“Sake brewery”—these words call to mind old facilities in faraway rural areas of Japan. However, there are about ten breweries within the metropolis of Tokyo itself, and one of them is quite close to the heart of the city, in Kita-ku.
An important ingredient in making good sake–apart from rice, of course—is water. Eighty percent of brewed sake consists of water, and the amount needed for the processes of soaking, steaming and fermenting is about 50 times that of the weight of rice required. For this reason, sake breweries are usually sitauted in areas bountiful in water, and Tokyo actually has large mountainous areas with great spring water.
Founded in 1702, Ozawa Shuzo Co., Ltd.—commonly called by its brand name, Sawanoi—is located in Ome City, a 90-minute train ride from Shinjuku. With many lovely places to visit in the area, a trip there is sure to be worth the time.
A quick stroll from the small Sawai station (on the JR Ome line), you can already see the traditional, old-fashioned buildings of the brewery.
Inside, you have the option of taking an informative tour, which is offered three or four times daily Tuesday to Sunday. It’s in Japanese, but English handouts are also available.
There’s a sake bar where visitors can try over ten different kinds of sake, paying per glass. The brewery offers quite a variety of sake, from modern ginjo or dai-ginjo, as well as brews in the old Edo-era style.
Around the sake brewery, there are lovely traditional Japanese restaurants offering a selection of tofu specialties. For a refreshing meal in the open air without the hassle of making reservations, try the local cuisine at the relaxing Sawanoi Seiryu Garden.
After spending time in the brewery, enjoy a leisurely walk around the area and try visiting the Kushi Kazashi Museum, which has an exhibit displaying decorative combs, ornamental hairpins and other women’s accessories from the Edo and Showa periods. Or you can go and see the works of the great nihonga painter Gyokudo Kawai at the Gyokudo Art Museum.
The area also offers rafting, fishing spots and beautiful nature trails. If you’re more into the spiritual, historic temples surround the Ome line, so there’s no shortage of things to see and do.
If you’d like a taste of history to go with your sake, Ome will give you a buzz.