Discover the Bordeaux of Sake in the Fushimi Sake District of Kyoto
France has the Bordeaux wine region, but Japan has the Fushimi Sake District. While the area is largely famed for the Fushimi Inari Shrine, this brewery district also beckons to those who would love to learn more, not to mention taste more, of the famed rice wine known as ‘nihonshu’ that most people ubiquitously refer to as ‘sake.’
Quick History on Fushimi
At the foot of the Fushimi Castle, the palace of retirement for Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the area flourished during the Azuchi-Momoyama period from 1574 to 1600. Several hundred years later, toward the end of the Edo period, which spanned from 1603 to 1868, Fushimi was the place where the preparations for the battles that lead up to the Meiji Restoration took place.
One of the most famous people behind the restoration, Sakamoto Ryoma, often visited the Teradaya Inn. He suffered an attack there one night, though lived to tell the tale. Meanwhile, the inn was rebuilt and now stands among 40 sake breweries of Fushimi’s famed district in Kyoto.
How Fushimi Sake District Became a Sake Mecca
Fast forward to modern times and Fushimi is the second-largest producer of sake in Japan. Thanks to its strategic location at the junction of Uji, Katsura and Kamo rivers, Fushimi was a natural shipping point from the start. Additionally, the excellent water quality, along with the high demand for sake of the resident over the centuries turned this Fushimi Sake District into a thriving centre of sake production.
One of the giants of the industry, Gekkeikan, founded in Fushimi in 1637, helped pave the way for the district. The buildings here are remarkably preserved, featuring quaint wood exteriors with pops of white-plaster poking out from behind for contrast. You can visit a brewery or two in the area where shops and tastings invite you for a drink. It’s here you’ll have the exclusive chance to shop for unique Fushimi sake items you won’t find anywhere else.
How to Spend the Day in the Fushimi Sake District
Should you find yourself in Kyoto, Japan, make sure to visit the Fushimi Sake District. Here, you can take boat rides along the three rivers for a relaxing way to see the sights. These are the very waters used in local sake production, a significant contributor to the smooth flavours of the rice wines from this region.
Take in some culture at the Fushimi Inari Shrine and the Choken-ji Temple, a devotion to the only female in a line of the 7 lucky Japanese gods. Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum is one brewery and museum you shouldn’t miss, plus it features a tasting at the end.
Another large brewery in Fushimi is Kizakura Kappa Country. It features a small museum for sake as well as an art gallery with a separate museum for the kappa, a unique mythical water creature. A restaurant with a bar plus a shop makes for a pleasurable stop in your day. You can also visit Fushimi Yumehyakushu, the local visitor centre, to learn more about the sake breweries in the district as well as choose from sake sample sets and other delights.
Don’t just appreciate sake from afar…discover it where it is crafted from the bounties of the earth in Fushimi!