Just a few blocks south from Watanabe Sake Brewery along Ichinomachi, you’ll find yet another fine example home to Japan’s national drink: Kaba Sake Brewery.
Kaba’s history predates Watanabe by over 150 years, when it first opened in 1704. Disaster struck in 1707 with the Hōei earthquake, threatening the Hida region with famine. First-generation Toyasu urgently travelled to Etchu province (modern-day Toyama) to help source new rice supplies for his people. Initially stopped from doing so given the regional ban on rice exports, Toyasu’s determination impressed officials and he was ultimately granted freedom to trade, leading to business prosperity.
This story of perseverance has helped Kaba become a widely loved local fixture in Hida Furukawa, with its signature brand "Shiramayumi" known by all and considered one of Hida region’s most representative sakes.
Much like Watanabe, Kaba operates in the Ichinomachi area, whose white-walled storehouses back on to the Seto Canal. This was considered prime real estate for merchants, being the closest to the samurai residential district on the other side.
It also acts as a clue to why Hida’s sake heritage could prosper. Clean mineral-rich water was in abundant supply thanks to the Northern Alps, with local rice brands like Hida Homare—also used in the sake production process—also benefiting from this water supply. Added to this, Hida’s winter temperatures and white-walled storehouses helped create optimum conditions for sake production.
Stepping inside Kaba’s beautiful, historical premises, you’ll have the chance to admire a wide range of sake available to buy in its small shop, as well as learn about the brewery’s history and see some of the awards it has earned over the years.
Kaba's much-loved signature "Shiramayumi," for example, is a three-time gold medal winner in The Fine Sake Awards Japan competition. Experience a sake tasting to help understand why Shiramayumi Ginjo Yamadanishiki, Daiginjo or Haru-Ginjo became award-winners.
For different tastes, you’ll also encounter a few offshoot varieties from the main brand. Janpan is a sparkling Champagne-style sake, Yogurt Sake is popular for being easy to drink, or find local varieties of yuzu-shu (yuzu citrus wine) and ume-shu (plum wine), as well as a yogurt sake.
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