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I reached Gotenba City under menacing skies on Friday, October 26th. For once I did not have to waste my time and energy teaching unconcerned brats at University as they were preparing for their annual festival. I had found a way to enjoy my own festival by agreeing on an appointment with Mr. Yooichi Negami, owner/master brewer of Negami/Kinmei Brewery.
I was pleased to notice their advertizement along the railroad tracks as I got off the train. At least the city of Gotenba will never run dry of sake!
Mr. Negami kindly greeted me at the exit, saving me a lot of trouble as his “kura” stands a long way from the city center abut the foot of Mount Fuji at 550 metres, making it the highest located brewery in Shizuoka Prefecture after it was moved some 30 years ago away from near the present JR Station.
We discovered quite a few common traits as he was driving a Peugeot, a brand that my own father had been using for more than 40 years, and talking about the French football greats, Platini et al, that he admires so much.
Along the way I asked him the question I had been mulling on for a couple of weeks:
“Why does Negami Brewery produceonly junmai sake?”
Mr. Negami’s reply, who spent some time studying wine before becoming the fourth generation owner/master brewer (he is presently 47 and has a junior high school daughter) was straightforward enough:
“People do not add alcohol to wine, except when creating Port-like brews. Why should he bother to alter the original taste of sake?”
I have a lot of respect for his courageous attitude. After all, he is taking a big risk in halving the number of varieties of his creations. And he certainly deserves a lot of praise and encouragement because his sake is not only great but made from mostly local ingredients:
-Rice is mainly Wakamizu from Gotenba with some Yamada Nishiki (Tojo variety from Hyogo Prefecture) and Gohyakumangoku (Toyama Prefecture).
-Yeast is Shizuoka NEW-5, wit some No 9, 10 and 14
-The water is gushing out of a well dug 70 metres deep inside Mount Fuji’s flank.
The Brwery was founded in the 1870′s by the second son of Negami’s family, as his elder opted for brewing beer. The brewery is the only one left in Gotenba City after Shunkai (before WWII), Yamanaka-Fujiebisu, Fujijiman and Fuji-Ichi (after WWII) breweries ceased operations.
The name of thier brand, Kinmei is an abbreviation of Kinmeisui (Water of Mount Fuji).
Apart of his own brands, Mr. Negami brews private brands for clients in Shimizu-Cho, Kakitagawa (Izumi no Yakata) and Oyama Cho (Kintaroo no Sato).
Kinmei brands can be bought directly at the Brewery:
412-0043 Goteba City, Hodozawa, 850-4
or their shop in Gotenba City:
412-0043 Gotenba City, Shinbashi, 737-3
or through their Homepage (Japanese)
Although I found the place quite neat, Mr. negami profusely apologised for the dirty place he was in the process of cleaning sterelizing before “shikomi” in 3 weeks’ time. I’m left wondering what he calls “clean”.
I certainly had a great time sharing a precious moment with the shy gentleman, and I must say we are both looking forward to our next meeting.