Kyoto’ s sweltering summer is really hot and humid. When I visited Kyoto in summer, I always try to escape from the humidity and to spend time near clear and fresh water. Fushimi has various rich groundwater and famous Japanese Sake breweries that uses the water. The best way to reach Fushimi is by rail, using either Keihan Line or Kintetsu Line, and it takes about 20 mins from Kyoto Station.
Groundwater for Sake Brewers
The town of Fushimi prospered with Fushimi Port and the flow of Katsura River and Uji River supported by the rich groundwater. There are still many of Japan’s leading Sake brewers in Fushimi and traditional Japanese-style houses which have been rebuilt after several domestic battles. Fushimi town is small compared to Kyoto city, so it is easy to walk around on foot. Visiting groundwater places to drink the spring water in Fushimi is also popular. Some places were crowded with people drawing water into many plastic bottles.
The taste of water was clean and smooth and it was refreshing to take a rest near watering places after walking in the hot and humid air. Gekkeikan is one of the Japanese Sake breweries in Fushimi. Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum displays sake-brewing equipment and offers tastings of their nice Japanese sake.
Take the Jikkoku boat tour
I also took the Jikkoku boat tour to see around the Fushimi town while enjoying the cool atmosphere. The boat went through green tunnels and I could see well maintained river sides. Jikkoku boat tour takes about one hour including visiting Misuno Koumon Museum. Boarding fee is 1,200 yen (about $12) and reservations are preferred.
The same system of locks as with the Panama canal is used to connect Uji River and Hori River. This was constructed by Hideyoshi Toyotomi for the Fushimi Castle. Misuno Koumon Museum provides a diorama and old maps from the early Edo era representing Fushimi Castle and daimyo, feudal lords and houses.
History of Fushimi
Because I walked in Fushimi town and took the tour boat, I could understand the importance of this area. Fushimi was still rich and the center of culture. Fushimi is one of the historic places that gained importance in the transition from Edo era to Meiji Era, early modern period to late modern period. Fushimi was a battleground for the Battle of Toba-Fushimi which came at the beginning of the Boshin War. The Boshin War was a battle between the former Edo Bakufu Army and the New Government Army. We usually express the end of Edo Bakufu as a Big Bang, a revolution of Japanese history with nostalgic and romantic feelings. Ryoma Sakamoto is one of the warriors of that time and he is admired as a hero in Japan. The reconstructed Teradaya at Fushimi is where Ryoma Sakamoto was attacked by the former Edo Bakufu. It’s very popular with history buffs. It is not the original building, but I could enjoy the size of the room and scenery from the second floor to see Fushimi town.
Byodoin Temple in Uji
While visiting Fushimi, it’s worth visiting the Uji area. It took 30 mins from the Fushimi area by public transportation. There were many attractive places in Uji. My recommendation is the Byodoin Temple constructed in 1052 by Fujiwara, the richest Heian era’s noble. I have been there more than ten times with my friends and my family or by myself, but it’s still impressive to visit.
The way to visit the Byodoin Temple is full of entertainment. I started from the Uji Station and walked on the Uji Bridge watching surrounded mountains and the Uji River. Then, I entered Omotesando Street leading to the Byodoin Temple to see shops and cafes. There are many Maccha stores but you will never get fed up with them. Finally, approaching the Byodoin Temple was the climax to arriving at the old temple. When entering the site, you can see a big pond behind the main building.
There were no big buildings around the Byodoin Temple to disturb the view, so the sky was expanding with blue and green colors. The shape of the building is unique like that of a bird and the corridor to the entrance of the main building seems a stage to cause an uplifting feeling. Walking along the corridor and entering the main building to meet with Amida Nyorai, It made us feel very calm and relaxed. The height of people at that time was shorter than current people, so they must have been astonished to see the huge Amida Nyorai. There are small statues located around the wall. The place tries to give a strong impression to the audience.
I spent over 2 hours at the Byodoin Temple taking photos from different angles and looking at beautiful arts and renovated old statues at the Byodoin Museum. The museum was also very calm and a good place to observe beautiful statues. The time of day was also critical to take photos at the Byodoin Temple. Sunlight created various shades and the color changed according to different angles. The size of the Byodoin Temple was not huge, so one hour would be enough to see the building and the museum. If you see around Uji area, a one-day trip is recommended.