A Tour of a Saké Brewery in Hakone

by Luke - TripleLights travel specialist

Saké is a type of Japanese rice wine, made from fermenting rice. It is a popular drink in Japan, and is the national beverage of the country. If you are planning on visiting Japan, you should definitely try saké at least once. Or better still, visit a brewery to learn more about how this rice wine is made:

Inoue Saké Brewery

Today I am heading to the Inoue Saké Brewery. I start from Tokyo Station, before taking the the Tokaido Line to Kōzu Station. The journey takes about ninety minutes. I have to wait at Kōzu for a while; the trains here appear just twice an hour. Eventually a train comes, and I take the Gotemba Line to our destination, Kami-Ōi Station. From the train I can see the sea. The journey is a long one, so I hope it is worth it.

At Kami-Ōi Station, the place is completely deserted, it is so quiet that there is no ticket gate. The area is definitely the countryside, mountains and the sea. Rice growing everywhere. The air is clean. I leave the station and in five minutes I arrive at the Inoue Saké Brewery.

A Tour of a Saké Brewery in Hakone

A globe of cedar leaves hangs outside. I am told this it to represent this year’s saké. In the end of October this will be replaced with a new cedar globe, when the new batch of saké is made. The idea is that the leaves start off green, and as the saké matures, the leaves turn brown. A representation of sorts.

Inoue Saké Brewery was established in 1789, during the Edo period. The owner, Mister Inoue, is incredibly humble, passionate, and speaks reasonably good English. I take a seat, he talks me through the process, the history, and the various types of saké; then the tour of the brewery promptly begins. He explains that the cold Hakone air is perfect for the production of saké. The brewery uses locally grown rice, and water from 150 meters underground. I drink some of the water; just as I expected, it is clean, fresh and clear.

What Is Japanese saké? A Short Explanation
The Different Types of saké 
Japanese Saké: Hot or Cold?

A Tour of a Saké Brewery in Hakone

Saké production is somewhat similar to wine, except an extra process is added before fermentation. Starch from the rice is added to Koji, a diastatic enzyme. The enzyme helps to break down the rice and convert the starch into sugar. The process is known as Saccharification. Next, sugar and yeast are added and fermentation begins. With wine, grapes naturally contain sugars, so just yeast is added, but after that, the process is very much the same.

I visit the room where the Koji is added to the rice, see the large tanks where the rice is steamed, where it is stored, where it is mashed. I am surprised to discover that all of the processes are done by hand. The mashing process, for example, takes place in huge 8,000 litre tanks. The masher stands above the tank on a dangerous looking wooden platform, and smashes a huge stick into the rice, for four days.

A Tour of a Saké Brewery in Hakone

The result is a liquid made from starch. Next multiple parallel fermentation takes place. The mixture is rested for up to 32 days, during which, Saccharification and fermentation take place at the same time. Following this, the saké is pressed through cloth, filtered, before a pasteurisation process begins. Finally the saké is aged for up to six months, bottled, and eventually sold to the consumer.

The saké is sold in 1.8 litre bottles, or 720 ml bottles. A much smaller bottle is also sold, however, the other two sizes are the most common. After the tour I sit down and try a few varieties of saké. My favorite is the gold-medal winning Hakone-yama Junmai. Junmaishu is a traditional style of saké, and often has a mellow bouquet with a rich, smooth flavour.

How to Combine Saké with Food
A Short Guide to Japanese Sake
The Social Rules of Drinking Sake

A Tour of a Saké Brewery in Hakone

Hakone-yama Junmai can be enjoyed in three different ways. Room temperature, cold, or hot. I try the room temperature first, and it tastes good, with just a subtle amount of flavour. I then drink it cold, and it tastes a lot nicer, with a much smoother texture. Finally, I try the hot variety, which also tastes great, the flavour really opens up, and the scent is a lot stronger.

After the tasting, I am given a Masu as a souvenir, a small wooden box which was originally used to measure rice, but these days it is used as a container for drinking saké. Impressed with what I have seen and tasted today, I decide to buy a bottle of saké for ¥1200. After that I say goodbye to the owner and return to Kami-Ōi Station.

A Tour of a Saké Brewery in Hakone

From the train station I can see the base of Mount Fuji.

Guidebook from Planetyze about Hakone
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Inoue Saké Brewery
- Saké Brewery Tours
-
 Saké Tasting Tours

Did you like my article?

If you are interested to know more and save your time during your trip to Tokyo, You can send a message to our local guides to get a customized itinerary and quotation for an unforgettable experience.

In the TripleLights website you can find the best professional guides all over Japan to help you plan your trip. Check our local guides for Tokyo


Plan your trip to Tokyo

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.
Get Started

Recent Tour Reviews in Tokyo

“ in depth tour of Zojo-ji ”

Excellent
2 months ago Traveler: Prasanna -   Tour Guide: Kazuharu

We were looking for an in-depth understanding of Zojo-ji, and it is not one of the popular spots in Tokyo. Kazuharu prepared and came with lots of notes and tried his best to answer all our questions. He was patient and enthusiastic.
read more

“ The best way to get around Tokyo ”

Excellent
5 months ago Traveler: Catarina -   Tour Guide: Mitsuru

Mitsuru was very careful when planning our visit, and made sure we got exactly the experience we wanted from Tokyo, with the right balance of tourist hotspots and local finds. His patience when explaining local habits and teaching us how to ride the tube were the reason we were able to get around the rest of the country, and his impecable guidance made it able for us to cover all of Tokyo in the l...
read more

“ Delightlful .... ”

Excellent
6 months ago Traveler: Jerome -   Tour Guide: Aki

Aki was very easy to work with and accomodating to our group of 6. As requested, he put together a 3 day itinerary for us based upon our interests and desired activity level. He is quite knowledgeable about "all things Tokyo" as well as the Japanese culture and history. He is a master of the Tokyo transit system and without him we would have had a difficult time navigating around. We asked Aki...
read more

“ KOJI--OUR WONDERFUL GUIDE! ”

Excellent
6 months ago Traveler: JEFF -   Tour Guide: Koichiro

In the midst of the ongoing COVID drama sweeping the world, my partner and I decided to continue on with our trip to Japan. We were a bit nervous and wary but ended up having an incredible, once in a lifetime trip and a large part of this was our time with Koji. Koji has youth and energy, knowledge about Japanese culture, food and life, and was a wonderful host during our stay in Tokyo. We felt...
read more

“ Great guide ”

Excellent
6 months ago Traveler: Kerry -   Tour Guide: Yasuro

Though it rained most of the day we had a good look around Tokyo. Yasuro was a polite patient guide with great knowledge.
read more

“ March 7 2020 Tokyo ”

Excellent
6 months ago Traveler: Teresita -   Tour Guide: Noriko

Due to lack of time I decided to hire a Tokyo local guide to make use of our time,most especially for 7 hours. I did not regret to choose Noriko ,she was professional ,punctual ,very knowledgeable and she can feel the feelings of what we really wanted to see. We were so happy because we saw the places we wanted in 7 hours time. We recommend Noriko to all travellers who wanted to see in a short ...
read more

“ First day in Tokyo ”

Excellent
6 months ago Traveler: Nathan -   Tour Guide: Nobu

Nobu was wonderful. He accepted our last minute booking and met us at our hotel at 10am. A lot of things where closed, but Nobu had a great iteneriary for us. He spoke great english and did a great job of explaining the local culture and history.
read more

“ einen Tag in Tokio, einen Tag Teezermoniechmarkt. ”

Excellent
6 months ago Traveler: Maria -   Tour Guide: Yukiko

Es war wunderschön .Yukiko Hat uns mit ihren liebenswürdigen Art und viel Wissen über die Geschichte Tokios und besten Deutschkenntnissen, Tokio zu einer der Liebenswertesten Städte der Welt gemacht, man kann sie nur empfehlen und wir hatten wunderschöne Tage, sollten wir mal wiederkommen,Dann nur mit Yukiko.Liebe Grüße aus Rosenheim Marisa, Susanne und Tanja
read more

“ I had a wonderful time with Juliana. ”

Excellent
6 months ago Traveler: Arnold -   Tour Guide: Juliana

OMG, I had a fabulous day with Juliana. She was very informative and very professional while showing me around Tokyo. I've requested to Juliana to take me to the snoopy museum. Despite being closed because of the virus, she took me there anyway to visit the Peanut cafe and Snoopy town. That's when i learned she too was a Snoopy fan. Her command of the English language is very fluent. I have learn...
read more

“ 8 hour tour worth every penny! ”

Excellent
6 months ago Traveler: Chris -   Tour Guide: Maru

Maru was quick to respond to my request and assembled a nice customized itinerary for our day in Tokyo together. The shrine we visited was incredible! She has good local knowledge and is very personable and friendly. Maru's English is excellent and she was able to help me put together a few key phrases that I used during the rest of my stay in Japan. I would highly recommend her!
read more

Related cities

Plan your trip to Tokyo

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.
Get Started