Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

May 10, 2012

Sake from Kanagawa Prefecture (Sake by Region)

Kanagawa is one of the smallest but also wealthiest prefectures in Japan. In its megacities Kawasaki and Yokohama it is a continuation of the Tokyo sprawl, but the Miura Peninsula also boasts historical towns as Kamakura, and the south-western part is characterized by lots of free nature in the Hakone area and Lake Ashinoko, or the Tanzawa Mountains.

The Oyama Afuri Shrine in Isehara, part of the ancient Oyama cult, is linked with sake brewing as its deity is also called Saketoki no Kami. Every year at the end of May a sake prayer rite is held.

There are 13 breweries in Kanagawa Prefecture (2015), all rather small, and the volume produced is almost the lowest in Japan, after Miyazaki and Okinawa (much lower than Tokyo which has in fact several quite large breweries).

In the Ashigara Plain the sake rice Wakamizu is cultivated; besides that, most sake rice is imported from other prefectures. Also the local food rice Akinishiki is used for sake brewing. Brewmasters are usually from Echigo or Nanbu. Like in Tokyo, the sake is light and dry to fit contemporary foods.

Sake breweries can be found along the upper and middle reaches of the Sagami and Nakatsu Rivers and at the foot of the Tanzawa mountains, so all in the western part of the prefecture.

Some of the main breweries are (in alphabetical order):
  • Izumibashi (Izumibashi Shuzo Co., Ltd., Ebina), "Spring-Bridge." Est. 1857. Grows sake rice as Yamada Nishiki, Omachi and Kamenoo in its own rice fields. Small but fine output. Makes exclusively junmai quality sake. Characteristic is its Junmai sake "Cuvee Passion" with a milling ratio of only 80% and a rough-hewn ricy taste. It is high in viscosity and has a powerful acidity. English website. Brewery visits possible in winter (reservation needed). 
  • Tensei (Kumazawa Brewing Company, Chigasaki). "Blue Heaven." est. 1872. Small production of handcrafted sake. Has a craft shop and gallery, several restaurants and a facility where local Shonan Beer is brewed.
Kanagawa Sake Breweries Association
When planning a brewery visit, check in advance whether the brewery accepts visitors and whether it is open on the day and time you plan to go, especially if a long trip is necessary to get there (see the brewery's website for tel. no or mail address). Note that brewery tours, if available, always have to be booked in advance. Many breweries, however, do not allow visitors in their production area, or only in certain seasons / for certain sizes of groups. In contrast, if a sake museum or brewery shop is present, this is usually open without reservation.
Sake by Region:
Hokkaido/Tohoku: Hokkaido - Aomori - Akita - Iwate - Miyagi - Yamagata - Fukushima
Kanto area: Ibaraki - Tochigi - Gunma - Saitama - Chiba - Tokyo - Kanagawa
Hokushinetsu: Yamanashi - Nagano - Niigata - Toyama - Ichikawa - Fukui
Tokai area: Shizuoka - Aichi - Gifu - Mie
Kansai area: Shiga - Kyoto - Osaka - Hyogo - Nara - Wakayama
Chugoku area: Tottori - Shimane - Okayama - Hiroshima - Yamaguchi
Shikoku: Tokushima - Kagawa - Ehime - Kochi
Kyushu/Okinawa: Fukuoka - Saga - Nagasaki - Kumamoto - Oita - Miyazaki / Kagoshima / Okinawa
Reference materials: Kikisakeshi Koshukai Tekisuto by Sake Service Institute (Tokyo, 2009); Nihonshu no kyokasho by Kimura Katsumi (Shinsei Shuppansha: Tokyo, 2010); Nihonshu no Tekisuto (2): Sanchi no Tokucho to Tsukuritetachi by Matsuzaki Haruo (Doyukan, 2005); The Book of Sake by Philip Harper (Kodansha International: Tokyo, New York, London, 2006); The Sake Companion by John Gauntner (Running Press: Philadelphia & London, 2000); The Sake Selection by Akiko Tomoda (Gap Japan: Tokyo, 2009).
The blog author Ad Blankestijn works for the Daishichi Sake Brewery and is an accredited sake sommelier and sake instructor. He also hosts independent sake seminars to propagate knowledge about his favorite drink. The above text reflects his personal opinion.