Ozawa Shuzo Brewery

Okay, so I hate to admit it; but before moving to Japan, I did not know how to drink sake.  All those college years of taking shots of sake and sake bombs (which, by the way, I learned yesterday that they don't drink sake bombs here—they are missing out on some fun ways to drink this beverage!  Who doesn't like chanting, "Sake, sake, sake, BOMB!" while pounding their fist on the table to make the shot of sake that is sitting on chopsticks fall into a glass of beer with 20 of your closest friends?).  Instead of drinking it like a sorority girl (I can say this since I was one), you're supposed to sip it like wine.  Makes sense since it's rice wine.  

Yesterday I had my first visit to a sake brewery, Ozawa Shuzo Brewery, which was founded in 1702 in the upper reaches of Tama River in Ome.   My culture group and I had taken a sake tour, which is given in Japanese only.  Thank goodness we had lots of Japanese ladies with us; otherwise, I would have just been completely lost.

This ball is made of cedar leaves and is called sakabayashi.  Not only does it symbolize the god of sake making, but it also notifies when new sake is ready for sale (a new, green sakabayashi will be displayed  in the fall when the first sake brewing is finished).

Some sake barrels.

Entrance to the sake brewery.  The shimenawa, a rice straw rope, illustrates that this is a sacred place.

I think this is the neatest thing I've seen in a really, long time.  Those blue barrels hold sake, and some of them have a little over 8,000 liters!

Skills on using ladders to stabilize yourself while working.

Fermenting rice.

The wooden ones are traditional sake barrels, and the sake from these barrels are more expensive.

Sake cellar.

Tunnel that leads to the spring water used in making the sake.

Blurry, but it's pretty cool to be able to see an underground spring.

After we finished our tour, we walked over to Kikizake Dokoro, which is a sake tasting bar.  I only tasted daiginjo, which is described as a "sharpened taste and like an apple flavor."  I don't think it could have been described any better.  It definitely had a sharp, fruity flavor to it.

Afterwards, we walked across to Mameraku, a tofu house, for lunch.  Perched above Tama River, we enjoyed great food and views.

I've never really been a tofu fan before, and I wasn't sure whether or not I would be full; but after eating this meal, my whole view changed.  Not only was I full, but everything was delicious!  Everything you see here was gone by the end of the meal.  Eating at Japanese restaurants like here always makes me feel like a judge on Iron Chef.  (I can hear the chairman saying, "Today's secret ingredient is...tofu!")  Some of the dishes were deep-fried tofu with miso leeks and walnuts, mini bean curd served with sweet potato salad, boiled taro bean miso and seaweed, bean salad, pork, chicken broth, and meat sauce over the tofu.  

While friends were doing some souvenir shopping, I took some pictures around the garden along the river.

Looks like there are a lot of train stations near by.  The closest is Sawai Station (0.3 km), but we drove and there was plenty of free parking.

I feel like a peeping Tom, but this statue was just there.  Completely random!  I wonder about the story of its placement.

On this chilly day, I give these people lots of praise for kayaking down Tama River.

Ozawa Shuzo Brewery
Wine Cellar Tours (Japanese-Speaking Only)
Hours:  11:00am, 1:00pm, 2:00pm, 3:00pm; ~45 minutes 
Closed:  Mondays & Holidays
Fee:  Free
Location:  2-770 Sawai, Ome, Tokyo, Japan
Access:  Okutama Ome Line to JR Sawai Station, 5-minute walk from station; parking available
Phone:  042-878-8210
Website:  http://www.sawanoi-sake.com

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