Fushimi Sake District
The second largest brewery district in Japan.
The Fushimi Sake District is mostly known for the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine. While this landmark is certainly worth a visit, don’t forget to take a walk in the amazing brewery district while in Kyoto city. The neighborhood is all about nihonshu (rice wine, sometimes erroneously referred to as sake, which means alcohol in general), and it has been for centuries.
Today, Fushimi is the second-largest rice wine producer in Japan with nearly 40 sake breweries. While the calming scenery, traditional-style homes, temples and gently flowing rivers might give you the idea that this area is picturesque but a bit static, there’s actually a lot to discover here.
For instance, plenty of nihonshu producers have set up their facilities to feature free museums, as well as recreational areas with rice-wine tasting and beer gardens. Many museums have an impressive collection of both old and modern nihonshu-making tools and crafts. The Gekkeikan Okura Sake museum was opened by the oldest brewery in the district and it offers a unique tour through the history of rice-wine making, as well as tastings of nihonshu and plum wine. Here, you will definitely learn all there is to know about the Japanese art of making rice wine!
A few other breweries of note are Fushimi Yume Hyakushu, Aburacho and Kizakura Kappa Country. Besides museums, there are also many restaurants and cafes in the Fushimi Sake District, such as the Fushimi Yume Hyakushu Cafe, serving traditional food and liquor.
Fushimi means “underground water” or “hidden water” and the springs in this area are renowned for their high quality. Boat rides along the three intersecting main rivers — the Uji, Katsura and Kamo rivers— are a beautiful way to relax after sippin’ sake. Along your sightseeing cruise, you will notice that the waters appear particularly soft and mellow. Because of their unique characteristics, they are used in the local sake production. Fermenting the sake for a long time, while using the waters in the process, creates a smooth rice wine. Every day, several jikkokubune canal cruises leave for a one-hour tour of the district, stopping by the Misukomon Sake Museum, where you can enjoy the exhibits, before heading back.
Finally, you can plan your trip around the annual Fushimi Nihonshu Festival. It’s usually held in spring but the dates change from year to year. This will be the perfect occasion to taste over 30 varieties of local nihonshu …but drink responsibly! For more information on the exact dates of the festival refer to this website.
Nearby Fushimi Sake District
Besides all the well-known brewery locations and museums, the area has plenty of temples and shrines. In addition to Fushimi Inari Shrine, another notable one is Choken-ji Temple, dedicated to Benten, the only female representative of the seven Japanese lucky gods. Hidden inside this temple you will find a lantern dedicated to the mother of Jesus, Saint Mary. This artifact was placed there by devout Christians looking for a place to pray when their faith was outlawed in the 17th Century.