Jun 20, 2010

Walking around in Fushimi, Kyoto

In the previous post, I wrote about the visit to Matsuo Shrine (松尾大社) and Umenomiya Shrine (梅宮大社) during my stay in Kyoto. However, if you are a great sake fan, and you visit Kyoto to offer prayers for the gods of sake making at these shrines, is it enough? There is Fushimi in Kyoto, the heartland of sake making. So, naturally, I wanted to visit Fushimi, and, with no special purpose in my mind, I headed for Fushimi.

During the three-day stay in Kyoto, I had two continuous rainy days from the beginning. However, the gods of sake seemed to finally do us a favor with a shiny day. It was the day we planned the visit to Fushimi.

Firstly, my friend and I went to Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社). This shrine is known for its vermilion-lacquered torii gates. There are so many gates on the shrine's premises and they stand so close to each other that they form vermilion tunnels (there are several series of vermilion gates on the premises). And, I simply wanted to see these tunnels.

We already knew that an acquaintance of us had contributed a vermilion torii gate, and it had been placed among other gates in one of these vermilion approach ways of Fushimi Inari Shrine. Each gate was bearing the name of the contributor and we could know what gate she had contributed (if we could find her name). So, we tried very hard to find her name, but to no avail, ... . The gates were too many. When walking through these vermillion tunnels, looking for her name, I almost felt dizzy. After giving up finding her gate finally, we went out from the shrine, went to a railroad station, and take a train to go to Fushimi Momoyama Station (伏見桃山駅). From this station, you can walk to Gokonomiya Shrine (御香宮神社) and the sake breweries district of Fushimi.

First, we walked to Gokonomiya Shrine, where famous spring water is flowing out. After offering prayers, I drank some water from the spring and left the shrine. At this time, I got some water from the spring in a PET bottle I was carrying. (I brought this water home later, and made good coffee.)

At Momoyama-goryo-mae Station (桃山御陵前駅) on the way to Gokonomiya Shrine, we noticed that a guide map was displayed at the station. This map was indicating the locations of famous springs in Fushimi. According to the map, there were as many as 10 springs around here. Some of the springs are being used by sake breweries in Fushimi for brewing sake.

The sake breweries district was on the opposite side of the railroad tracks, and we had to walk back on the same way to the Fushimi Momoyama Station, and then further went westward beyond the railroad. I checked the map taken in my digital camera and learned there was a spring named Shiragikusui (白菊水) in a walking distance from the station. So, we decided to go there for some water. It is somehow fun to walk around in an unfamiliar town with relying on a map. It is like a game that is played with using your feet, eyes, ears, brain, and intuition. You can enjoy the town that is new to you by using your five senses.

It was amazing even to me that I had a good sense of direction, could easily locate the spring Shiragikusui, and reached it. Two or three people with empty PET bottles were there to get some water. Since we wanted just a mouthful, they treated us with a favor letting us drink water first.

Torisei Honten (鳥せい本店), a restaurant serving poultry, is operating just next to the spring. This restaurant is run by the brewery Yamamoto Honke (山本本家), which is brewing sake "Shinsei (神聖)" by using Shiragikusui as mother water. A water supply machine is placed in the entrance hall of the restaurant so that customers can freely drink the water.

The foods of this restaurant were reasonably priced, and their foods were very nice as far as I judged from what I ate there. I ordered the chicken lunch box (鳥弁当), which contained delicious softly deep-fried chicken. While eating this chicken box, I noticed another menu item, which was the chicken ramen (鳥ラーメン). I also ordered this ramen, which was also very nice.

Being fully fed, I needed to walk the meal down in the neighborhood of the Fushimi breweries' district. We walked along the narrow street flanked by buildings of different sake breweries, and we took the left at a point and found a souvenir shop, Ryomakan, apparently named after Ryoma Sakamoto (坂本龍馬), a historically distinctive character at the end of Edo Period. When it comes to Ryoma, there should be Teradaya (寺田屋), an old inn connected with him around here. So, we went southward anticipating we could reach and have a look of Teradaya. Then, I found a river resembling a moat ahead of us. Later, I learned the river was named Horikawa (濠川), which can literally translated the Moat River. This is a simple way of naming a river.

There were walkways on the both sides of the river. It seemed nice walking on these ways along the river. We walked on the bridge and got across the river. There, we went down stone stairs to one of the walkways, which was at almost the same level as the water.

A gap eroded by water was seen between the river wall and the pavement of the walkway. Sightseeing boats travelling up and down along the river were seen from time to time. These boats generated furrows, which approached the river wall as waves and broke against it. Thus, the gap was being supplied with water. In the water contained by the gap, some creatures were quivering. They were shellfish, spiral shells. Children were playing beside the river. There seemed to be a lot of fish in the river. The depth of the water reminded me of kappa goblins, which were used for advertisement for Kizakura (黄桜) sake.

Along the Horikawa River, hydrangeas were in flower and cherries were half ripened. Some red brush-shaped flowers whose name I don't know were also in bloom. In other words, there are a lot of things to see, and I never felt bored with this walkway.

Thus, we were enjoying walking and getting farther and farther away from the place of Teradaya. And, finally we didn't think it very important to visit Teradaya. When we walked up the stairs to get to the upper level, we were on the Otesuji Dori Street (大手筋通り), which led to the shopping arcade near Fushimi Momoyama Station.

After a several ten meter-walk, we found the building of Fushimi Sake Breweries' Association (伏見酒造組合), so we entered the building from curiosity. However, there was just one of their offices inside, and they appeared to be working on their daily business. In other words, this is not a place for sightseers to visit, and we were just bothering the clerk. So, we came out of the building after taking just one picture.

From the long-distance walk, we were a bit tired. It was good time to find a place we could sit and sip some sake. Fujioka Shuzo (藤岡酒造) known for its sake brand name of Soku (蒼空) is a small brewery, but its prestigious junmai sake is worth tasting. We sat at the counter of the Sakagura Bar En (酒蔵Bar「えん」), which was operating in this brewery. This bar is of course offering sake fresh from the brewery. Being in a brewery's building is relaxing and more so is drinking sake.

Thus, we could top off our enjoyable walk in Fushimi with Soku. Good bye, Fushimi!


Anonymous said...

I'm planning a trip to Fushimi of Kyoto and Nada of Hyogo, mainly to walk around and visit sake breweries!

The last time I did something like that was when visiting Hida Takayama of Gifu, and of about a dozen or so breweries we visited that day, there were a few that looked completely off limits to non-employees though they had a sugidama at the front.

What I'm wondering is, while you were visiting Fushimi, how many breweries did you come across that didn't accept visitors? I know I can always go someplace huge like Gekkeikan or Kizakura, but I always liked the small breweries.

Ichibay said...

Actually, I visited Fushimi for just one day, and I visited just two breweries: Kizakura and Soku. I don't know which breweries accept visitors or not. I checked the Web page of Fushimi Sake Brewers Association, expecting information for visitors is provided, but couldn't find it. Maybe, you need directly contact the breweries you want to visit beforehand.
A map and list of the breweries are provided at the following site:
You can reach the sites of individual breweries via several clicks from the link of each brewery in the list. Some breweries have English pages.

Anonymous said...

I guess I may as well start by contacting each brewery directly.

Thanks a lot!