Mar 19, 2010

Niigata Report 3 -- Visit to Ichishima Shuzo

Freed from the pressure of taking the Niigata Sake Expert exam, Monday, on March 15, I, with my friends, visited Ichishima Shuzo in Shibata City, Niigata Prefecture.


Shibata Station is located at a distance of just about a 40-minute train ride from Niigata Station on the JR Hakushin line. Shibata Station was rather a small station, but it looked clean and new. The roundabout in front of the station has quite a large area for taxis to park and looked broad. In front of the station was a ryokan (Japanese inn), and in front of it lay a sidewalk. The sidewalk was under tiled roofs, and so were the bus stops that were placed around the roundabout. They looked somehow gorgeous as a design of the surroundings of a small train station. Were the financial conditions of the city good, or was this due to good taste of citizens in the city? Anyway, I loved this relaxing atmosphere as an entrance to the city.

As soon as leaving the station behind, we caught sight of the big advertisement board bearing the brand name of Omon (王紋). This is the advertisement board displayed on a building of Ichishima Shuzo. Actually, we could reach the brewery just in several minutes from the station. On the way to the brewery, we saw magnificent shrine buildings on our right. This shrine is called Suwa Shrine, and later we knew that the area including this shrine and Ichishima Shuzo is called Suwa-cho, and the brewery were making sake under the brand name of Suwanomori before.

When we got to Ichishima Shuzo, a staff woman came out and showed us the inside of the brewery. We had made a phone call to the brewery in advance so that they could make arrangements for us. But, they seemed to accept, on a daily basis, visitors who wanted to see the brewery and they were accustomed to handle such visitors. So, we didn't have to have made an appointment. We could enter the exhibition room displaying tools used in old days and other display rooms showing historical material, old kimono clothes, and other antiques, but we could not enter rooms where sake production process was occurring. However, of course we didn't miss the most important part, the tasting of sake. The sake we tasted is shown in the video below.



After the tasting, I bought three bottles of sake and five cup sakes. Then, we had lunch at Ochadokoro Ichishima (御茶処いちしま), a restaurant and cafe set up in a Japanese-style house. The 1800-yen lunch course we had was as shown in the photo below. Rice gruel including carrot, chicken, and potato (?), which I ate after sprinkling roasted sesame seeds and red pepper on it, was especially nice. According to the waitress, the recipe of this rice gruel has been handed down from generation to generation in the Ichishima family. Green powdered tea and a small amount of sweets were served to wind up pleasant lunch time.

6 comments:

Timothy Sullivan said...

I LOVE this sake brewery! We can get many of these sakes in the USA. I recommend everyone try it. thanks for the great post and video!!

Ichibay said...

Hi, Tim san,
Thank you for reading my post and watching my video.
Yes, this brewery seems to always welcome visitors and it has a lot of things to see.

Melinda said...

Hi! I'm so sorry we missed each other at Ichishima Shuzo! Hopefully, we'll have a chance to meet in the future.

Best wishes,
Melinda

Ichibay said...

Melinda san,
Thank you for the comment. I am looking forward to having a chance to meet you and chat over sake in the not-too-distant future.

Douglas Brooks said...

Do you have a web address for the brewery? I studied traditional barrel making on Sado Island and I would love to approach them and see if they are interested in traditional sake barrels. You can see my taraibune (tub boats) at my website:

www.douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com at the Japanese Boats page.

Thanks,

Douglas Brooks

Ichibay said...

Mr. Douglas Brooks,
The web site of this brewery is at the following URL:
http://www.ichishima.jp/

There are so many sake breweries and most of them are maybe using stainless steel, or enameled tanks.
But some may be interested in using wooden tanks.

Another possibility is shoyu (soy sauce) brewers.

In Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture, Matsumoto Soy Sauce Co.,Ltd. (http://www.kawagoe.com/matsumoto/) is making soy sauce:

Read the following post if you are interested:
http://sakeandkimono.blogspot.com/2009/03/matsumoto-soy-sauce-store-and.html