Translated by Lester Somera
Hakutsuru Sake Museum In Kobe - A Must-See For Liquor Lovers
Written by Osawa Kumi
The Nada district in Kobe is famous for the production of sake. Get to taste yourself the sake produced in this area at the Hakutsuru Sake Museum, which hosts an exhibition on sake brewing, sells sake and offers various services for tourists.
In Hyogo prefecture, there are five famous sake-producing areas collectively known as the Nada Go-gō 灘五郷. This time, we are going to pay some attention to the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery, one of the long-running sake cellars that represents Mikage-gō 御影郷. Today, we will introduce the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum, where you can learn a lot about the history of Hakutsuru and its sake-making.
Established more than 270 years ago, the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery is one of Japan’s representative alcohol producers. The museum warehouse, constructed during the Taishō era, was actually in use for sake production until 1969.
There are spheres known as sakabayashi and sugidama, hanging at the front of the entrance. These were made by gathering cedar leaves, so they resemble the signboards of sake dealers.
Admission is free, so let’s head inside without delay.
There are English, Chinese and Korean pamphlets at the entrance.
Enjoy The Museum Exhibits!
The scene of large buckets for sake preparation being carried up to the second floor with a large pulley, known as an amida-guruma, is recreated with life-sized mannequins. These dolls are modeled on the actual workers. You can almost hear them breathing and calling back and forth to each other.
This is the upper section of the pulley, on the second floor.
This is the sight of the kamaba (釜場), where the raw rice is steamed. Above and below the koshiki (甑), the large vessel for steaming, there is a scene of workers, called kurabito (蔵人) in the brewery, working in tandem.
Before the stairs, there is a rack where the kurabito put their zōri sandals. There was a detailed organization among the kurabito that affected where they put their sandals, from the chief brewer, or tōji 杜氏, all the way down to the meshitaki (飯炊き) who cooks the rice.
Steamed rice is cooled on the second floor. Here, the windows are constructed to let in the cool wind blowing from north to south, and the rice cools down rapidly.
The little room known as the kōjimuro (麹室) is a hot, humid area set up to promote the multiplication of yeast cells. Yeast is a variety of mold, but is indispensable for the fermentation process of Japanese sake.
This is part of the second floor in the northern warehouse. Working while standing on the thin edge was very dangerous.
This scene depicts the creation of komodaru (菰樽), decorative casks. They are decorated with ropes made from braided wild rice or straw. These ropes, which have become decorative, were originally meant to protect the casks during transport. These days, the casks are used for celebrations.
Tools used in sake-making were given names of animals, like horse, cat, frog and the like. The picture shows a kitsune-oke (狐桶), or fox bucket. This naming system was thought of in order for the tools to be easily remembered by young workers.
Sip Some Samples and Buy Some Bottles!
You can try some delicious Japanese sake at the tasting corner on the first floor. This is Tokubetsu Junmai Genshu Kurazake (1080 yen, tax included). It has a sharp, refreshing flavor. You can also try plum and yuzu lemon sake.
This set is popular with visitors from China. The ukiyo-e design is delightful
Indigo T-shirts (3240 yen) and branded aprons (1080 yen) emblazoned with the Hakutsuru logo are also popular.
There are two tax-free registers which have Chinese-speaking staff. Relax and enjoy shopping.
Services For Overseas Customers
The building is fully equipped with KOBE Free Wi-Fi.
Each area has an explanatory video playing, and pushing the switch will change the audio over to English. All these services show the consideration towards the customers.
Let’s Take A Souvenir Photo!
At the end of the route, there is a spot for taking souvenir photos, and you can borrow a happi (Japanese traditional coat) to wear.
We got a message from our guide at Hakutsuru, Mr. Tanaka, who said “We’ve designed the various displays so that they convey the appeal of Japanese sake. If there is anything you don’t understand, ask a staff member. After you have gotten a look at the workings of the sake brewery, try some sake for yourself.”
Japanese food culture has become a World Heritage item, and sake is an essential part of this culture. By all means, visit Kobe’s Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum in Mikage-gō and experience the world of sake.
Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum
Address: Kobe, Higashi Nada-ku, Sumiyoshi-Minami 4-chome 5-5
Opening hours: 9:30 - 16:30 (Entry until 16:00; reservation required for groups)
Fixed holidays: New Year’s break, Obon festival (may close temporarily at other times, so call beforehand to confirm
Wi-Fi access: Yes (Kobe Wi-Fi)
Credit cards: Accepts almost all credit cards, including Ginren (China Union Pay) cards
Foreign language support: Chinese speaking staff at shops
Foreign language pamphlets: English, Chinese, Korean
Nearest station: Sumiyoshi Station 住吉駅 on the JR Kobe line, Sumiyoshi Station 住吉駅 on the Hanshin Railways
Access: Heading south, a 15 minute walk from Sumiyoshi Station (JR Kobe line) and a five minute walk from Sumiyoshi Station (Hanshin Railways)
Price range: Free
Phone number: 078-822-8907
Official HP: Hakutsuru Sake Brewing (Chinese, Korean)