or umeshu in Japanese,  has a delicate taste and flavor of plum. Many plum wines are served as an apertif.




The Gekkeikan Okura Kinenkan(月桂冠大倉記念館) is in Fushimi ward in southern Kyoto. It is a 5 to 7-minute walk from Chushojima Station on the Keihan Line. Or it is a 10 to 15-minute walk from Momoyama Goryo-mae Station on the Kintetsu Kyoto Line. >> Access Map

It is open from 9:30-4:30PM. And it is closed over New Year holidays and the O-Bon Festival  in mid-August.

Admission: Adults (¥300); Children ,aged 12-17 (¥100); Children, aged 0-11 (free).
Please make reservations in advance for group visits.


There are more detail information on this website. >>The Gekkeikan Okura Kinenkan(月桂冠大倉記念館)