Translated by Kayoko Windle
Find The Oldest Brewery In Japan At Hyogo's Miyanomae Bunka No Sato
Located close to the Osaka International Airport, Miyanomae Cultural Zone is a place where you can find the oldest sake brewery in Japan, merchant houses, and even a Japanese garden that are unique to Hyogo prefecture.
Written by Naoyo Kishimoto
Itami, Hyogo has been known as a great producer of Japanese sake for a long time.
There is a facility in Itami called Miyanomae Bunka no sato (Miyanomae Cultural Zone) where visitors can take a look at the oldest brewery in Japan, an old house left from 300 years ago, and a Japanese garden.
Let's look at some of the facilities found at Miyanomae Bunka no sato, including the art museum, craft center, and the cultural zone where old buildings are gathered in one place today.
1. An Important National Cultural Property: The Former Okada Residence
The former residence of the Okada family was a machiya (*1) build in 1674.
Not only is there a shop space here, but also a sake brewery, as this was the building where the sake was produced and sold, making it a residence combined with a business area.
It is the oldest sake brewery still existing in Japan, and was designated an Important National Cultural Property in 1992.
You can look around and take pictures in this area, and, if there aren't any events taking place, you can also take photos inside the living space as well.
*1 Machiya: a merchant house, where the shop space is located in the front of the home.
You enter from the entrance on the street, pushing back the entrance curtain called noren.
This beautiful ceiling was made using the traditional technique called koyakumi or roof trussing.
The display includes cooking tools and facilities to make Japanese sake, such as kama (an old rice-cooking pot) and kamado (an old cooking stove).
This is the oldest sake brewery in Japan. They have restored a tool to squeeze sake that they found in parts upon excavation within the grounds as well.
If you look closely, you will notice that only the bottom of the pole has a different color; this is the portion that was found when the brewery was being rebuilt.
You can learn about the history of making Japanese sake in Itami via the picture panels and the video in the exhibition, where there are seats for visitors to rest on. There are also brochures available in Japanese, English, Korean, Chinese, and Taiwanese here.
2. A Prefectural Important Cultural Property: The Former Ishibashi Residence
The ex-residence of the Ishibashi family is a shoya or merchant house built in the 18th century and was designated a Hyogo Prefectural Important Cultural Property in 2001 as it has retained its initial structure since it was first built.
The 1st floor remains a shop called Misenoma, and houses the 'bando beya', a room that the boss of the employees used, and a 'zashiki', or a room with tatami flooring.
Misenoma currently contains a shop called Gocho Craft Shop which displays and sells products made by artists who have won a competition called the 'Itami International Craft Exhibition'.
** Taking pictures of the artworks is prohibited.
You will find the entrance to the former residence of the Ishida family when you exit to the courtyard of the former Okada residence.
When you reach the end of this alley, you will find the Itami Gocho Craft Shop.
The kitchen and the zashiki room are on the left side. Please remember to take off your shoes before stepping on the tatami. You just might feel like you've become a hero or heroine in an old Japanese movie when visiting this spot!
While your shoes are still off, you can go up the stairs as well.
The 2nd floor displays historical materials, records and old tools regarding the former Ishibashi residence in its wooden corridor.
The zashiki room on the 2nd floor features a colorful wall that Japanese old houses rarely had. Sky blue walls were exceptionally rare at that time. Please be careful of the lights and watch your head as the ceiling is low here.
3. Japanese Garden
This Japanese garden was made by Kanto Shigemori, a skilled Japanese gardener. You can enjoy seasonal scenery such as cherry blossoms in spring, and persimmons in fall here, making it a lovely spot to visit all year round.
This is the karesansui garden: it depicts the surface of water by using stones and sand. You are not permitted to step into this garden nor on the grass area here, so please walk on the large round stones only.
You can feel like you have slipped back in time 300 years here in the Miyanomae Cultural Zone. There is also a craft center and an art museum to enjoy too. It takes only about 20 minutes from Itami Airport by bus, so why not look around there before you get onto your flight?
Miyanomae Bunka no sato
Address: Hyogo, Itami, Miyanomae 2-5-28
Hours: 10:00-18:00 (Entrance closes at 17:30)
Closed: Mondays (if a national holiday, closed the next day), and Dec.29th - Jan.3rd
Pamphlets in Other Languages: English, Chinese, Taiwanese, and Korean
Nearest Station: JR Hankyu Itami station
Access: 6-minute walk from JR Itami station, 9-minute walk from Hankyu Itami station, or 20 minutes from Osaka international airport by bus.
Entrance fee: No charge (the Itami City Art Museum and Kakimori Bunko Museum-Library have separate fees)
Website: Miyanomae Bunka no sato (Japanese)