Japanese sake (日本酒) is the Japanese traditional rice wine, and the only alcoholic beverage in the world, which can be drunk in a wide range of temperature from 5 to 60 degree, depending on your mood or the season.
Thanks to one of the most popular and well-known Japanese food Sushi, Sake has been recognized by the people from over the sea and its popularity is now increasing steadily worldwide.
Sake was first made thousands of years ago, and its taste was sweeter and the color was not as clear as now. However after years and years of experiments, its quality has reached to the one we know.
The vest way to know about Sake while you are in Tokyo is to visit Sawanoien (澤乃井園) where has a Sake cellar, shops, restaurants, and also beautiful garden.
It will be one of the best destinations to visit from the heart of Tokyo.
Sawanoi has more than 300 years of history of making Sake, and its quality is enormous despite the fact the place is situated in Tokyo.
There are free guided tour of the Sake cellar, which operates four times a day at 11:00, 13:00, 14:00, and 15:00. The tour required 45 minutes. Unfortunately, the tour is in Japanese only, but there are English brochures available which explain everything. To join this tour, you can purchase the ticket on the spot, but advance booking is recommended since the spaces limited.
After you get to know about the Sake better, why don’t you do some Kikizake (Sake tasting)? There are 10 different varieties of Sake to try it out and you could check from the color, smell and the taste with a charge.
To get to Sawanoien, take JR Ome line bound for Okutama , get off at Sawai Station, and walk fot 5 minutes. It will take approximately an hour and 20 minutes form Shinjuku.
The History of Ozawa Shuzo Co., Ltd
The place where you are is called Sawai, one long famous for its fresh and abundant water. Our brand name, “Sawanoi” is based on the name of our village.
Ozawa Shuzo Co., Ltd. was established in 1702. In the Japanese system of designating years by number of years into the Imperial reign of the then-Emperor, the year 1702 is referred to as “Genroku 15th.”
This was a time when the Samurai governed Japan.
You might notice a ball-shaped object hanging under the eaves of the brewery building. This is called a “Sakabayashi” and made of cedar leaves.
We brew sake from September to middle May. Every year in autumn a new Sakabayashi id made of fresh green leaves to replace the old one, whose color well before turned brown.
The display of the new Sakabayashi informs those seeing it that the first sake of the year is ready for sale.
The first part of the cellar is called a “Genroku-gura.”
Ours was bult at the time of the founding of the company. The Genroku-gura has thick mud walls. This structure prevents the intrusion of light and keeps the temperature inside almost constant without need for heating of cooling. Light and rapid temperature variation adversely affect the brewing sake, so our cellar is ideal.
This part of the cellar was built with traditional Japanese building techniques, affording considerable endurance although made of wood.
Traditionally, big wooden casks were used to store sake.
But today we use porcelain- enameled steel tanks, or ones of stainless steel, to assure hygienic conditions inside.
Polishing Rice Grains
Japanese sake is made from rice, the staple grain in the typical diet of japanese people. Rice is central to the very culture of japan and its cooking.
The Sake brewing process starts with polishing rice. The more rice grains are polished through the outer parts into the core, the better quality of the starch obtained.
To make sake with a particularly clear flavor and fragrance, the rice grains need to be polished a lot. In the case of our top-of-the-line sake, ‘Daiginjo Koh’ , the rice grains are polished down until 64 percent of the original weight is removed.
“Kura-no-ido” is one of the main water sources for us.
This well in actually is a tunnel dug almost horizontally 140 meters toward the north, under the big hill behind the brewery.
although dug 170 years ago, it is still very much in use for the clear spring water obtained from it very little iron, manganese or organic matters, and is a most suitable water for brewing sake.
To brew fine sake, good water is essential. And to get good water, the right natural environment is needed. With the advantage of the wonderful environment here, we have worked to improve our skill in making sake as our predecessors did.
And we intend to pass on to future generations this wonderful environment, the skill we have acquired and soul of fine making as we have come to know it.