There are so many recommended snacks and souvenirs you can buy in Kyoto, but there is one which is rarely known by tourists. Only at Imamiya Shrine, can you find the 1000-year-old traditional Kyoto confection, aburi-mochi which is roasted rice cakes skewered on a bamboo stick. Just 2 kilometers from the famous Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion). One may go to Kyoto for sightseeing, but in my opinion, you’re not in Kyoto yet if you haven’t tried it.
Imamiya Shrine is a Shinto shrine located in Kita-ku, and was founded in the year 994, known as the venue of annual Yasurai Festival, one of three major festivals in Kyoto held every second Sunday in April. With a peaceful setting and virtually unknown to tourists even in the holiday season, you will be carried into a sacred atmosphere where every visitor prays fervently. The words “Imamiya” means newly constructed. It was originally established for worshipers to pray for safety from an epidemic, which today has grown where patrons can pray for good general health. Sometimes you even can meet a just married couple who wants to register their marriage at the shrine, and some who took a pre- or after-wedding photo. While taking attention for them, don't forget to say a simple, "Omedetou". It means congratulations, for the wedding.
Before, when a bad epidemic spread in Kyoto, people ate these skewered rice dumplings while praying for recovery. This is believed to be the origin of aburi-mochi. It is said that if you eat aburi-mochi, you can avoid illness since the bamboo stick upon the aburi-mochi is served is dedicated to the god of the Imamiya shrine and the aburi-mochi itself can protect people against evils.
Lined up outside the shrine’s west gate, there is are two shops on the left where you can get mochi called Ichikawa, which has been open since the Heian-era in 1002, while on the other side is Kazaria, open since 1656. It is said that the two shops do not get along, but they must have a fair competition in order to have been open together for hundreds of years.
Dusted in roasted soybean flour, the mochi is grilled over a charcoal fire lathered with a special white miso-paste sauce. Both Kazaria and Ichikawa have a nice atmosphere for its old building, small garden, grilled mochi’s scent, and very affable waitresses. But I found that Ichikawa’s mochi are slightly sweeter. Served right from the grill, it cost 500 yen for 11 skewers in both of shops. Each made into a bite-sized portion, don’t worry even you don't have a full stomach. The price also include a healthy warm green tea with the mochi. Take out options are available from ¥1500 for 3 servings, and best eaten within 3 hours.
Closed: Every Wednesday, and the 1st and 15th of each month
(When the 1st or 15th is a Wednesday, the store will be closed on Thursday of the following day)