Translated by Jelena Kitamura
Try Quail Meat At Nezameya, Near Kyoto's Fushimi Inari Shrine!
In the Fushimi Inari area, famous for Fushimi Inari Shrine, there are many respected shops and restaurants offering gourmet food. One such shop is Nezameya, where you can try a true delicacy - a whole-roasted quail! Find out more down below.
Written by Kasumi Hashimoto
In Fushimi district of the city of Kyoto stands Fushimi Inari Shrine, the head shrine to all other Inari sanctuaries throughout the country. The deity that resides in the shrine, the God Inari, ensures there is a good harvest (*1) and prosperous business in the country.
Perhaps the most famous characteristic of this shrine is the perfect row of senbon dorii, or the countless torii gates lining along the path that lead up to Mt. Inari where the main shrine was built.
*1 Gokokuhojo (The Huge Harvest of Five Grains): a phrase that symbolizes a rich harvest of the crops and other agricultural products.
You can already imagine that in the vicinity of this respected shrine there are numerous veteran shops forming the sando, or the road leading to the shrine. Visiting a famous shrine or a temple is surely a wonderful experience and chance to enjoy longstanding traditions, but discovering the lively area close by it should also make for an exciting adventure on its own. So this time, we decided to tell you more about the gourmet town of the sando leading to the Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Enjoy a Quail Dish at Nezameya, Located in Front of the Gates!
If you take a look around the vicinity of Fushimi Inari Shrine’s gates, it will be hard to miss the quite eye-catching townhouse built in the traditional style. This house, Nezameya, has a deep-rooted reputation in this sando street, as its name was bestowed on them by the former taiko (regent) Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
If, by chance, the connection with the great Hideyoshi wasn’t surprising enough, wait until you hear what the okami (the proprietress) of this authentic restaurant has been preparing inside – a whole-roasted quail! Actually, it has been a long tradition to roast quails (or uzura in Japanese) and sparrows that raid the crops in the area of Fushimi Inari.
So, we wasted no time and ordered ourselves a portion. We must admit we were taken aback for a moment there when we saw the whole quail slowly roasting in front of us, but we could tell okami was used to the scene. We learned that to prepare this quail dish, she uses a generous amount of a special sauce that was invented long ago whose recipe has been passed down from generation to generation. You maintain the heat level by using the handheld fan called uchiwa in Japanese, all while turning the quail over constantly in order to avoid it getting too burnt, while also adding more sauce to make sure that it is perfectly seasoned. Finally, we got to witness some magnificent cutting skills of the proprietress and the alluringly aromatic roasted quail meat was ready to be served. The lovely scent of this dish quickly spread throughout the sando street of Fushimi Inari.
The dish is served chopped up into bite-sized chunks for easier consumption. As it is a smaller type of a bird, there aren’t many bigger bones you’d have to watch out for. As you take a bite of this delicious-looking meat glossy with all the sauce used while preparing, the small bones will satisfyingly crumble down as you chew on them. With all this thorough preparation, we couldn’t resist eating the whole thing from the head to the toe (in this case, thigh)! You certainly won’t be able to experience this kind of “wild-life” savoriness when eating chicken. It is as if you’d become a true fox, punishing the quails for causing trouble around the neighborhood.
No.1 in the Country - Fushimi Inari’s Inarizushi in a League of its Own!
But, there is still room for mentioning one more delicacy of Fushimi Inari area – the inarizushi, loved and consumed all across Japan.
Inarizushi differs from usual sushi by its taste and shape – it is made by simmering aburaage (thin fried tofu) in sweet soy sauce-based broth, then stuffing it with vinegared rice to form a small sack-like bundle. It is said that inarizushi was created to “use up the aburaage that originally served as an offering to God Inari”, and the story beautifully portrays the deep connection between Inari Shrine and this dish.
Actually, the area around Fushimi Inari is said to have the largest consumption of inarizushi in the whole country – truly a worthy characteristic of the holy land of inarizushi! Still, it is important to point out that inarizushi made at Fushimi area is somewhat different from the usual inarizushi prepared in other parts of Japan.
The outer appearance is triangular, and it is stuffed with a mixture of five-grain rice (white rice mixed with five different types of crops) with sesame seeds and great burdock. The shape of the sushi is supposed to resemble Mt. Inari, and the crops mixed in with rice symbolize the prosperity of cultivating crops in this area.
The aburaage is chewy and soft, with salty-sweet broth flowing out with each bite you take. It has the power to unleash good energy and a great mood like any great-tasting gourmet dish should. And the filling – the combination of rice prepared with vinegar, and other vegetables and seasonings, add to the feast that is happening in your mouth, giving it just the right amount of chewiness. All of the tastes and textures that can be experienced with this dish are enough of a reason for you not to stop your hand from reaching for more – they are exquisite, and you should certainly try some.
For the Japanese, whose diet relied on rice as the main staple food for centuries, these crops mean “abundance”. That is the reason why Inari, the god protector of the harvests and abundance of crops, together with his dwelling place, Inari Shrine, have many people who honor and trust them even today. Why not pay a visit to Inari, to pay your respects and enjoy some gourmet food from the area, and to turn your year into a fruitful and abundant one?
Address: Kyoto, Kyoto, Fushimi, Fukakusa Inari-Onmae 82-1
Fixed Holidays: Not fixed
Credit Cards: None
Language: Japanese, English, Chinese
Menu/Pamphlets in Other Languages: English, Chinese
Nearest Station: Inari Station of JR Nara Line
Access: a 2 minute walk north from the station’s exit
Price: 1000-1999 yen
Website: http://www.fusimi-inari.com/?p=154 (Japanese)