Jan 4, 2010

Seek for Traces of Defunct Brewery

"Tokyo no Jizake" (or sake of Tokyo), a book written by Hiroyuki Koda, tells that there are 18 sake breweries in Tokyo, and provide information on each brewery including brewery's history, brands, and characteristics of sake. So, it is an interesting book for sake lovers. Actually, this book was first published in 1981, and the number of breweries in Tokyo has reduced down to 12 by now. The consumption of sake in Japan is decreasing year by year, and it is really a pity that several sake breweries in Japan discontinue their operation and disappear every year.

Igarashi Syuzou is one of the defunct breweries mentioned in the book above. The book says that the brewery is making sake with the brand names of "Usuzakura" and "Koizakura." The mother water there was relatively soft water. In general, it is difficult to make sake with soft water. However, it was easy to make sake with the mother water there and brewed sake was quite good.

According to the book, the brewery was operating in Daimon, Ome city. This place was not very far from my home. I thought I would possibly be able to find something related to the brewery; for example, I would find the brewery's well of mother water. So, I suddenly decided to go to locate this place.

From Kabe Station on JR Ome line, I started walking northward, went across the Ome Kaido Avenue, and reached an intersection on Route 63. At this place, a signboard guiding visitors to Shiobune Kan-non Temple, a historic temple in the Kanto area, was displayed. It is said that the place name Daimon, which literally means a "big gate," is derived from the fact that there was a big gate of the temple somewhere in the district that is now called Daimon.

In order to arrive in the district of Daimon, I had to go eastward from this intersection, but, at this time, I went further northward for several ten meters. Then, I reached the top of a hill where I could have a panoramic view of a sunken area below in front of me. I had learned that a stream called Kasumi River was running somewhere in this depression. I could see mountains in the Okutama area on the left in the distance. It is very likely that springs flow from the base of a hill like this. So, it seemed that the brewery had been located in a good place where they could obtain good mother water for sake brewing.

After observing the terrain around the place, I went back to the intersection on Route 63, and walked eastward. An about 400-meter walk brought me to a point where the road forked. There, I took the left way.

I continued walking for a while to find the intersection named "Daimon." Here, I took the left, proceeded on, and soon found a signboard indicating the direction of Daimon Library. If I had referred to some historical materials of Ome city in the library, I would probably have found good information on Igarashi Syuzou. However, it was January 2 and the library was on a New Year's holiday.

After passing the library's signboard, I went down a slope, and then I crossed Kasumi River, while thinking the brewery might have been around here since the environment in this vicinity seemed convenient to obtain mother water.

Leaving Kasumi River behind, I proceeded northward to find another small stream. This was Daimon River. This vicinity also looked very suitable for a brewery to make sake, but I could not find any traces of the brewery such as an old chimney or earthen buildings on large premises.

I also went across this river and continued going on the road, which finally lead me to Shiobune Kan-non Temple. Several fair stands lined up along the approach road of the temple, producing a New Year atmosphere.

Thus, I walked, walked, and walked here and there, and guessed that the most likely places as the whereabouts of the brewery were between the two rivers. So, I returned to a place near Daimon River, also partly because I wanted to have lunch at the soba restaurant near the river.

I ate tempura soba in this restaurant and asked the woman working there whether there had been a sake brewery around here. Sure enough she answered "Yes there was. It was just there."

According to the woman, the brewery was operating on the southern side of Daimon River, where there is currently a hospital. She said the owner of the brewery started lending the land where the brewery was operating before to the hospital after the brewery discontinued business. Now, any traces of the brewery are not found there. Actually, it is not very meaningful even if I have located the place of the defunct sake brewery, but I felt somehow satisfied. Since I walked for long time that day and felt quite tired, I relieved my fatigue in a public spa, "Ume no Yu," close to JR Kabe Station, and then went home.

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