The Wards of Kyoto (Part 2 of 4)
In the last episode, we discussed Kamigyou-ku, Nakagyou-ku and Shimogyou-ku. In this episode, we will be looking even further south to the wards of Fushimi and Minami-ku, as well as eastward, near Lake Biwa, with Yamashina. These wards skirt the bottom of Kyoto city’s borders like a bowl, when put together.
Fushimi houses one of the most easily recognizable shrines in Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Shrine, whose thousands of red torii gates often grace the covers to Kyoto tourist guides. Roughly a ten minute journey from Kyoto Station, Fushimi ward has plenty to offer, including Fushimi Momoyama Castle, which can be seen from a fair distance due to its height. The castle was built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and is famous for it’s gold-foil tea room. There are many temples in Fushimi as well, including Shimo Daigoji Temple, Kami Daigoji Temple, and Hokaiji Temple, and Jonangu Gardens and the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum are also worth a visit as well. The water of Fushimi is very soft, and from it, a special brand of sake is brewed in the ward in large quantities. Fushimi is currently the second largest sake producer in Japan. Takeda, a small neighborhood near Fushimi, also offers a hot spring and every year at Pulse Plaza, there is an Antiques Grand Fair, offering displays of thousands of Japanese antiques from all craftsmanships.
Minami-ku was a part of Shimgyou-ku until 1955, when the city separated it and established it as its own ward. It has a population of around 100,000 people, being mostly a residential and industrial area, and has a very high density of Korean nationals living and working there. Many locals consider this area “Korea Town.” It was also historically considered the gateway into Kyoto, as it is one of the few areas in Kyoto city not lined with mountains. It is the former site of the Rashomon Gate– the historical southern entrance into Kyoto. There is little to do in this ward as a tourist, with the exception of To-ji Temple, where a massive flea market is held on the 21st of every month. The Kyoto City Disaster Prevention Center, where anyone can go to experience an earthquake room, realistic fire drill and how to use an extinguisher, is located in this ward, as well as the head office of international gaming company Nintendo.
Yamashina, traditionally a farming village, has become yet another suburb over time for people who commute to central Kyoto or Osaka for work. It was once an important part of the Tokaido trade route from eastern Japan. It contains the grave of Emperor Tenji, the oldest imperial tomb in Kyoto as well as the grave of Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, a general and shogun to Emperor Kammu. The Biwa Canal is also situated partly in Yamashina, giving this ward the proud history of having the first hydro-electric plant in all of Japan. There are a few temples and shrines in Yamashina, most notably Kajū-ji, which was built by Emperor Daigo, Zuishin Temple, famous for its plum blossoms, Oishi Shrine and Yamashina Shrine. Its most famous craft is Kiyomizu-yaku, a special pottery used exclusively for Ikebana, tea ceremony and dining.
In the next episode, we will move westward, to the wards of Nishikyo-ku, Ukyo-ku and Kita-ku. See you in Part 3!