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.
Access to Gekkeikan Sake Museum
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
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.
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.