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Month in Sake - November 2023

We are slowly approaching the end of the year and November is historically such a busy month. With the brewery season just starting, one would think sake events and such would start to disappear, but in reality - not so much. In parallel the autumn leaves have turned Japan into an incredibly magical place, making this one of the best months to travel and enjoy its natural beauty.

Fushimi Yokai Festival (Nov 4th & 5th)

I must confess, until very recently I did not know about this, but Fushimi (one of our favorite sake production areas) aside from its traditional sake festival, also holds a “Yokai Sake Festival”.

If you are not familiar with the word "Yōkai" a quick Google search will reveal that in Japanese the Kanji for it "妖怪" translates to something like "strange apparition" and relates to supernatural entities and spirits that one can find in Japanese folklore.

So move over Halloween and prepare yourself for some pretty scary and impressive costumes, as well as great sake and food at the 50 participating stores dotted all around downtown Fushimi.

Harushika Sake Brewery - Nara

Nara is always worth a visit (especially if it is your first time in Japan), but did you know there is a very accessible sake brewery where you can do a sake tasting?

I actually cannot believe I never came here before as Harushika Sake Brewery in Nara is only a short walk from Nara Deer Park and well worth a little detour. Or if you are coming from Kintestu station it is only a short 15-minute walk.

They have a great tasting room where one can taste 5 sake and their homemade Narazuke pickles for as little as 500¥.

“Honkaku Shochu and Awamori Experience” - Osaka

What an amazing time learning more about shochu and awamori at the "Shochu Experience" at Osaka Food Lab. With some of the best cocktail makers in the country showcasing just how versatile shochu and awamori can be!

It was also a great opportunity to catch up with some like-minded people and connect with some old friends. I was especially excited to meet Arline Lyons from @tastetranslation again, who just so happened to be in Japan, as well as a chance to drink one of the @quarter_room_tokyo ‘s unique cocktail creations here in Kansai, the perfect opportunity, as I just seem to never make it over to visit them when I am in Tokyo. And to be honest, after drinking their "Four Layer Fashioned” cocktail, I am definitely going to try harder to pop in, as it was utterly delicious! 🥃

Omiwa Shrine - Ceremony for Safe sake Brewing (16th Nov)

Omiwa Shrine in Nara is one of the most prominent and important sake shrines in Japan and as that is holding regular events that might not be interesting for the regular sake drinker, but hold long traditions with the brewers.

This time many of them made their pilgrimage out to the shrine for a special sake festival, the “醸造安全祈願祭”, which is basically a ceremony to pray for a safe brewing season. It is also the time when the shrine gifts "Sugiyama", cedar balls to the breweries to be hung in front of their doorways as part of the start of the brewing season.

Fushimi Autumn Sake Festival

Back in Fushimi for their autumn sake festival, which may be one of THE best hidden Kyoto sake highlights every year!

Although not so well known outside of Kyoto, the Fushimi Sake Festival was as expected sold out well in advance, and for very good reason! With the participating brewers sampling some of their best-sellers as well as limited brews inside Otesuji shopping arcade. For me the allocated time to enjoy is always too short, so for anyone thinking about checking it out, a bit of timemanagment goes a long way...

Mark your calendars the next festival is held on the 2nd of March 2024 😉

Sasaki Brewery visit

Although Kyoto is famous for its sake, many always do look to Fushimi and very few know that there are two breweries located downtown. One of them is Sasaki Shuzo, makers of Jurokudai.

This brewery certainly is a hidden gem and if you are a cat lover than their assortment of cat label sake will certainly make you want to buy a few bottles, as well as their Daiginjo bonbons who are the perfect guilty treat if you do like a boozy chocolate.

The brewery does hold regular open brewery days (in Japanese only) but if you are interested in visiting them you can join me on one of my tours of the brewery including a small tasting (more info can be found here).

Aomori - Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya

Trying to find a high-end hotel near Hachinohe I came across Hoshino Resorts Aomoirya and although a little out of the way it is a great place to spend a night or two. Especially as they have a small sake bar inside the hotel complex that sells sake from all breweries located in Aomori!

What better way to explore the local brews than that? Plus the rooms are insanely comfortable and the buffet dinner was incredible with many chef stations cooking your favorite dishes right in front of you.

If you do stay here make sure to check their other offers, as we got to make a reservation in an apple-themed seasonal pavilion full of local apple treats, amazing apple wine and cider as well as sake to sample.

Momokawa Brewery visit Aomori

Pottering around Aomori our first stop was a quick visit to @sake_momokawa Brewery in Oirase near Hachinohe.

Although we had no reservations, they warmly welcomed us into their upstairs tasting room and let us generously try all their sake...

Another fact and what makes this brewery quite special is that every year they make their own Sugidama, which measures about 2.2 meters in diameter and weighs roughly 1,100 pounds! It is incredibly impressive and they are super proud of it (as they should) . They are even naming one of their sake "Sugidama" after it.

Mutsu Hassen Brewery visit Aomori

The main purpose of this trip, was of course visiting one of my favourite Sake Breweries up here Hachinohe Shuzo, makers of Mutsu Hassen!

They do a "brewery tour", which will explain about the brand and you get to see some parts of the building/storehoues, but the actual brewery is not open to the public. However, it is still worth a visit, as you also get to do a sake tasting.

Aside their "regular" sake (which is in no way regular at all) they also often have something new, this time I got to taste their 8000 Brewing Hazy IPA, with added hops, which was suprisingly delisous, as I normally do not like "hoppy" sake.

I also finally got to try the legendary pairing of their Kijoshu & Donut! The trick being to not just eat/drink them together but to soak the donut in it - Genius!!!

Nanbu Bijin Brewery Tour

Sure when travelling through Tohoku there is really no excuse not to check out @nanbubijin_sake! Especially as they do offer public tours too.

They also just added a new premium tour, which may seem a little more expensive, but there is good reason for that. It includes a little hands-on experience, some amazing photos being taken as well as one of them being turned into your very own sake label as a gift to take home. Saying I was impressed does not even cover it slightly.

I also did get extremely lucky, as aside from their normal tour, I was allowed to check out their Koji room just as they were about to make Koji. It also just so had it that they pressed some of their sake that day 😋

Haginotsuru Brewery Tour

Amazing visit to Miyagi-based Hagino Shuzou including a brewery tour. In fact, we had such a great time, that we had to take all the sake, that was meant for the tasting, home with us as we totally run out of time.

Where did the time go? Well, aside from being able to peek into all corners of the brewery with in-depth explanations and getting an up-and-close look at pretty much all the steps involved in brewing, we also had a chance to visit the rice fields.

To be honest, to say this was eye-opening is a real understatement and the hospitality shown to us was truly incredible...

To see all that is happening (in almost real-time) you can follow Sake Nomad on Instagram or Facebook, I will be back with another "This Month in Sake" next month!


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