Updated: Aug 9, 2020
About Ichiwa and Aburi-Mochi
Ichiwa is a over 1000 years old shop right next to the Imamiya Shrine and therefore the
oldest sweets shop in Kyoto. It has been open since Heian-era and specializes in aburi-mochi. "aburi" stands for "grilled" and "mochi" for a rice cake made from glutinous rice
powder. As the name suggests, aburi-mochi is a rice cake which has been grilled over hot
charcoal after being rolled in kinako (roasted soybean powder) and then coated in a sweet
sauce made from white miso paste (a paste made from fermented soy).
Ichiwa first started selling aburi-mochi about 1000 years ago during the Yasurai-Matsuri
(see description below) which started at the Imamiya Shrine. The shrine and the festival
were created in responds to an outbreak of disease and illness during the Heian-era (794-
1185). The bamboo stick on which the mochi is served is dedicated to the god of the
Imamiya Shrine. Locals believed, that eating aburi-mochi would grant oneself immunity to
disease until next year's festival and they also offered the mochi at the shrine to appease
the spirits thought to be responsible for the epidemic.
The shop is now run by the 25th generation of the same family. There is also a small
garden behind the shop where you can enjoy your aburi-mochi as well.
One more sweets shop across to Ichiwa called "Kazariya" serves aburi-mochi as well. I
couldn't see what's the difference between the two as the aburi-mochi looked exactly the
same to me. However, Kazariya seems to be around since 1656, so only about 600 years.
Both shops are right across from each other and therefore work in direct competition.
When we went there, I didn´t know about the difference yet and therefore thought it's the
same shop twice. So, unfortunately we stumbled into Kazariya instead of Ichiwa.
We were told to enter one of the buildings as it was cold outside. There are two or three
buildings consisting of one room each in traditional Japanese style with tatami. I
personally love sitting on tatami and really enjoyed the traditional atmosphere. There are
windows all around and we could see the beautiful little garden behind the shop. It was
quite relaxing to me.
After a little while we were served a pot of green tea and asked how many servings of
aburi-mochi we want. We got two servings for 500 yen each. One consists of a plate with 11 small mochi and the tea is included.
The mochi were quite soft and sticky and thanks to the coating very sweet and delicious. I
enjoyed especially that it was still warm. It also went very well with the bitter green tea.
However, I recommend drinking up the tea fast because the longer you wait the stronger
and more bitter it will become.
We were lucky that there weren´t many customers, so it was possible to stay quite long and
enjoy the moment there. We were able to pay outside when we left.
As Imamiya Shrine is so close, we decided to check it out as well. It is so beautiful and
there weren´t any tourists at all. It´s history is quite interesting too and it became one of
my favorite shrines so far.
About Imamiya Shrine
It is said, that Imamiya Shrine was built in 994 and is located in the north west of Kyoto,
close to Daitokuji Temple. It enshrines several kami (gods), including the deities of good
health and long life as well as match-making. The main deities are Okuninushi,
Kotoshironushi and Kushinadahime. It was first located in Funaokayama but moved to its
current location in 1001. It was established to ward of epidemics which affected Kyoto
One of them is the Ahokashi-san which is a stone. It is said, that if you lightly tap it three
times and lift it up with both hands, put it down again and then rub it three times after
making a wish it will have wish-fulfilling properties for good health.
The shrine area includes a row of 8 sub-shrines (hassha) which are branches of the greater
shrines. This allows you to not have to travel to the far-away main shrines. They are
dedicated to Atsuta, Daitoku, Ebisu, Hachiman, Katori, Kagamitsukuri, Sumiyoshi and
There is also a shrine dedicated to Oda Nobunaga, who united most of Japan during his
Additionally, there is a shrine dedicated to Taishogunsha, the deity of Heian Palace.
Festivals held at Imamiya Shrine
The main festival at this shrine is the Yasurai Matsuri. It is dedicated to good health and
held on the second Sunday in April. People yell "yasuraibana ya" to get rid of the bad luck
of the locals. It includes a parade where red- and black haired oni (devils) shake their hairs
loose and dance while music is played and sung.
It is believed that when the cherry blossoms are in bloom the deity of good health is
distracted by the fairies that come from the flowers and therefore disease can spread.
The main attraction of the Yasurai Matsuri are big red umbrellas decorated with flowers.
As the deity of good health is attracted to these flowers, she will be lured back into the
shrine and relax there for one more year until the next festival. Thanks to this, people can
again pray for their health. It is also said that people who walk under the umbrellas won't
become sick for one year.
Yasurai Matsuri is one of the 3 most unique festivals of Kyoto.
From 5th to 15th of May there will be the Imamiya Festival including another parade with
portable shrines and kagura dance.
And finally , on October 8 and 9, the Autumn Festival takes place. On the evening of
October 8 (19:00), a ceremony is held. A performance of ceremonial music and dance
called Mikagura is held in the dark with the light of lanterns. On the next day from 10am
the main festival, Azuma-asobi, takes part. 6 dancers and 5 musicians offer a ceremonial
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