One of my dreams for a long time was to visit Kansai Prefecture in Japan and tour sake breweries. Sake, as it was presented to me in California, is a sacred national drink steeped in mystery and tradition.
The Fushimi district of Kyoto is one such place to explore the traditions of sake. Along with the profusion of religious sites like Fushimi-Inari in the district, it appears that the production of alcoholic beverages in the neighborhood to provide the necessities of life to the priests and faithful was a given. Many sake breweries were founded and operate here. Today the traditional method of brewing only in the winter due to natural refrigeration have given way to modern year-round production techniques. Gekkeikan is a name known in the US – it’s home is here in Fushimi and has roots dating to the 16th century.
In sake making tradition, a green ball of rice husks are fashioned from the crop and hung at the entrance to the brewery. By the time that it has turned brown by the following autumn, it is an announcement to the public that the sake is ready for consumption.
Big old barrels where fermentation took place.
Every sake maker will say that it’s all about the water. Japan is so full of seemingly abundant pure mountain streams, it is no wonder that with the simple ingredients in the brew that water is the distinguishing element. Here is a tap from the mountain stream that Gekkeikan uses.
The steaming chimney for the rice preparation dating from the early 20th century.
Distribution of the product to the rest of Japan and the world initially took place along this canal in flatbed boats. Today, the canals are still used and the water appears to be super-clean.
An interesting old wooden bridge over the Fushimi canal.