The Fushimi Sake District (伏見) is a charming, traditional sake brewing district along the willow-lined Horikawa River in southern Kyoto. Revered for the clean, soft water that flows in abundance from the river's underground springs, the district is home to nearly 40 sake breweries. Alongside Kobe's Nada District, Fushimi has been the leading sake brewing districts in the country.
Among the local breweries is industry giant Gekkeikan which was founded here in 1637. Many of the district's buildings preserved their traditional appearance with wood and white-plaster walls. A few of the breweries in the area are open to the public and offer shops where you can taste and purchase their products (including some exclusive items not available elsewhere), restaurants and museums.
Fushimi grew during the Azuchi-Momoyama Period at the base of Fushimi Castle (on Momoyama Hill after which the period of history was named), the retirement palace of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the contemporary ruler of Japan. It flourished as a sake production site thanks to its strategic shipping location at the junction of two rivers, the availability of good water and the high demand for alcoholic beverages by the inhabitants of the castle and its town.
A few hundred years later, in the waning years of the Edo Period, Fushimi became a venue for the preparations and a battle leading to the Meiji Restoration. Sakamoto Ryoma, one of the most famous proponents of the restoration, frequented the local Teradaya Inn where he barely survived an attack on his life on one occasion. The inn was rebuilt since. It stands near the sake breweries and is open to tourists for daytime viewing and overnight stays.
Sightseeing cruises ply the river
At Fushimi's prime as a shipping port, flat-bottom, wooden boats plied the rivers, moving goods to and from the castle town. Wooden boats can still be seen on the river, although these days they carry sightseeing cruise passengers rather than mercantile goods. Cruises depart from docks near the Gekkeikan Brewery and the Teradaya Inn. The cruises both go as far as the junction with the Uji River and take about 55 and 40 minutes respectively.
Sake related sites