Watanabe Sake Brewery has been situated in Hida Furukawa for nearly 150 years and is now its ninth generation of owners who have inherited the secrets and practical knowhow of creating some of Japan's most sought-after sake. The site of the brewery was once a raw silk business and ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn) and the history and atmosphere of a community has been retained and can still be felt by visitors. There's a startling array of sake on sale in the visitor shop which stands at the entrance to the brewery. It's also the location for sake tasting which should definitely be on anyone's itinerary.
Watanabe Sake Brewery recently won a competition held by Japanese airline ANA (All Nippon Airways) for a sake to be used in its first-class cabin. Served in a wine glass (an unorthodox practice when drinking sake) the aroma and deep taste won over judges and, subsequently, put Watanabe Sake Brewery on the international stage. The company now exports to countries such as Korea, Vietnam, United States, Australia, China and Europe.
One of the odd quirks about Watanabe Sake Brewery is the naming of the sake. The company president has a wicked sense of humor and the bottles are often named with puns and double entendres in the Japanese language which make domestic drinkers laugh with ease. The Junmai type of sake is recommended for first-time drinkers by the staff due to its drinkability and flavor but any of the sake available is almost certainly worth a try. Sake, much like wine, has an abundance of varieties and everyone can easily find their tipple of choice.
With water sourced from the local mountains, a practice dating back to the brewery's inception in 1870, the brewery is understandably proud of its rich and profound history and relationship with the local environment. Now in the safe hands of Hisanori Watanabe the brewery works closely with master brewer Hiroshi Itagaki and they both remain committed to "honing our techniques and skills, fostering personnel development and passing on the legacy of this traditional culture."
Watanabe Sake Brewery is a living testament to the culture and history of Hida Furukawa and its sake and commitment to keeping the traditions alive make it a requirement when visiting this beautiful and tranquil area of Gifu Prefecture.
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