What to Expect
When you arrive at a sake brewery, enjoy the ambiance of the traditional sake cellar with beautiful exposed wood and white plaster walls. This can also be an affordable outing—sake breweries will allow visitors to taste several of their famous wines for free during your visit. If you fall in love with one, purchase a bottle and take it with you when you go. It is also possible to take a tour with an English-speaking guide.
What You Will Learn
While at the sake brewery, you can learn first-hand how sake is made. The sake-brewing period is a seasonal activity that typically runs from October to March. First, the rice is polished to remove the bran, leaving behind only starch. The rice grains are then washed, steeped in water, and then steamed. A malted rice and fermentation mash is made. Fermentation, filtration, and aging takes approximately 9-12 months, but good sake is worth the wait. The finished product is bottled and ready to be enjoyed. The Tōji, or sake brewer, is the person in charge of the process. In Japanese society, this is a highly respected role and is considered by many to be an art form.
There are fewer more pleasurable ways to understand a culture than through its food and drink. In Japan, a visit to one of the esteemed sake breweries is a must.