Shimogamo-jinja Shrine and Saba-zushi

The well-known exquisite dish from the area of Shimogamo-jinja Shrine you will have on ‘Hareno-hi’.

Text : Ayumu Sasaki / Photo : Kaina Honma


  The old shrine built in Tadasuno-Moriforest, Shimogamo-jinja Shrine, was established many years ago before Heian-kyo started. The history was written on ‘Shoku Nihongi’ telling that this shrine was worshiped as a guardian god of Japan and Kyoto as well as the Imperial Household, and moreover they already started Aoi Matsuri festival in Nara-era. This shrine also appears on ‘Genji Monogatari (the Tale of Genji)’ and ‘Makurano-soshi (The Pillow Book)’ and we get to know that how much people worshipped Shimogamo-jinja Shrine from long ago.

  We are able to feel the old Japanese atmosphere through its appearance and scenery: Narano-ogawa streaming to Tadasuno-mori forest from the shrine, the garden of pebbles which appears on Japanese anthem, and Aioi-sha Shrine which people worship for the marriage.

  It used to be a lot of Japanese restaurants in front of Shimogamo-jinja Shrine gate in order to welcome visitors there. It is very popular now to visit Kamo-mitarashijyaya for ‘Mitarashi-dango (skewered rice dumplings in a sweet soy sauce)’, which was produced after the name of Mitarashi-ike in the shrine and, you are also able to eat ‘Sarumochi’ at Saruya in front of the first gate of the shrine, which was offered to the god at the date of the monkey on Aoi Matsuri festival.

  Moreover, there is a last stop of Sabakaido around Shimogamo-jinja Shrine, which is the highway used to transport saba to Kyoto from Fukui and ‘Sabazushi’ is also counted as one of the specialities of this area.

  Since people didn’t have a cooler system back in a day, people picked fish with salt in order not to damage the fish when they need to transport fish to the other land from the ocean. Surrounded by mountains, plenty of vegetables everywhere, moreover Kyoto was very good at cooking river fish from Katsuragawa-river or Biwako Lake, so that people tried to deliver pickled sea food through Wakasa-kaido Road from Wakasa-no-kohama (Fukui Prefecture). Once Edo era started, sea food transportation became much more popular and those Saba fish is usually damaged easily but if its picked and delivered within a few days, then people can taste it perfectly when it arrived in Kyoto. After that, people started calling this road as ‘Sabakaido’.


  There is a stone monument at the end of Demachiyanagi bridge, which is the last stop of Sabakaido. About 72 km away from Wakasa Bay to Kyoto and it ends up here. On the way to get here, there is a area called Kuchiki, and people from Kyoto visit ‘Hanaore’, the old rest aurant of Sabazushi locates on the Hanaore-toge Ridge, and also they have a main store close to Shimogamo-jinja Shrine.

  A chief chef, Teruaki Domae, told us, “It used to be a catering store, but it became a speciality store of Sabazushi at the time of the owner of the store two generations back”. Since then, this store has been well-known for people in Kyoto. He also added, “Sabazushi is the dish for an important festival such as Aoi-sai festival in May and Gion-sai Festival in July, and moreover, we eat it when we celebrate something called ‘Hareno-hi’. People used to cook it by themselves back in a day, but I think most people come to my place to buy Sabazushi”.

  All the materials they choose to make Sabazushi are chosen carefully. He informed, “Rice is a blend of Koshihikari and Omimai-nihonbare, we specially ordered to produce at the farm in Kuchiki. It is not simple to cook rice since it will change the texture and taste depending on its season. We stock vinegar from ‘Tobaya’ in Obama City, which has run 300 years so far. Thin and clear kombu seaweed on top of Sabazushi is Siroita-kombu. After making Oboro-kombu (shredded combo), the rest goes to the vinegar and it becomes very clear. Putting this Kombu on top of Saba fish, it will keep the moisture and the taste becomes more sweeter”.

  On the most important part of the sushi, they use Saba from the closest ocean including Fukui Prefecture. Taking out organs first of all and salt it roughly and cutting into fillets and pulling out all the bones perfectly and pickling it into vinegar for 2 hours every morning. Peeling off its skin and putting on top of the vinegared rice and as well as Shiroita-kombu, pushing into a special model to make a perfect shape out of it. Then it is finished. It is really hard to push everything perfectly into the model since it cannot be too hard and too soft.

  Very well balanced vinegared rice matches perfectly with salted saba. Its texture brings an exquisite atmosphere to us. 

  He also added, “It tastes better if it stays a day. Rice and saba becomes one after that. My regular customers come here to buy Sabazushi a day before they eat”.

  It preserves about 3 days if you place it in a cool place. Don’t put it into the refrigerator since the rice becomes very hard and it won’t taste good at all. 

Hanaori has inherited the way of cook and the taste of the origin.

We would like you to have this Sabazushi on your special day.



ADDRESS : 59 Shimogamo Izumigawa-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto City.

PHONE : +81(0)75-781-0010

HOURS : 6:00 a.m. ~ 6:00 p.m. (Winter time / 6:30 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m. Please check the hours for Mitarashi Festival)

CLOSED : none





ADDRESS : 121 Shimogamo Miyazaki-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto City

PHONE : +81(0)75-712-5245

HOURS : 9:00 a.m. ~ 6:00 p.m.

CLOSED : irregular holiday, January 1st