Japanese Sake Brewery Tour
Do you know how 日本酒 -nihon-shu (Japanese rice wine, or sake) is made?
The basic ingredients are rice and water.Various types of sake are created based on the quality of this rice and water, and on the production method used.
As a result, places that are renowned for producing good-quality rice and that have good-quality water, such as Niigata and the Tohoku region, are often the source of good-quality nihonshu.
There are several breweries that produce such nihonshu also in Tokyo, in the west of the city where there is still a great deal of nature. Here at Coto Japanese Academy, we visited one of these places, the Toshimaya Shuzo Brewery in Higashimurayama, and had the chance to observe an actual brewery.
Coto Japanese Academy’s tour to Sake Brewery!
There were 18 people in total, including our guide, Hiromi Iwase, and her companions.
We sampled the fine underground water, drawn from 150m below ground level, which is used as an ingredient in sake production, and then had a look inside the brewery. Going inside this large brewery felt like being inside a spaceship.
After the tour came the most eagerly-awaited sampling session! We had a Japanese sake tasting and enjoyed a variety of sake flavors.
Everyone from the brewery also kindly participated in the sampling session. It was a good opportunity to have a drink with some locals and chat in Japanese about various matters.
We are extremely grateful for the kind cooperation of Ms Iwase and the Toshimaya Shuzo Brewery!
Coto Japanese Academy’s study tour will continue from hereon!
Please do all join in next time.
Fun facts about sake
Did you know that there are different grades even amongst sake of the same brand?
(The pricing also roughly doubles.)
When producing sake, firstly the outer part of the rice is shaved off and removed. This is termed 「精米」せいまい ‘rice polishing’, and the quality of the nihonshu differs depending on the extent to which the rice is polished.
大吟醸 Daiginjo – Only 50% of the rice grain closest to the center is used. Generally sold at the highest price.
吟醸 Ginjo – Only 60% of the rice grain closest to the center is used.
本醸造 Honjozo – 70%
* Incidentally, the white rice we usually eat is usually polished to 90%
There are also differences in flavor, such as in sweetness or dryness, so it would be good to be able to find a brand you like without fixating on the sake’s grade!