It's the afternoon. You're in Kobe, Japan, home to Nada - Japan's top sake producing district. The challenge: get your sake history on, with a side of sake tastings. It's a challenge because in the district, most of the distillery + museums close around 17:00 (Japan loves the military time), and you've got some exploring to do.
So, hop a train to the Nada district. We got off at Sumiyoshi station and started with the Hakutsuru Brewery Museum.
Hakutsuru Brewery Museum
Hakutsuru was the largest of the breweries we made it to. We arrived right as they were closing the museum, but we were able to make it through. A good tasting and a decent amount of money spent at the gift shop later, we were off to a good start!
(Speaking of the gift shop, this was the first place I'd noticed Japanese packaging efficiency. When you make a purchase, everywhere will wrap and package items for you as if you were taking them in ruck sack on a camel through the desert. This includes 7-11.)
|In the hedgerow outside the lovely property, the tiniest of signs told us we were in the right place.|
|The museum was large and informative.|
|The sake was delicious. My favorite was the Junmai Ginjo.|
|Several rooms like this with scenes in the museum.|
The next stop was the Sakura Masamune Brewery and Museum. From visiting such a new and admittedly foreign place, I found myself particularly attuned to the differences and similarities. Sakura Masamune had a different feel than Hakutsuru, enough that I was happy that we'd made the trip. But the one thing that struck me about all the sake breweries we visited (including one in Kyoto) was that while these are obviously places of business and profit, they also have a tone of simplicity and approachability. I didn't feel out of place visiting them; nor did I feel marketed to. A smaller shop but a richer tasting experience (granted, this one was not free) was enjoyable to me.
|Tasting the good stuff.|
|Start with the sake tasting (300 yen), stay for the museum!|
|Historic sake labels.|
|Old bottles of sake, most of them still full (or partially).|
|I'm not sure what this was for, but I think I get it.|
Dinner at Shu-Shin-Kan Restaurant
With daylight running scarce (the sun sets early in Japan's summer) we made our way to a brewery that had a restaurant. We arrived after the museum closed, but had easily one of our most interesting dinners there. A multi-course meal of tofu and fish dishes, accompanied by some Fukuju sake, it was a genuine experience.
|Our palette was in the right hands.|
|The first couple courses of the tofu set menu.|
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