Each month throughout 2020 the AJS-Q is celebrating the 35th Anniversary of the Brisbane Kobe Sister City relationship by highlighting aspects of Kobe. This month we are looking at Kobe Sake.
As the capital of Hyogo Prefecture, Japan’s most significant sake production region, Kobe has long been held to to produce arguably the finest sake in Japan.
Kobe sake is the result of a unique combination of elements including the purest of water, high quality rice, perfect climatic conditions and the Tamba-Toji (Master sake brewers) skilled in the art of traditional sake brewing.
It starts with the hard, mineral rich Miyamizu water, that flows from the slopes of Mt Rokko, being skilfully blended with locally grown, large grain,Yamada Nishiki rice by the Tamba-Toji. Then the cold winds (Rokko Oroshi) that sweep down from the Rokko Mountains in winter act as a natural coolant during the cooling and slowing of the fermentation process. The result is sake that is prized throughout Japan and the world.
A number of Kobe’s sake breweries are concentrated in Nada Gogo (Five Villages of Nada) which spread across a 12 kilometre coastal strip incorporating Kobe City and Nishinomiya City. Sake has been produced in Nada, the largest sake producing region in Japan, since the 14th Century. The breweries in this region account for around a quarter of Japan’s total sake production.Three of the Nada Gogo villages,Nishi-go, Mikage-go and Uozaki-go are located in Nada and Higashi Nada Wards of Kobe City.
The Nada Gogo sake breweries and museums listed below are all located in close travelling distance from one another. If you love sake or just want to learn more about it, these are a must see while in Kobe.
Tours are available from Sannomiya or Osaka or, if you are visiting independently, the area is easily reached by train. While it is possible to visit one or two breweries or museums in an hour or so if you are short of time, it is recommended that you allow half a day to visit the area. This will enable ample time for touring, tasting, purchasing and lunch or a snack at one of the breweries’ restaurants or cafes.
Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum is run by Hakutsuru Sake Brewery, the largest brewery in Japan. The museum provides a window to the past with step by step displays of traditional equipment, brewing techniques and adaptions made to achieve present day production. The museum is located within walking distance of Mikage Station or Sumiyoshi Station. www.hakutsuru.co.jp/english
Kobe Shu-Shin-Kan Brewery, one of Kobe’s most prestigious sake breweries, provides free admission to the brewery, but only in winter, during the brewing season.
At other times of the year visitors can access the Kobe Shu-Shin-Kan store to learn about the brewing process, for tastings or to purchase sake and souvenirs. The brewery’s restaurant, Sakayabashi, overlooks a pretty Japanese garden and is very popular for lunch or dinner. Kobe Shu-Shin-Kan is also located near Mikage Station. www.shushinkan.co.jp
Masamune Sake Brewery and Museum has been run by the Kano family since the 17th Century. The museum has been established with a desire to share the origin, history and traditions of sake brewing. Explanations are provided in a number of foreign languages and there is a dedicated photo area within the museum.
Visitors can purchase gifts and souvenirs and sake tastings are available. One of the most popular items is the daiginjo (sake made from rice polished to 50% or less) flavoured soft serve ice cream. www.kikumasamune.co.jp
Sakuramasamune Museum in Higashinada depicts the brewery’s 400 year history. There is also a restaurant and gift shop and visitors have the option to purchase a unique souvenir – they are invited to take a photo and create a label that will be attached to their own bottle of sake. The museum is located near Uozaki station. www.sakuramasamune.co.jp
Sawanotsuru Sake Museum is over 300 years and houses tools and equipment used over the centuries for sake brewing. The significance of the collection is such that the museum is classified as an Important Tangible Folk Cultural Property in Hyogo Prefecture. www.sawanotsuru.co.jp
Hama Fukutsuru Ginjo Kobo was established in 1900 in the Meji Period but was completely destroyed in the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake that struck Kobe in 1995. Fortunately, the brewery was reconstructed as a museum after the earthquake. Here, visitors can view, smell and even ‘hear’ every step of the sake making process before tasting some of the many sakes on offer. The museum’s gift shop includes a wide variety of products from all over Japan, and some that can only be purchased in this store.