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If you happen to visit Kansawagawa-Shosetsu Brewery, you will understand why I called myself lucky many times!
The access is pretty simple: Get off at Kambara JR Station, use the only exit, turn left and let your feet carry you for a quarter of an hour. I cannot say that the street scene is particularly picturesque in this part of Yui-Cho, but the mountains bordering the village are still worth observing. Now if you can get a whole day of freedom, I would suggest that after your visit at the Brewery you walk all the way till the next JR station called Yui. This will allow you to pay a visit to the tiny but absolutely unforgetable Hiroshige Ukiyoe Museum, stop at a few interesting “miyage-souvenir” shops and finally stop at a local sushi restaurant near the harbour to savour the nationally famous local shrimp called “sakura ebi”, fresh from the morning catch in season!
You could do it the other way, that is go down at Yui Station, go the harbour for a very early lunch/late breakfast and sample the “Sakura ebi Kakiage” (Sakura shrimp tenpura) at a local stand then walk all the way to Kambara Station!
The 5th generation owner, Mr. Masataka Mochizuki (45) was already expecting me. The unprepossessing gentleman had kindly agreed to an appointment over the phone despite the fact we had never met before. It seems at last that the sometimes very closed world of Shizuoka Sake Brewers was finally opening up more easily to that “gaijin jamamushi” (“foreign meddler”)! I shall have a few doors (sliding doors) to break, but it is definitely getting easier these days.
Mr. Mochizuki actually welcomed me very warmly and introduced me to his “to-in” (brewers) led by Master Brewer Junetsu Yamakage of the Nanbu School in Iwate Prefecture and his young Second Master Brewer, Tsutomu Sakimura, also of the Nanbu School, but fromAichi Prefecture.
The two of them and six more brewers from Iwate Prefecture produce 150.000 1,8l. bottles a year. It is hard grunt work for 6 consecutive months as I could judge with my own eyes when I was allowed to watch them washing and soaking the rice for the next batch of sake.
Kanzawagawa Brewery is making use of a combination of traditional and more modern equipment such as th Aoshima System Rice Washer (created only 15 years ago).
The water is brought directly by a network of pipes from a point 2 km up Kansawa river.
As I said, this is heavy work, but Mr. Mochizuki makes sure his men are well looked after as demonstrated by the nice old lady who comes all the way down from Iwate Prefecture every year to stay and cook the brewers’ meals.
When I asked Mr. Mochizuki about the image of his sake, he replied that he strives for a clean/clear sake with an aroma reminscent of fruit, just enough to encourage one to the next cup.
The rice used is mainly Giginga (Iwate), Yamada Nishiki (Hyogo, Shizuoka), O-machi (Okayama), with some Homare Fuji (Shizuoka), Gin Otome (Iwate) and Hana Fuguki (Aomori thrown in).
Yeasts are Shizuoka NEW-5, HD-1 and No2, and Association No 10.
They also produce some futsu/normal sake of astounding quality at a ridiculous price.
As I did with some other Shizuoka Brewers, I suggested Mr. Mochizuki that it was about grand time to create a special grading criterion for Shizuoka “futsu sake”!
He certainly warmed up to the notion as he offered me a lift all the way to the harbour where I told I wished to sample the sakura ebi there! (carrying along two bottles I bought at the Brewery!)
421-3103 Ihara Gun, Yui Cho, Yui 181