SO to finish up what I started in my last post, I’ll talk this time about the third and final sakagura featured on this tour: Hatsumomiji (self-styled Hatsumimidi).
This is a very interesting case, since Hatsumomidi is the only kura in Shunan to brew year-round in the Shikijozo style. The others all brew only in the winter, so our visit wasn’t timed to catch the real business of making sake.
Also, in addition to brewing year round, Hatsumomidi is super sparkly clean! Look at this!
We started in the bottling room. They had just finished bottling a batch, so everything was in clean-up mode. As you can see below, they use new, small-batch equipment.
This is the hi-ire ki, where bottles are heated then cooled to stop oxidation and ensure disinfection after bottling. It was still warm!
This was cold storage of bottles waiting for shipment.
This is a tank full of fermenting sake. As you can imagine, the information represents yeast (#16), rice strain (Yamada nishiki), and mill rate (60%).
This room held about 9 tanks of this size, and there was one more room of similar size. Hatsumomiji produces about 300 koku (540 kiloliters) a year, which is moderate for a year-round brewing process.
One of the more interesting things for me about Hatsumomiji is the building. Where Nakajimaya and Yamagata Honten are in very old, sprawling complexes on the edges of residential neighborhoods, this building is right down town near the station and quite compact. The small size also limits a lot of the equipment: their rice mill only handles about 100kg at a time while Nakajimaya uses a 400kg one.
And yet, they still produce some outstanding sake in good volume! They also take custom orders from liquor shops and others to make special label brews.
After the tour, we had our final tasting…and this one was a quiz!
The offered us three sakes in the distinctive kikichoko, and we had to identify which one we had been drinking in the taxi. Luckily, it was a distinctive Kimoto junmai, so the quiz wasn’t particularly hard. However, after all those drinks, it could trip some people up. Like me.
The prize was a 300 yen coupon for the tourist office which ran the tour. We also received a small janome (blue circled) choko from Harada, and a Hagiyakai porcelain choko from the tour agency…and the remains of the bottles used for the taste quiz!
So all in all, we came out pretty darn good. We got a great tour, some delicious sake, and souvenirs to take home. If you ever find yourself in the Shunan area, the Takushu tour is a real winner.
Details here: Takushu (Japanese only). Oh, and although they accept up to 4 people, I STRONGLY recommend 3 or 2, because it’s just a regular sized taxi. 4 adults will be pretty darn cramped.