Visit any izakaya and you'll instantly notice that beer is the common drink of choice amongst many young people and salary men in Japan who want to wind down and relax after a long days of work. However, the alcoholic beverage that has its roots in Japanese tradition is sake, also known as 'rice wine', which is as the name connotes is produced with fermented rice.
Throughout Japanese history, the region of Nada has been a key producer of sake. In fact, amongst the 40 breweries that are in the Nada area, almost 30 percent of the entire nation's sake is produced there. There are many conditions that have made Nada an ideal place for the sake industry to flourish. To begin with, the availability of high quality rice, water and favorable weather conditions has enabled the optimal production of sake. Nada's proximity to the ports of Kobe and Osaka has also facilitated the relatively easy distribution of sake nationwide and internationally.
If you happen to be visiting Hyogo Prefecture during your time in Japan, then you should definitely consider taking a few hours out of your day to visit one or two of the sake breweries around the Nada area that is straddled in between Kobe and Nishinomiya. Below are a few of our top picks for sake breweries and museums in this area, all of which have either English-speaking guides or English pamphlets so you can fully absorb all the information.
Sawanotsuru Sake Museum
At Sawanotsuru, the museum and the tools used for sake production have been designated as ‘Important Tangible Folk Cultural Properties’. The Sawanotsuru Sake Museum was originally opened in in November 1978 with hopes of preserving the tradition of sake production for future generations. Around three years and seven months after the Sawanotsuru Sake Museum was destroyed as a result of Hanshin earthquake, it was re-opened to the public to continue on with its original purpose of cultural preservation.
The museum will demonstrate to you the traditional brewing methods and ingredients utilized to make the sake. English pamphlets will be provided with all of the details of the production of sake.
Hours: 10:00 am to 16:00 pm
Closed: Wednesdays, Obon Holidays and New Years
Directions: To reach the museum, it is a 10-minute walk south from Hanshin Line Oishi Station along the Toga River.
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Kobe Shushinkan Brewery
If you’re keen on picking up sake and other sake-related products during your visit of the Nada sake breweries, Kobe Shishinkan Brewery is the place to look. During the wintertime (which is the optimal season in which to produce sake), the museum provides guided tours of the brewing process itself. However, if your visit to Japan is during another season, there is a sake cellar tour that is operational year round, where you can also partake in sake tasting of their original product.
Hours: 10:00 am to 18:00 pm
Closed: January 1 to 3 of every year
Access: There are a few ways to go to the museum:
1. Get off at Hanshin Ishiyagawa station and take a 8-minute walk.
2. Get off at JR Rokkomichi station and it takes about a 5-minute drive to reach the museum.
3. Get off at JR Shin-Kobe station and it takes about a 20-minute drive to reach the museum.
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Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum
This museum is distinguished by their life-sized replicas of the tools used in the production of sake, as well as models to demonstrate the brewing process. The old sake brew house was opened to the public in its original form to allow visitors to explore and learn about the tradition that has been passed down for generations and generations.
On the first floor of the museum, there are life-sized replicas of the huge cedar vats used to for fermentation and in the sake-tasting area, visitors can taste freshly pressed sake only produced at Hakutsuru. On the same floor, you can stop by the Hakatsuru Sake Brewery store to purchase sake and other sake-based products such as sake gelatin desserts.
On the second floor, you will be enlightened on the varying steps required in the sake making process, as well as the equipment utilized such as the cooling apparatus and koji culture room. These methods are explained using tools and videos (in English).
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (However, visitors will not be allowed in after 4:00 p.m., and reservations need to be made for large groups.)
Closed: Japanese New Year Holiday period and Summer Holidays
Reservations: Call +81-078-822-8907 to make your reservation.
Address: 4-5-5, Sumiyoshiminami-machi Higashinada-ku, Kobe 658-0041
Access: There are a few ways to get to the museum:
1. Get off at Hanshin Sumiyoshi station and take about a five-minute walk.
2. Get off at JR Sumiyoshi station and take about a fifteen-minute walk.
3. Get off at Hankyu Mikage station and take about a ten-minute drive.
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