One day trip in Kyoto

November 24, 2019

by Yuka Nakamura and Sakura Nakatani

 

When you come to Kyoto, where do you want to go? Actually, there are many famous spots such as Kiyomizu temple, Kinkaku temple and others. However, why don’t you go to Imamiya shrine and Shimogamo shrine? These are famous for dango (rice dumpling), so if you like eating sweet, please go there.

Moreover, when you go to these shrines, sometimes you will take a bus. Our recommendation is to use 1 day bus card, so we will introduce these shrine with using 1 day bus card. (600 yen for 1 passenger)

 

Schedule

  • Kyoto station → Imamiya shrine

Take a bus from station B3, Kyoto City Bus 205 or 206, get off at Funaokayama (take about 45~50 minutes)

 

  • Imamiya shrine → Shimogamo shrine

Take Kyoto City Bus 205, get off at Shimogamo Shrine (takes about 16 minutes)

Take Kyoto City Bus 1, get off at Shimogamo Shrine (takes about 16 minutes)

 

  • Shimogamo shrine → Kyoto station

Take Kyoto City Bus 205, get off at Kyoto Station (takes about 31 minutes)

Take Kyoto City Bus 4, get off at Kyoto Station (takes about 32 minutes)

 

Aburimochi at Imamiya Shrine

Imamiya Shrine is also called “Tamanokoshi shine”. How about taking back some traditional Japanese sweets home? These are called Aburimochi. Aburamochi also are reputed to have a benefit of driving out evil spirits. If you come here, please try it.

“Aburimochi” is a famous Japanese sweets shop at Imamiya Shine in Kyoto. It is rice cake that is just as big as the thumb, coated with soybean flour, grilled over a charcoal fire, and dipped in white miso sauce. Long ago, there was an ancient tradition that Aburimochi were provided to the public at the approach to a shrine.

There are two shops selling Aburimochi across from the approach to Imamiya Shine. The delicious smell of grilled sweets drifts out from the edge of the eaves, as you approach the shrine, so you may suffer from having two choices. My advice is to enter both shops if you have enough time.

 

Kazariya

Kazariya is a shop which serves Aburimochi with tea. Aburimochi is grilled and coated with soybean flour. It is a bit sweet. The point of taste is the good flavor of rice cake and mild sweetness of white miso.

Shop information

  • Shop name: Kazariya
  • Price: 500 yen
  • Nearest station: Kyoto City Bus 46 line “Imamiya Shrine” 3 minutes by walking
  • Adress: 96 Imamiya-cho, Murasakino, Kita-ku, Kyoto city
  • Phone number: 075-491-9402
  • Business hours: 10:00~17:30
  • Closed: Wednesday

 

Ichiwa

Aburimochi have been made for 1000 years with an unchanged recipe. They are coated with refreshing white miso and sweet sauce. The white miso sauce matches the mild and good flavor of rice cakes.

Shop information

  • Shop name: Ichimonjiwasuke (Ichiwa)
  • Price: 500 yen
  • Nearest station: Kyoto City Bus 46 line “Imamiya Shrine ” 2 minutes by walking
  • Address: 69 Imamiya-cho, Murasakino, Kita-ku, Kyoto city
  • Phone number: 075-492-6852
  • Business hours: 10:00~17:00
  • Closed: Wednesday

 

Which shop is tasty? In conclusion, both stores are delicious.

Kazariya’s Aburimochi are simple and look like they are handmade because of their irregular shape. The sauce is a bit sweet. On the other hand, Ichiwa’s Aburimochi have a uniform shape and good condition. Their sauce is a bit lightly seasoned. If you prefer sweeter sauce, you should go to Kazariya.

Both shops’ aburimichi cost 500 yen. Both shop offer free parking for 1 hour.

 

 

Mitarashi-dango at Shimogamo shrine

Mitarashi-dango (rice dumpling in a sweet soy sauce) came from the Mitarashi festival, which was held by Shimogamo shrine at Shimogamo, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto city. Although, there are other an ancient traditions, one story is that Mitarashi-dango were originally made and imitated the bubbles in Mitarashi pond in the precinct grounds.

 

The birthplace of Mitarashi-dango

Kamo Mitarashi Chaya

Mitarashi-dango came from Shimogamo shrine. Kamo Matarashi-chaya is an old-established teashop that was started in 1922. It is located in the west part of Shimogamo shrine. When you go inside that shop, you can smell roasting rice cakes. You can eat mitarashi-dango at this shop but also you can take some away if you want.

The wrapping of each mitarashi-dango has a picture of Shimogamo shrine and that shape looks like a chimaki (a cake wrapped in bamboo leaves) of Gion festival. A feature of this mitarashi-dango is that the top rice cake and the other four rice cakes are separate. There are two theories to explain this. The first theory is that the Kamakura period when emperor Go-daigo tied to draw from Mitarashi pond, one big bubble and four small bubbles appeared. Another theory is that mitarashi-dango imitated human body. Thus, the top rice cake symbolizesthe head and the others symbolize the arms and legs.

In addition to mitarashi-dango there are other sweets available here. These are are chestnut rice cakes, chestnut sweet bean jellies and bracken-starch dumplings.

Their mitarashi-dango is covered in brown sugar and soy sauce. It is matching with a rice cake and kuro mitsu (black syrup, similar to molasses).

 

Shop information

  • Shop name: Kamo Matarashi-chaya
  • Price: 420 yen
  • Nearest station: Kyoto City Bus 46 line “Imamiya Shine mae” by 3 minutes walking
  • Address: 53 Matsunoki-cho, Shimogamo, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto city
  • Phone number: 075-791-1652
  • Business hours: 9:30~19:00
  • Closed: Wednesday

In Kyoto, there are many sweet shops including these shops that we recommended. If you have an interest of Kyoto’s sweets, please search for them. After that, please come to Kyoto and try to eat a lot of sweets and find your favorite sweets!

Mitarashi Tea House

by David Gurogan, Ema Maeda & Tsukasa Ishibashi

History tells us that Shimogamo is the place where Mitarashi Dango was born. We recommend you to visit Shimogamo and taste the flavor of traditional Japanese sweat sweet Mitarashi Dango. It is small balls made of rice flour, traditionally served on a wooden stick. While you are in Shimogamo, you should visit the Shimogamo Shrine as well. Shimogamo Shrine is recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is one of the oldest shrines in Kyoto. But why a shrine? You might think it`s got nothing to do with Mitarashi Dango. Actually they are connected. To take some examples: the river in the premise premises of the Shimogamo Shrine is called Mitarashi River and; there is festival called Mitarashi Matsuri. According to the shrine`s website, “On the day of Doyoo-no-Ushi, a full 18 days before the traditional beginning of autumn in August, the shrine hosts Mitarashi a foot bathing. Thousands people flock to the pond in front of shrine.” For that matter, Shimogamo and Mitarashi Dango are well and truly connected. Moreover, the name Mitarashi originates in bubbles of Mitarashi pond, which is located inside of the shrine. Therefore, visiting Shimogamo and Shimogamo Shrine gives you opportunity to feel the history of Mitarashi Dango. Nowadays, Mitarashi Dango is a popular sweet, in Japan so you can get it wherever you want. But here in Shimogamo you will be able to taste the traditional Mitarashi Dango and its history together by visiting Shimogamo Shrine just around the corner.

In addition, Shimogamo Shrine offers much more, for instance the place is known as one of the most powerful “Power-Spots”. Which means it is a spiritual place that people can get power from there. Of course, you can draw a fortune slip as well. In summary we recommend you to visit Shimogamo in order to taste traditional Mitarashi Dango and Shimogamo Shrine to feel the history. This is to say make your first ever Mitarashi Dango experience much better.

Mitarashi Dango is near the Shimogamo shrine, and all connected together. Mitarashi Dango originated from Mitarashi Festival in the Shimogamo shrine. The origin of Mitarashi Dango has actually two stories. One of them takes place about five hundred years ago, during the Kamakura Era (1583), near a pond called “Mitarashi Ike”. At that time, the Emperor was Godaigo. He visited the Shimogamo shrine, and he was And then, he found a bubble came up and constantly four bubbles followed. After that, the Dango was designed separated with one Dango on the top and four of them are sticking together further down the stick. Another story is that the Dango was sold in the precinct and it became more popular. The top Dango is a bit bigger and the others were smaller than the top, so it represented the human.

Mitarashi Dango

by Yu Nakabayashi and Nanae Uchida

Mitarashi dango is Japanese sweet made of mochi with mitarashi sauce. Mochi is a soft and sticky white-colored food made from rice that is steamed, kneaded and shaped. Mitarashi sauce is a slightly sticky golden-colored sauce with a mix of sweet and salty taste. It made from soy sauce, sugar, water and starch. The shaped mochi is placed on a bamboo skewer and is grilled over charcoal to make the surface of the mochi a little bit burnt (see photo). This creates a wonderful smell. Mitarashi dango is very popular and low priced, usually 100 to 150 yen (about one dollar) for three mitarashi dango. People of all ages love mitarashi dango in Japan.

Where to Get Mitarashi Dango

Mitarashi Dango

Mitarashi Dango at a Convenience Store

Today, we can easily get Mitarashi Dango anywhere in Japan, such as in supermarkets, convenience stores, or cafés. There are even shops in shopping malls that specialize in Japanese sweets using mochi. However, there are differences in quality and between at the dango sold in convenience stores and those sold in the specialty shops in Kyoto. You should be aware of the quality difference before forming an opinion of mitarashi dango.

Features of Mitarashi Dango

Most mitarashi dango at convenience stores and supermarkets is sold as a pack of three dango with bamboo skewers. Also, the sauce is a little bit sticky; not so smooth. On the other hand, the mitarashi dango sold in specialty shops in Kyoto has several differences. First of all, each dango is smaller, and is sold in a pack of five with bamboo skewers. Also, the sauce is smoother and not so sticky. This is probably due to the fact that supermarket dango is made to be easy to carry and store. However, from historical point of view, five small dango with bamboo skewers is original way.

History of Mitarashi Dango

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Dango on Bamboo Skewer.

The famous origin of mitarashi dango is connected with the Shimogamo shrine. This name, Mitarashi Dango, comes from the Mitarashi Festival, which is held at Shimogamo shrine. As mitarashi dango is made up of five dango with bamboo skewers, there are two theories about the origin of this shape. The first theory is that the shape of the dango is based on bubbles in the Mitarashi pond at the shrine. After one bubble rose, four more bubbles came up to the surface of the water. That is why one dango is stabbed at the head of the bamboo skewer, leaving space for other four dango. The other theory is that mitarashi dango represents the human form: four dango for the body and the fifth for the human head.

Differences Between Now and Then

These days, the mitarashi dango you buy at convenience stores or supermarkets is different from the traditional version in taste and appearance. In order to ship it around Japan and sell it on a mass scale, the expiration date must be lengthened. For this reason, supermarket dango comes in packs of three dango and contains more sugar. Traditional mitarashi dango expires within a day, so it is important to eat it fresh. It tastes more like a Japanese food than a sweet due to the flavor of soy sauce. Therefore, people used to eating supermarket mitarashi dango might not like traditional version as much.

Where to Get Mitarashi Dango in Kyoto

There are several places where you can find high quality Mitarashi Dango in Kyoto. The most famous one is near Shimogamo shrine, the place of origin of Mitarashi Dango. You can also make your own Mitarashi Dango at some places in Kyoto.

To eat:Kamo Mitarashi Chaya

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Kamo Mitarashi Chaya

Although you cannot actually buy mitarashi dango at the Simogamo shrine itself, you can get it at a nearby cafe, called Kamo Mitarashi Chaya. It is only a minute’s walk from the shrine. This is a very old Japanese cafe, where you can find original style, fresh mitarashi dango (with five dango) and other food made from mochi. In addition to eating it there, you can also get it to go. It’s said that this is the birthplace of mitarashi dango. Not only is the food delicious, but the atmosphere is pleasing. Not only is it a very traditional place, but it is also a comfortable, modest space where you can experience the old Japanese style. We highly recommend a visit.

Access: Take the Kyoto City Bus #205, alight at Shimogamojinja-mae and walk about 10minutes

Address: 53 Shimogamo Matsunokicho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-0816, Kyoto Prefecture

Phone Number: +81 75-791-1652

To make:Yatsuhashian to Sishuyakata

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You can make your own Mitarashi Dango by yourself

If you want to try to make your own mitarashi dango, then you can go to Yatsuhashian to Sishuyakata. There, you can try to make several kinds of Japanese sweets from scratch, including mitarashi dango. You can experience the entire process of making mitarashi dango, from the mochi to the syrup and to the grilling process. Of course, when it’s all done, you can eat it, too. It is sure to taste much better when you make it by yourself.

Access: Take the Kyoto City Bus #73, alight at Nishikyogoku and walk about 8minutes

Take the Kyoto City Bus #205, alight at Saidaiji-shijyo and walk about 15minutes

Address:36 Nishikyōgoku Nishikoromodechō, Ukyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 615-0877

Phone number: +81 75-313-2151